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'Manbang' is North Korea's Netflix

A man walks by a TV screen showing the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Seoul Train Station (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

North Korea announced last week that it’s launching Manbang (“Mon-bahng”), what it’s calling a “Netflix style video-on-demand.” Manbang literally translates to “everywhere” in Korean, and North Korea hopes the device will be ubiquitous.

While North Korea bills the device as “Netflix for North Koreans,” it’s merely another extension of that country’s internal propaganda. Manbang’s offerings couldn’t be further from Netflix, which has become a portal for not only feature films and popular TV shows but also original content.

Unlike Manbang, Netflix (NFLX) is available in 190 countries (with the exceptions of China, North Korea and Syria because of US restrictions, according to the company’s website).

According to NKnews.org, the set-top box has two primary features: replaying documentary films about Kim Jong Un and his leadership and providing language-learning resources — for Russian and English. Users can search for programs by typing the title or browsing through categories, which may be the only feature that it shares with Netflix.

Source: Korean Central Television (KCTV)

The overwhelming majority of North Koreans do not even have access to the internet. In fact, the number of secure internet servers per million people in the country was rated as zero as of last year, according to data from The World Bank. The North Korean government is looking to use Manbang as the device to provide North Koreans with limited access to the internet.

The device was first announced on Korean Central Television (KCTV), the only official television news network for North Koreans. It won’t be simple to use. Users will have to connect a phone line to a modem, plug a cable box into the national network, and connect a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port to the TV.

It would be incredible to watch Manbang for ourselves, but as everything in North Korea goes, it’s restricted to that country. Well, at least we have Netflix to watch instead.

Melody Hahm is a writer & reporter at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. Follow her on Twitter.

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