North Korea’s AI development raises concerns

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In a recent report, Hyuk Kim from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) in California noted that the international sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear weapons program may have impeded its access to AI hardware. However, there are indications that North Korea is actively pursuing the latest technology.

“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.

According to the study, North Korea is advancing in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, deploying these technologies in various domains such as responding to COVID-19, ensuring the safety of nuclear reactors, conducting wargaming simulations, and enhancing government surveillance. The report also reveals instances of collaboration between North Korean AI researchers and foreign scholars, including those from China.

On Wednesday, Seoul’s spy agency reported the detection of indications that North Korean hackers utilized generative AI to identify potential targets and search for essential hacking technologies. However, there is currently no evidence of them deploying this technology in actual cyberattacks. The National Intelligence Service emphasized its close monitoring of the situation.

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The report highlights that North Korea founded the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in 2013, and in recent years, various companies within the country have actively promoted commercial products incorporating artificial intelligence (AI).

In the tightly controlled and monitored communications environment of authoritarian North Korea, the report notes that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the country employed AI to develop a model for assessing correct mask usage and prioritizing clinical symptom indicators of infection.

The report indicates that North Korean scientists have contributed research on employing AI to enhance the safety of nuclear reactors. Last month, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and independent experts reported the apparent operational status of a new reactor at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, suggesting a potential additional source of plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Kim highlighted that the development of AI poses numerous challenges.

“For instance, North Korea’s pursuit of a wargaming simulation program using (machine 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,” he wrote.

Source Reuters 

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