Did North Korea Linux ripoff Apple’s macOS?

Some elements of North Korea’s version of Linux (Red Star OS) bear a suspicious resemblance to Apple’s macOS.

North Korea has long been a mystery to most westerners. Life inside of the hermit kingdom is not easy for those of us in the west to fully understand, particularly when it comes to technology.

And yet North Korea has been active in developing its own computer operating system. The country has its own version of Linux called Red Star OS, which is often referred to as North Korea Linux.

If you’ve ever seen North Korea Linux in action, you’ll notice that some of it resembles Apple’s own macOS operating system. The suspicious resemblance of North Korea Linux to macOS has been noted often in the media.

Chris Hoffman at PC World speculates that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's use of an iMac might explain why North Korea Linux resembles macOS:

Red Star OS is a Linux distribution with a customized, themed KDE 3 desktop. Previous versions of Red Star OS looked more similar to Windows, but the current Red Star OS 3.0 has a Mac OS X-like theme complete with a dock. A photo of Kim Jong-un in 2013 showed him with an iMac on his desk, so the reason for this redesign could simply be because the country’s “dear leader” picked up a Mac and liked the interface.

Red Star OS is an oddity. It’s easy to be amused at from afar, noticing how the operating system became a Mac clone after the country’s dictator got his hands on a Mac. But it’s also a Linux distribution designed to filter and monitor web usage, created by perhaps the most oppressive government on the planet.

It’s both sad and interesting to see Linux twisted into such a system—although it’s an allowed use of open-source software. (North Korea probably wouldn’t give you the source code to Red Star OS if you asked, though.)

More at PCWorld

Don’t take Chris’ word for it though, check out these videos about North Korea Linux and make up your own mind.

I’ve actually installed North Korea Linux in the past (back when I did a full review of it for my now defunct Linux blog), so none of this comes as a surprise to me. It seems pretty clear that macOS was at least partly the inspiration for some of the elements found in the interface of North Korea Linux.

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but somehow I doubt Apple would really appreciate it in this case. Still, you have to give the company credit for having an interface that is good enough to inspire one of the weirdest countries on the planet to emulate in its own operating system.

Usually Apple would be quick to go after anybody it thought was infringing on its intellectual property. But I doubt that we'll see a lawsuit against North Korea by Apple anytime soon. This is one situation where even Apple's giant pile of cash for lawyers won't do much good.

Install North Korea Linux on your Mac

If you find yourself fascinated with North Korea Linux, you can actually install it on your Mac. VirtualBox is free and open source software that will let you run North Korea Linux inside of a VM. That is probably the safest way to run it.

You can get North Korea Linux from the Opening Up North Korea blog. The site has download links for Red Star OS.

Here’s a video that walks you through an install of North Korea Linux. The video uses VMWare instead of VirtualBox, but the process is not much different regardless of the virtual machine software you use.

Did you miss a post? Check the Eye On Apple home page to get caught up with the latest news, discussions and rumors about Apple.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

Participate in the 2019 State of the CIO survey. Make your voice heard.