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Unlocking North Korean songs on a karaoke machine

Unlocking North Korean songs on a karaoke machine

2023-05-01 07:03:30

Karaoke is a uniting previous time for North and South Korea, with noraebang generally out there all through Pyongyang, and Video CDs lengthy a ubiquitous commodity. It comes as little shock then, that karaoke machines have made their method to Pyongyang.

On this submit, I check out the Tianchi v700, a Chinese language karaoke machine that has been localized for the North Korean market. The {hardware} was listed on-line on the finish of 2018, and bought from a vendor in Dandong, China in February, 2020.

From a fast have a look at the menu, it’s apparent that some effort has been spent crafting this media expertise for a North Korean viewers. The Tianchi v700 is an inexpensive information level of the expertise as soon as may count on at a KTV room in Pyongyang.

The Tianchi v700 (Picture: Will Scott)

A window into a distinct world

The Tianchi v700 blurs the excellence between gadgets meant for Chinese language and Korean audiences far more than android telephones and tablets, that are additionally manufactured by Chinese language OEMs for a Korean viewers. The machine is supposed for use in a business KTV setting, the place it could be hooked as much as a big TV, speaker system, and microphone enter. It options a big 19″ contact display screen, operating a kiosk model of Android, and is available in discrete, unbranded packaging with a variety of each Chinese language and North Korean karaoke songs preloaded.

The Tianchi v700 (Picture: Will Scott)

The North Korean affiliation of the machine isn’t doubtful. The primary picture proven whereas the machine begins up is the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, and upon booting a Moranbong Band live performance loops on the TV whereas the machine waits for a music to be chosen. Dissonance begins to set in upon exploring the remainder of the software program.

The V700 might be at house in a Chinese language KTV room, with software program that’s absolutely “on-line” — recordings of carried out songs will be uploaded to the seller’s cloud, new songs (all Chinese language) will be downloaded to the machine, and WeChat integration permits modifying the queue from a smartphone.

It helps each Wifi and wired Ethernet to offer these options. A WeChat cost construction additionally permits a central controller to dole out timed classes with the machine to paying prospects.

How would any of this work within the offline world of Pyongyang?

The Karaoke content material additionally doesn’t present speedy solutions to the origins of the machine. Some movies characteristic the “Hana 하나” watermark, whereas others are labeled with the competing “Mokran 목란” model. Many others are titled, generically, “7.27”.

The Mokran Video brand earlier than one assortment of songs (Picture: North Korea Tech)

Whereas lots of the flashy options make use of the web, the machine capabilities completely nicely offline, and with a whole bunch of pages of preloaded karaoke, can be of speedy worth inside Pyongyang, even with out these options.

Beneath the plastic veneer

As a business machine utilized in group settings, the V700 has a really completely different menace mannequin from the non-public gadgets which have grow to be ubiquitous round Pyongyang lately.

Powered by an Allwinner ARM processor, the music information is on an simply swappable (one screw holds a flap in place to take away) full sized arduous drive labeled “North Korean Songs” in Chinese language.

If that was all there was to it although, you wouldn’t be studying this text.

Whereas the Chinese language songs on the arduous drive will be performed on any laptop they’re related to, the 42 gigabytes of North Korean media is encrypted, and the information can’t be opened on different gadgets.

The machine itself has a file supervisor and open USB ports. It permits prospects to plug in their very own USB sticks to sing songs off, and to save lots of their recordings to. It additionally permits set up of different Android purposes and copying of arbitrary user-accessible information to a USB stick, which makes entry to the machine very straightforward.

Many of the system software program is a generic Chinese language KTV system. The primary query in my thoughts whereas investigating and determining learn how to decode the protected content material was the place the custody line was between Chinese language and North Korean.

Had a North Korean consumer offered a package deal of content material to be included with a stipulation that it needs to be protected, or had the software program itself been custom-made by North Korean programmers just like the smartphones and tablets in Pyongyang? Have been there clues to the North Korean entity behind this machine?

The complete consumer expertise of the karaoke machine is carried out inside a single monolithic Android software that itself references a number of system libraries for interacting with taking part in the karaoke by means of the exterior HDMI video connection.

A few of these libraries instantly caught my eye as “misplaced” — an especially small “” stories a log message labeling itself “libktv” each time an encrypted file is accessed, and gives a approach for information to be encrypted by the Android serial variety of the machine.

After additional investigation it seems this library isn’t really performing any encryption or decryption. A second library, “” exports a perform “ScEncrypt_getPicEncryptKey” as a part of a separate file encryption system. This library, whereas additionally not performing file decryption of information at runtime, maybe holds a clue of attribution, as the opposite makes use of of “sclib” and of the “PIC” identifier will be traced to the Pyongyang Informatics Heart.

Deeper investigation of the DRM (digital rights administration) current on the machine yields that it’s in reality a modified model of the Allwinner CedarX media framework that’s performing the file decryption.

Whereas the related “libcdx_stream” library isn’t open supply, its supply has been uploaded within the context of a number of different Chinese language Android growth supply bushes. The binary current on the v700 encompasses a considerably completely different encryption technique than is seen within the model offered by Allwinner.

The core library makes use of a set encryption key that may be compiled into the binary. The V700 consults each “/proc/cpuinfo” to be taught the CPU serial variety of the machine it’s on, and a binary file related to the machine file system construction as a part of its technique for figuring out its AES (Superior Encryption Normal) key. It then ignores all of those device-specific objects, and reverts again to a static key “87654321” saved within the binary.

The obfuscation and complexity concerned isn’t present in an ordinary cedar launch, and signifies coding work downstream from the allwinner distribution.

See Also

Widespread North Korean conference is to spotlight the identify of Kim Jong Un in media (Picture: North Korea Tech)

The products

The 42 gigabytes of North Korean Karaoke packaged on the V700 have been made out there in a decoded type at , and are being graciously hosted by the Web Archive for archival functions.

Some highlights from the gathering embrace – the canonical pangapsumnida music – arirang – the CNC music ???? – KCC brand seems on many songs – tech progress – tongil (unity), a girl driving by means of the tongil district after which visiting the unification monument on the southern freeway – summer time water snowboarding – kimchi music – the one chinese language music that was within the assortment – this VCD wasn’t correctly break up when it was placed on the machine – it really is 10 or so songs in a row. (one of many increased high quality units as nicely)

The background Morangbong band live performance can also be there:

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