Woolim DPRK Surveillance Tablet And Doctorow's 'Schoolbook'
The North Korean government has released the Woolim tablet computer for citizens. "It's pretty locked down,” researcher Florian Grunow remarked.
(WAY too many details on Woolim tablet computer)
Woolim is a small, white Android device that looks like a fairly standard tablet. The hardware itself is made by Chinese manufacturer Hoozo, but the North Korean government has removed some components such as those for wi-fi and bluetooth, and put its own bespoke software on top.
After the researchers presented work covering RedStar OS, North Korea’s Linux-based operating system, a South Korean NGO offered the tablet to the group. Woolim is just one of several tablets designed for North Korea, but Woolim appears to be the most recent, likely dating from 2015.
The tablet has PDFs on how to use it; various propaganda texts for users to read as well as the capability to play local TV and connect to the country’s own internet, and it also comes with a slew of educational apps, such as French, Russian, and Chinese dictionaries. There's even an app for kids which teaches them how to type with a keyboard, and video games such as Angry Birds that have been lightly customized.
But don't try to push Woolim much further than that: it won't let you.
Cory Doctorow, writing in his 2008 book Little Brother, has given us a pretty good idea of what Woolim is all about:
I got back to class and sat down again... I unpacked the school's standard-issue machine and got back into classroom mode. The SchoolBooks were the snitchiest technology of them all, logging every keystroke, watching all the network traffic for suspicious keywords, counting every click, keeping track of every fleeting thought you put out over the net. We'd gotten them in my junior year, and it only took a couple months for the shininess to wear off. Once people figured out that these "free" laptops worked for the man -- and showed a never-ending parade of obnoxious ads to boot -- they suddenly started to feel very heavy and burdensome.
Cracking my SchoolBook had been easy. The crack was online within a month of the machine showing up...
(Read more about Doctorow's SchoolBook laptop)
Let's hope that North Korea's kids have a similarly easy time with Woolim!