The world is witnessing a growing focus on Fourth Industrial Revolution technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), in various sectors. North Korea has been paying particular attention to these technologies, 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. Additionally, 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 also mentioned in November that other countries are using AI to boost agricultural production. However, there are 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.
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 these technologies.
Kim’s report mentioned that North Korean researchers have conceived a wargaming environment that 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.