North Korea seems to be focusing on Fourth Industrial Revolution technology, such as artificial intelligence, as shown in footage from Korean Central Television on Oct. 26, 2023, of North Korean college students observing AI robots at a science and technology exhibition on Oct. 24. The Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s main newspaper, reported on Dec. 24 that global competition for science and technology is intensifying, with efforts to apply AI to the education sector and increase the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. The Korean Central Broadcasting Station, the country’s state-run radio network, also said in November that other countries are using AI to boost agricultural production.
Additionally, North Korea’s state media has introduced a newly developed VR-based education program that allows users to learn about the country’s history and culture from the third to the fourth century B.C. The focus on new technologies is part of a broader effort to explore ways to expand their use in agriculture and education fields. However, there are also concerns that North Korea may be considering military uses for the Fourth Industrial Revolution technology.
According to Kim Hyuk, a research fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, North Korean researchers have applied AI and its sub-field machine learning (ML) for sensitive applications such as wargaming and surveillance. Kim’s report mentioned that North Korea’s conceived wargaming environment might involve actual conflicts at a tactical level, including artillery shells. Due to the potential for the transfer of AI/ML technology via intangible means, it is important to monitor North Korea’s activities and implement measures to mitigate potential sanctions risks within the academic and private sectors, if necessary.