North Korea’s Embrace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: A Closer Look at their AI and VR Use in Agriculture and Education, and Military Implications

North Korea aims to obtain 4th Industrial Revolution technology

North Korea is focusing on Fourth Industrial Revolution technology, such as artificial intelligence, as shown in footage from Korean Central Television on October 26, 2023. The Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s main newspaper, reported on December 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 said in November that other countries are using AI to boost agricultural production.

The country’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. This 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.

Kim Hyuk, a research fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, has stated that 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.

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