SEOUL (AFP) — A website has opened to attract foreign investment to North Korea, one of the world's most closed societies.
China's Xinhua news agency, in a report from Pyongyang, said www.dprk-economy.com was set up by North Korea and began operating Monday.
South Korea's unification ministry, which handles relations with the hardline communist North, said it was unsure who launched the site.
The professional-looking site provides information in English and Korean on firms, natural resources and products.
"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's economy homepage will try to provide investors with more vivid and various information in trade," reads a message on the Korean-language page.
It says the North is seeking to create favourable conditions for economic cooperation with foreign enterprises, adding the country has a stable political situation, a well-educated labour force and rich natural resources.
It does not mention the economic sanctions imposed by the United States, or weapons-related sanctions mandated by the United Nations following missile and nuclear tests in 2006.
"It is a consistent principle of the DPRK government to develop economic relations with foreign countries on the basis of independence," says the English page.
The site is named "Chollima," a reference to a mythical winged horse said to be capable of leaping 250 kilometres (160 miles) in one bound.
Founding president Kim Il-Sung used the slogan in the 1950s to promote an ultimately disastrous agricultural collectivisation drive.
Unification ministry officials said they were unsure if the Pyongyang government was running the site.
"There have been many websites, run by third parties and not the Pyongyang government, promoting trade with North Koreans and their products," one official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"We are not sure whether this is one of them. If if were run directly by Pyongyang, it woud be something."
North Korea operates its own version of the Internet, a highly censored Intranet that has its own messaging function, according to Seoul officials.
It is policed by the Korea Computer Center, North Korea's window on the worldwide web and its leading high-technology research and development hub.
The centre, set up in 1990, acts as the regime's gatekeeper, selecting only approved information and downloading it onto the Intranet.
Content is mostly limited to science and technology and available only to selected research institutes, universities, factories and a few individuals.
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