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Pirate Bay 'seeks asylum' in, er, 'North Korea'

Digital backwater an unlikely home for bandwidth-hungry site

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Updated The Pirate Bay says it is relocating to either North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) - if you go by the flag in its sails on its homepage - or South Korea (the Republic of Korea), if you go by its statement.*

If the file-sharing site's claim relates to the former, it certainly looks spurious given the nation's poor connectivity to the outside world.

The infamous file-sharing service has a long history of legal troubles, as various nations pursue its founders and operators, try to block it and/or chase its servers off their territory.

That activity means, according according to a press release posted to the site's blog and marked as having been issued in Pyongyang (the capital of DPRK), that there is just one nation on earth where it can now feel safe: Best North Korea.

The Pirate Bay explains its decision to go there as follows:

“Today we can reveal that we have been invited by the leader of the republic of Korea, to fight our battles from their network.

This is truly an ironic situation. We have been fighting for a free world, and our opponents are mostly huge corporations from the United States of America, a place where freedom and freedom of speech is said to be held high. At the same time, companies from that country is chasing a competitor from other countries, bribing police and lawmakers, threatening political parties and physically hunting people from our crew. And to our help comes a government famous in our part of the world for locking people up for their thoughts and forbidding access to information.

We believe that being offered our virtual asylum in Korea is a first step of this country's changing view of access to information. It's a country opening up and one thing is sure, they do not care about threats like others do. In that way, TPB and Korea might have a special bond. We will do our best to influence the Korean leaders to also let their own population use our service, and to make sure that we can help improve the situation in any way we can. When someone is reaching out to make things better, it's also ones duty to grab their hand.”

The site seems not, however, to have set up meaningful operations in The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as the IP address we could find for the site at the time of writing – 194.71.107.15 – seems associated with Europe's RIPE rather than any Asian internet overseer.

If The Pirate Bay has indeed moved to North Korea, it won't mean improved service because a quick glance at Alexa reveals it is the world's 74th-most-visited site. While the service trades in small amounts of data - the files to which it points are hosted elsewhere - it clearly needs a fair bit of bandwidth to operate. Yet submarinecablemap.com shows the reclusive nation lacks even a single sub-sea connection to the outside world and Telegeography's 2012 World Internet Map shows no source of data capacity terminating in North Korea.

It is of course possible that the site could “reside” in the DPRK, thanks to the vagaries of the internet, by using an IP address associated with the nation without residing in the country,

But the service's statement about the “move”, especially the section in which it says it hopes North Koreans will use the service, surely show just how improbable this idea is, given the nation has no interest in allowing its citizens to watch any work of art that portrays the outside world in any form.

All of which could leave The Pirate Bay pranking us all to draw attention to itself, a course of action such a serious service would never, we are sure you agree, ever attempt. ®

* According to a German programmer, the hosting chain can be traced back from its supposed location in Pyongyang, North Korea, to an address in Cambodia. "William" explains in a blog post that the site uses a border gateway protocol (BGP) spoofing method to make it appear as though it is serving up links from inside North Korea. He writes: "As we can see now there is no route over AS4837 – The *MAIN* provider of North Korea's internet."

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