North Korea has been developing artificial intelligence across various sectors, including in military technology and programs that safeguard nuclear reactors, which could create international threats, according to a new report.
The authoritarian regime has used AI to develop wargame simulations and has collaborated with Chinese tech researchers, according to a report by 38 North, a publication for policy and technical analysis of North Korean affairs. The AI advancements and foreign collaboration could lead to sanction violations and leaked information, the report stated.
“North Korea’s recent endeavors in AI/[machine learning] development signify a strategic investment to bolster its digital economy,” Hyuk Kim, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California, wrote in the Jan. 23 report, which cited open-source information from state media and scientific journals. “This commitment is underscored by constitutional amendments fostering the digitization and informatization of its socialist economy, coupled with institutional reforms to address competing self-interest across government offices.”
The East Asian nation has been developing AI across industries since the 1990s but ramped up advancements beginning in 2013 when it created the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute to promote informatization — integrating technologies into a social system — and digitalization of the country, according to the report. In April 2019, the country amended its constitution to add “informatization” to its core economic efforts.
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More recently, North Korea applied artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a model for evaluating proper mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.
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But Kim said the nation’s most recent AI developments are concerning.
“North Korea’s pursuit of a wargaming simulation program using [machine learning] reveals intentions to better comprehend operational environments against potential adversaries,” Kim wrote. “Furthermore, North Korea’s ongoing collaborations with foreign scholars pose concerns for the sanctions regime.”
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North Korean researchers have also published studies about using AI to maintain nuclear reactors’ safety, according to Kim. The studies were aimed at mitigating the risk of nuclear accidents and making reactors more effective.