Rocket technology isn't the only thing the Stalinist hermit kingdom of North Korea sucks at. It's not exactly investing in web design, either.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has a Flash-heavy official web page in English, to instruct the curious about the peculiar ways of its homebrewed "Juche" ideology ("…the masters of the revolution and construction are the masses of the people and that they are also the motive force of the revolution and construction…"). Not a bad look — functional, elegant — and certainly a step up from the GeoCities-esque design of its official news agency.
But, as it turns out, it's an amateurish look. North Korea's using a web page template that costs $15.
Take a look at the source code. A keyword search for "envatowebdesign" will turn up a prompt comment from the site's theme seller telling the person who bought it how to customise. Only whomever built the thing for Pyongyang didn't bother. It's a bit like leaving the plastic overlay on your fancy new TV telling you about the screen size. A quick check on the source code of the IgniteThemes "Blender" template confirms that it's what North Korea built. Price check? $US15.
Not exactly a web presence that screams, "We're an elite nuclear power that must be respected". In fact, it took a Fordham University computer science undergrad a couple minutes' sleuthing to determine the embarrassing origins of the site design.
Michael DiTanna, a junior at Fordham, got an assignment in his Korean history/political science course to browse North Korean official media and analyse its content. He quickly checked out the official web page — and decided to check under the hood.
"Immediately after visiting the site I noticed the website used some common open source web elements — specifically the main image banner," DiTanna tells Danger Room. Noticing the "envatowebdesign" marker "gave away the template's source". It was a few short steps for him to locate the correct template and note its price. In fact, it took him about 15 minutes — one for each dollar charged for North Korea's favoured template.
"I had to present on this in class and everyone was pretty shocked," DiTanna says via email.
North Korea's website may be as amateurish as its consistent inability to boost a satellite into space. But maybe there's wisdom in North Korea's online thrift. Pyongyang's facing a new round of international sanctions after last week's rocket launch.