North Korea’s Secretive Quest for Artificial Intelligence Supremacy

by | Jan 24, 2024

North Korea is surprising the world by competing in the race for artificial intelligence (AI) dominance, despite its isolated nature and international sanctions. Recent revelations have exposed the country’s ambitious pursuit of AI and machine learning (ML) capabilities, which could have significant impacts across various sectors.

Since the 1990s, North Korean scientists have quietly developed AI and ML technology, with a primary focus on optimizing fuel loading patterns in nuclear reactors. This research improves reactor safety and addresses energy shortages by enabling more efficient power generation.

At the forefront of North Korea’s AI and ML efforts is the Mangyongdae Information Technology Corporation, which made waves by introducing mobile phones equipped with AI capabilities. This move demonstrates the nation’s commitment to integrating AI into everyday life.

Despite limited scientific collaboration due to sanctions, available information suggests that North Korea actively develops and promotes AI and ML technology. For example, the Yalu River Technology Development Company has used AI and ML to strengthen security surveillance systems, enhancing the nation’s defenses.

In line with its “informatization” agenda, North Korea amended its constitution to prioritize AI and ML development. This constitutional amendment solidifies the government’s determination to embrace emerging technologies and establish itself as a significant player in the global AI landscape.

North Korean universities have also introduced AI-focused programs to nurture the next generation of AI experts within the country.

A significant milestone in North Korea’s AI and ML research was the establishment of the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in 2013. This institute serves as a hub for promoting and advancing AI and ML development, showcasing the nation’s commitment to becoming a force in the field.

While specific details about North Korea’s AI capabilities are limited, reports suggest that the secretive nation has applied AI and ML to sensitive applications such as wargaming and surveillance. This utilization demonstrates the potential of AI and ML in military and intelligence purposes.

North Korean researchers have referenced external studies, including those on adaptive human behavior modeling for air combat simulation, indicating a willingness to incorporate global research and best practices into their AI and ML efforts.

In their pursuit of AI and ML dominance, North Korea has utilized machine learning techniques like genetic algorithms (GA). For instance, in the study on optimizing fuel loading patterns in nuclear reactors, GA has significantly improved reactor performance and safety.

Reinforcement learning (RL), another AI and ML method, has also gained traction in North Korea. Scientists have explored its application in wargaming, training AI agents to make strategic decisions and maximize rewards in simulated combat scenarios.

Despite sanctions limiting scientific collaboration, North Korea has historically partnered with foreign scholars to advance its AI and ML research. However, recent developments have hindered these collaborations, making it challenging to accurately assess the nation’s AI capabilities.

Evaluating North Korea’s progress in AI and ML is inherently difficult due to its secretive nature. Strict sanctions and limited access to information obscure the full extent of the nation’s achievements in this transformative field.

As North Korea continues its quest for AI and ML dominance, stakeholders must consider measures to mitigate potential risks associated with sanctions. Balancing the need for technological progress with international concerns is a delicate task that will shape the future of AI development within the country.

In the highly competitive landscape of AI and ML, North Korea’s covert efforts to advance its capabilities highlight the nation’s determination to establish its presence in this transformative field. With ongoing developments and the potential for breakthroughs, North Korea’s journey towards AI excellence is one that requires close monitoring.