North Korea’s AI research has civilian and military applications

North Korea’s AI research has civilian and military applications

North Korea is undertaking extensive development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning with civilian and military applications, a new report has found.

The study from Hyuk Kim of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) in California sheds light on North Korea’s growing AI research across government, academia, and industry.

Despite its status as a pariah state, intense international sanctions and secretive nature, North Korea has been working on AI projects since the late 90s.

North Korea even amended its constitution in 2019 to add “informatization” to its economic goals, signifying a strategic priority to develop AI and data-driven technologies. Dedicated research programs have since emerged at universities and state-owned technology companies now market commercial products incorporating AI features, the study which was published on Tuesday (Jan.23) states.

It’s not a huge shock to read the hermit kingdom is developing this technology – which nation isn’t in 2024? But the fact North Korean nuclear scientists are using AI to optimize nuclear reactor safety and run wargaming applications for its military will be a concern for its neighbor and rival South Korea.

They’re not working entirely alone. Kim points out the role China has played in AI research within North Korea’s borders. The Asian superpower is providing partnerships and technical means that allow North Korea’s AI research community to circumvent aspects of the UN sanctions.

Kim writes: “North Korea’s pursuit of a wargaming simulation program using RL [reinforcement learning] reveals intentions to better comprehend operational environments against potential adversaries. Furthermore, North Korea’s ongoing collaborations with foreign scholars pose concerns for the sanctions regime. Moreover, the conversion of civilian AI technology into military applications poses a substantial risk, particularly in cloud computing environments that sidestep the need for specialized hardware.”

It’s estimated around 60% of the North Korean populace lives in poverty, but this doesn’t stop the militarist ruling elite from taking advantage of emerging technologies. Last year we reported how sophisticated hackers from the nation targeted cryptocurrency clients by infiltrating the systems of JumpCloud, a prominent U.S. enterprise software company.

Heightening tensions with North Korea

We’re less than 30 days into 2024 and already there have been several provocative military actions from leader Kim Jong Un’s government.

On January 5, North Korea fired an artillery barrage toward South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island and the nation has reportedly conducted tests of its “underwater nuclear weapons system” in response to military drills by the US, Japan and South Korea as the nation’s authoritarian ruler signals an increasingly belligerent stance.

Tensions flare up on the Korean peninsular regularly. Pyongyang often launches rockets near or over another country’s territory as a way of seeking out new negotiations.

Featured image: Dall-E

Sam Shedden

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Sam Shedden is an experienced journalist and editor with over a decade of experience in online news.

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The post “North Korea’s AI research has civilian and military applications” by Sam Shedden was published on 01/24/2024 by