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North Korea's Internet domain is in new hands

A government-backed venture now controls North Korea's top-level domain after a German company operating it disappeared

Control of North Korea's top-level Internet domain has been formally assigned to a government-backed venture after the previous operator, a German company, let the national domain disappear from the Internet for several months.

The dot-kp domain was officially transferred at the beginning of May to Star Joint Venture, a North Korean-Thai company that has been chartered with providing "modern Internet services" to the insular country. Star JV has been in de-facto control of the domain name since December last year.

Dot-kp was first assigned in 2007 to the Korea Computer Center, one of the country's top computer science establishments. KCC had agreed to let a German businessman, Jan Holtermann, set up a satellite Internet connection to North Korea and run the dot-kp domain through a German company, KCC Europe.

The company ran the domain and a handful of North Korean websites from servers in Berlin until mid 2010 when they suddenly disappeared from the Internet.

"In 2010, the authoritative name servers for the .KP became completely lame, effectively stopping the top-level domain from operating," said the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body that coordinates basic addressing functions of the Internet, in a report published this week.

"Korea Computer Center reached out to KCC Europe, its Germany-based technical registry provider, to have service reinstated. After several months without response, Korea Computer Center terminated KCCE's agreement to operate the .KP domain," the report said.

At around the same time, Star JV was beginning to bring Internet connectivity to Pyongyang via China. The company had already taken control of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses long reserved for North Korea but never used, and it brought the country's first website onto the global Internet around October 2010.

The site, for the domestic news agency, was initially only accessible via its IP address since the dot-kp DNS (Domain Name Service) was still under the control of KCC Europe.

But that changed in December "in light of the continuing lack of operation of the dot-kp," said the IANA report.

The Korea Computer Center supported giving Star JV interim control of the dot-kp domain and the first websites began using North Korean domain names in January this year.

The change was made official in May when the IANA database was updated to show Star JV as the coordinator of the domain.

Several attempts to contact Jan Holtermann, the German businessman that ran KCC Europe, both for this story and previous stories have proved unsuccessful. German company records show KCC Europe was dissolved on Jan. 31 this year.


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