Hundreds of countries all over the world can take advantage of streaming services like Netflix as new and convenient ways to watch TV. In a surprising turn of events, North Korea will reportedly be getting a service of its own. Yes, one of the countries with the strictest control over the media is going to give citizens a way to stream video. However,although one might hope that a streaming service could mix up the available options, citizens will mostly be getting the same content that is already available on North Korean networks.
The new streaming service will use a set-top box called "Manbang," which is definitely not something that English-speakers are going to snicker at every time they read it. "Manbang" actually means "everywhere" in Korean. It will allow viewers to watch content to learn Russian and English languages. They'll also have the option of replaying documentary films about the North Korean leadership. It's not exactly Netflix, and folks in North Korea shouldn't count on getting to see The Interview or House of Cards courtesy of Manbang. It looks like the major similarities between Netflix and Manbang will lie in the navigation. Like Netflix, Manbang will enable viewers to search for content via title or category.
In case the prospect of learning Russian or re-watching documentaries isn't enough to get your heart racing, Manbang will have a feature not available on major American streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Streamers will be able to watch five different channels live as they unfold. Considering there are only five major channels in North Korea, that's a pretty good deal. Content will include news, coverage about the leader's activities, and state-approved ideology. Newspaper articles will be available in addition to the streaming video, according to NK News. There are only so many hours per day that anybody can devote to learning another language via video. Who knows what phrases will be on the curriculum?
Manbang sounds like a great option for North Koreans looking for new ways to get their news about North Korea, but most citizens won't be able to access the service anytime soon. Very few people in North Korea have access to internet servers that would enable them to take advantage of the technology. Only those living in the cities of Pyongyang, Sinuiju, and Sariwon will be able to use Manbang when it kicks off. In the Sinuiju area in particular there is high demand for a service like Manbang. There are evidently several hundred people wanting the service, which is actually a large number for North Korea.
Installation will require a phone line, a high-speed modem, and a cable box connected to the national network. Then, all it takes is one handy HDMI port and users will have access to the best TV that North Korea has to offer. All five of those channels. Regardless, folks will still have to rely on protestors who get creative and black market lines to foreign press to find out what's really happening in the world outside of North Korea.
Check out our fall TV premiere schedule to see what you'll be able to catch on the American small screen in the not-too-distant future.