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North Korea’s Embrace of Fourth Industrial Revolution Technology: Exploring the Potential Military Implications


Feb 11, 2024
North Korea aims to acquire 4th Industrial Revolution technology

In recent footage from North Korea’s Korean Central Television, college students are seen examining artificial intelligence robots at a science and technology exhibition on Oct. 24, 2023. It appears that North Korea is showing an interest in Fourth Industrial Revolution technology, particularly AI, as they explore new ways to expand its applications.

According to the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun, global competition for science and technology is increasing. This includes the use of AI in the education sector and the increased use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. The Korean Central Broadcasting Station also reported last November that other countries are actively using AI to increase agricultural production.

A new VR-based education program developed last year by North Korea was showcased at the exhibition, allowing users to learn about North Korea’s history and culture from the third to fourth century B.C. It seems that North Korea’s state media is introducing global trends of new technologies in order to expand their use in the agricultural and education fields, but there is also potential for military use.

Research fellow Kim Hyuk at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies reports that North Korean researchers have applied AI and its sub-field machine learning (ML) for military applications. The wargaming environment conceived by North Korea might be actual conflicts at a tactical level involving artillery shells. Given the potential for transferring 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.

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