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Details of a home-grown computer operating system developed by North Korea have emerged, the British Broadcasting Corporation said on Tuesday.

It is the first time details of the software, known as Red Start and thought to have been developed in 2002, have been scrutinised or made public.

A Russian blogger who studies in North Korea said Red Star is now available for purchase in the Korean capital.

The Russian blogger, identified only as Mikhail, said Red Star could be bought in Pyongyang for around $5.

Analysis run on the operating system by the Science and Technology Policy Institute in neighbouring South Korea said it has features aimed at monitoring user activity.

It was designed 'to control [North Korea's] own information security', the report said.

'Due to few applicable programmes available, Red Star will not even by easily distributed in North Korea,' it added.

Web content in Korea is already heavily censored and very few North Koreans own a computer or have internet access.

The report also said that North Korea has launched a cyber-war unit that targets sites in South Korea and the US.

In July last year South Korea experienced a wave of cyber-attacks which attempted to paralyse a number of websites. US websites including the Pentagon and the White House were also targeted.

Reports suggested that the attacks might have originated in North Korea.

The operating system represents the determination of North Korea to advance its own computer technology, based on its 'Juche' self-reliance philosophy.

The Red Star operating system uses a popular Korean folk song as its start-up music and numbers years using a calendar which starts counting from the birth of state founder Kim Il-sung.

It is Linux-based but is heavily influenced by Microsoft with versions of the software giant's Office programmes.

It runs only in the Korean language and takes 15 minutes to install.

It has games, an e-mail system known as Pigeon and an internet browser believed to be a copy of Mozilla's Firefox – which has the North Korean government website as a home page.

The US government has banned the uploading and downloading of open source code to residents of a handful of countries on its sanctions list, which includes North Korea.