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North Korea Using AI to Boost Surveillance, Study Claims

Pyongyang is also allegedly using the advanced tech to strategise for future wars and to protect its nuclear programme

The US has seized 17 website domains allegedly used by North Korean IT workers.
Miniatures of people with computers are seen in front of North Korea flag in this illustration taken July 19, 2023. Photo: Reuters


North Korea is turning to artificial intelligence and machine learning to boost its surveillance network and plan for future conflicts, a new study claims.

Pyongyang is also using AI and ML to plan its response to Covid-19 outbreaks and to safeguard its nuclear reactors, study author Hyuk Kim of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) in California said.

International sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons programme may have hindered North Korea’s attempts to secure AI hardware, but it still appears to be pursuing the latest technology, the study went on.


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“North Korea’s recent endeavours in AI/ML development signify a strategic investment to bolster its digital economy,” Kim wrote in the report, which cited open-source information including state media and journals and was published on Tuesday by the 38 North project.

Some of North Korea’s AI researchers have collaborated with foreign scholars, including in China, the report found.

Seoul’s spy agency said on Wednesday it has detected signs that North Korean hackers had used generative AI to search for targets and seek technologies needed for hacking, though it appears they have yet to use it in actual cyberattacks.

The National Intelligence Service said it was closely monitoring the situation.

North Korea established the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in 2013 and in recent years several companies have promoted commercial products featuring AI, the report said.

Communications technology is heavily restricted and monitored in the authoritarian North.


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During the Covid-19 pandemic North Korea used AI to create a model for evaluating proper mask usage and prioritising clinical symptom indicators of infection, Kim said in the report.

North Korean scientists have also published research into using AI for maintaining the safety of nuclear reactors, the report added.

The UN nuclear watchdog and independent experts said last month that a new reactor at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex appears to be operating for the first time, which would mean another potential source of plutonium for nuclear weapons.

The AI development presents many challenges, Kim wrote. “For instance, North Korea’s pursuit of a wargaming simulation program using [machine learning] reveals intentions to better comprehend operational environments against potential adversaries,” he wrote.

“Furthermore, North Korea’s ongoing collaborations with foreign scholars pose concerns for the sanctions regime.”


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


Read more:

North Korea Hackers Share Networks With SE Asia Crime Gangs

US Seizes Website Domains Used by North Korean IT Workers

North Korea Declares Itself a Nuclear State, Vows More Missiles

North Korea Leader Kim Orders War Preparations, Sacks General




Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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