Coming 2014





  • October 26th
  • October 27th



North Korea is one of the most secretive, and fascinating, places on Earth. Details about the country emerge fleetingly: through the testimony of refugees, from unconfirmed South Korean sources, and from the largely dubious reports of the regime's official mouthpiece, the KCNA. To fill the information vacuum, a vibrant online community of North Korea watchers has emerged. This community makes innovative use of publicly available remote sensing data and other sources of information to fill in the many blanks left by the official accounts.

This talk will outline various investigations undertaken by the North Korea watcher community, and the technologies and techniques it employs. Commercially-available satellite imagery has been used to pre-empt rocket launches well ahead of corporate media, track development and new construction, as well as to map out prison camps such as Yodok in conjunction with the accounts of refugees. More recently, the community has produced an atlas that defines the various sub-national jurisdictions of the country in the absence of officially defined GIS data. Interceptions of North Korean television are analyzed for political and economic developments, as are the first-hand accounts and photo galleries of western tourists. The North's satellite launch in December 2012 has been closely watched by the community, with many members tracking the satellite's trajectory and attempting to receive and decode its transmissions. Even the North's computing systems have been analyzed, for example via leaked copies of the Red Star OS Linux distribution. Screenshots from official government presentations confirm that this OS is indeed used across the country (that's right, pariah states use KDE!). Finally, this talk will cover my own research into using remote sensing to track North Korean food production, and thereby verify (or refute) the official figures that are periodically released by the regime.


David studies geography and mathematics at the University of Queensland. He recently completed a study on long-term remote-sensing analysis of North Korea, a subject with which he is thoroughly obsessed. He has also worked in the software industry for 13 years, and currently works as a security response engineer for a major vendor.