World of Weibo

Pyongyang calling?

North Korea’s social media moment

On March 6, the North Korean government (or someone posing as a representative of Pyongyang) opened an ostensibly official account on Sina Weibo. Called Today Korea, the microblog said it would “Get all the news about North Korea. If anyone dares to insult North Korea’s dignity in the slightest, they will not be tolerated under the heavens!”

WiC – like most of China’s web community – doubts whether Today Korea is really being penned by Pyongyang bureaucrats. But if it is an official channel, its authors seem to have rather missed the point about social media. Much like the isolated North Korean government, the microblog didn’t intend to network much: “We formally open our Weibo account. Sorry, we follow no one”, it announced.

Nor did it want to talk. It posted the following in response to a netizen’s request for a private chat: “We do not have time, we do not chat privately!”

Today Korea then had a change of heart. Last week it started ‘following’ Pan Shiyi, chairman of SOHO China, the property developer. But on Monday, the microblog dropped Pan and started following Ren Zhiqiang, another outspoken property boss (see WiC126). One netizen asked: “Did Today Korea follow the two developers because it wants them to build homes in North Korea?” (Today Korea’s response: “North Koreans have sufficient housing. Watch what you say.”)

With more than 100,000 followers, posts by Today Korea have sparked inquisitive responses from China’s weibo watchers.

While Beijing is seen as an ally of Pyongyang, the reclusive state has never embraced Beijing’s push for market reforms or its increased openness to the rest of the world. Fake or otherwise, Today Korea’s weibo posts have been a reminder to many users of how far China has come. One netizen wrote: “Your existence is what causes us never to forget what Mao Zedong brought… Very appreciative that this many Chinese people can get a clear view of history, look at our past and think on our foolishness.”

As of the middle of this week, Today Korea seems to have been shut down…

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