By AARON KWON, ABC News
(SEOUL, South Korea) — Two relatively new Twitter accounts that appear to belong to North Korean officials began getting a lot of attention on Friday.
Tweets from the accounts, neither of which have been verified since joining the social media platform Oct. 1, include photos and propaganda similar to those disseminated by state-run media. The tweets also criticize South Korean political parties for their close ties to the U.S.
Each account follows only Uriminzokkiri, the propaganda outlet under the auspices of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. Tweets from the two accounts are posted not only in Korean but also Chinese, Japanese and English, presumably to appeal to a wider audience.
But the accounts also contain messages with a personal touch.
Kim Myong Il — @korea_myongil — describes himself as the director of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, and the other, Han Song Il — @korea_songil — identifies himself as a director at an institute for unification in North Korea.
“No matter how tough it might be I am determined to quit smoking for the benefit of myself and a cleaner environment,” tweeted Kim, referring to North Korea’s newly adopted anti-smoking law.
Kim also is a director in the high-level apparatus designated for inter-Korean affairs, the counterpart for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification.
A recent tweet from Han honored his mother: “Even though my mother is nearly 50 years old, she always watches me with a thoughtful eye… Mother, I respect you! I love you!” Mother’s Day in North Korea is Nov. 16.
It hasn’t been confirmed whether the individuals portrayed in the Twitter accounts actually are those writing the messages. Global internet access has been banned in North Korea.
“We are aware that North Korea has various propaganda outlets and media accounts, but it is hard for us to identify whether these specific Twitter accounts are actually operated by North Koreans,” South Korea’s Ministry of Unification told ABC News.
“It’s possible that the account is genuine,” An Chan-il, director of The World Institute for North Korea Studies in Seoul, Korea, told ABC News. “Their YouTube propaganda channel is also run by an individual chosen by the authorities. The operator of the account, however, is most likely someone selected by the North Korean authorities, not an ordinary individual.”
Cha Du Hyeogn, a researcher at The Asan Institute for Policy Studies in South Korea, told ABC News that although North Korean agents used to monitor the internet outside the country “rather than voice their own opinions” it’s possible “they are actively and openly operating to create favorable public opinion regarding North Korea.”
North Korea recently has been ramping up its presence in Western social media — Youtube, Twitter and Instagram — to revamp a national image stained by nuclear threats and countless human rights abuses. “Echo of Truth,” a Youtube propaganda channel featuring a young woman named Un A that shows vlog-style video tours around Pyongyang, has almost 44,000 subscribers.
“It shows that North Korea wants to enter the international stage as a normal nation,” An added. “They’re attempting to do everything that other normal nations do.”
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