YouTube removes North Korean ‘vloggers’ after South Korea blocks accounts

By Hyunsu Yim

SEOUL (Reuters) – Three YouTube channels believed to be linked to North Korean state media have been taken down, a spokesperson for the U.S. video-hosting site said on Tuesday, after South Korean regulators blocked them from the request of the country’s spy agency.

The channels featured young English-speaking women, including a girl as young as 11, who claimed to offer an unfiltered look at daily life in North Korea as informal video bloggers, or “vloggers”.

The girl, who was named Song A, talked about visiting water parks, going to school and reading Harry Potter books.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she posted a video, apparently shot while confined at home, praising the North Korean government’s response and assuring viewers that “everything is under control as before and everyone world is fine.”

YouTube’s spokesperson said in a statement that the decision to remove the channels was made to comply with “US sanctions and trade compliance laws, including those related to North Korea.”

“After review and in accordance with our policies, we have terminated the three channels shared with us,” the statement said, without specifying who brought the channels to YouTube’s attention.

An official with the Korea Communications Standards Commission has confirmed media reports that it blocked sites in South Korea last week at the request of the National Intelligence Service on the grounds that the content was a government ‘promotion’ North Korean and that he had a “positive bias” towards North Korea.

The KCSC also asked Google, YouTube’s parent company, to delete the accounts, the official said.

Western analysts say their channels have ties to state media and such content is impossible to produce or distribute independently in the tightly controlled North, where global internet access is limited to a privileged few. .

According to NK News, a Seoul-based website that tracks North Korea, the YouTubers have been linked to the Pyongyang-based Sogwang Media Corporation, which seeks to expand the country’s external reach via social media.

Twitter accounts linked to North Korea, including those of so-called “friendship associations” in the UK and elsewhere, have also been blocked in South Korea due to legal demands.

Some researchers have complained that deleting the accounts cuts off sources of information about North Korea and its media.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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