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Posted : 2010-02-08 20:17
Updated : 2010-02-08 20:17

North Korea Has Electronic Books

By Kim Tong-hyung
Staff Reporter

North Korea, the planet's deepest information void, appears to be dabbling with electronic books (e-books), a South Korean activist claimed Thursday.

It's questionable how much an ecosystem for e-books would be relevant to readers living in perhaps the most censored country in the world.

But according to Free North Korea Radio's Kim Seong-min, North Koreans have choices beyond government propaganda books to read on their computers, including translations of Western classics such as Shakespeare's plays, ``The Iliad,'' ``Don Quixote,'' `` Jane Eyre,'' `` Les Miserables'' and even ``Gone With The Wind.''

``North Korea will have less complications surrounding copyright issues compared to the South, and with the government pushing the project directly, the country seems to have acquired a wealth of e-book content over a relatively short period of time,'' Kim told Yonhap News.

Kim revealed ``Electronic Library Mirae (Future) 2.0,'' North Korea's e-book computer program he claimed to have acquired from one of his foreign sources.

When run on Microsoft Windows, Mirae 2.0 opens a page that resembles a conventional library search site, and provides access to the electronic versions of about 1,500 books and 350,000 kinds of other documents.

The books include a wealth of non-fictions work, mostly on political theories and history, but also a variety of literature, song collections, and educational content such as dictionaries and books of facts.

The e-book collection of literature contains some contemporary North Korean work that hasn't been previously introduced to the South, Kim said.

Users of Mirae 2.0 can search for e-books by title or content.

They can even use its voice recognition system by clicking the ``read'' tab at the top of the screen, with the computer responding with a recorded female voice that seems ``natural'' by North Korean standards, Kim said.

Electronic version of books have been around for a while, but the emergence of e-book readers such as Amazon's Kindle now appear to be heralding an e-book industry explosion.

Apple recently unveiled its iPad tablet computer, which is expected to take the e-book reader competition to the next level.

South Korean electronics firms Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Trigem Computer are also expecting to reveal a slew of e-book readers and tablet computers this year.

thkim@koreatimes.co.kr

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