North Korea

North Korea's domestic operating system draws inspiration from Apple

Red Star, a North Korean operating system, has received a graphical upgrade that makes it similar to Apple's OS X

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 8:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 8:28pm

First there was a North Korean tablet that came complete with a full version of Angry Birds Rio and contained more free apps than any of Apple’s iPads.

And now, North Korea’s one and only operating system bears an uncanny resemblance to something you might find on a Mac computer.

According to reports from technology website North Korea Tech, North Korea has revamped its operating system Red Star in a substantial update, changing the software’s interface from a Microsoft Windows-inspired appearance into something that closely resembles Apple’s OS X.

The re-skinned Red Star version 3.0 was released in early 2013, but news of it only emerged from North Korea recently thanks to images released by Will Scott, an American computer scientist and guest lecturer at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

Scott said he purchased a copy of the updated Red Star in a southern Pyongyang retailer.

Red Star’s menus and graphical cues all strongly resemble those in OS X, and to the untrained eye, the software’s file manager, email tool and various productivity applications are difficult to differentiate from their Apple counterparts.

Originally programmed by the government-backed software development organisation Korea Computer Centre (KCC), Red Star is based on Linux, an open-source operating system that allows for a high degree of appearance modification.

Currently, Red Star is only seen and used by a select elite in North Korea. The software is installed in some universities and state-run industries as a means of accessing Kwangmyong, the country’s domestic and heavily censored public intranet.

Although there has been no official reason behind Red Star’s sudden change in appearance, Apple products have found their way into North Korea in the past, and rumours have suggested that late ruler Kim Jong-il’s computer of choice was a Macbook Pro.

Recently released images of Kim Jung-un have also shown the leader seated with what appears to be an iMac atop his desk.