North Korea emphasizing the development of science and technology for the construction of a powerful nation

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-11-21

Under the new leadership of Kim Jong Un, the importance of advancing the country’s science and technology is being increasingly highlighted. Recently, a conference for scientists and technicians was held on November 13, 2013. Although Kim Jong Un did not attend, his article on “Let’s Promote Transition for the Development of Science and Technology to Build a Powerful Nation” was delivered and letters of appeal to the participants were also announced at the conference.

The first three pages of the November 14, 2013 edition of Rodong Sinmun featured news on the conference. The letters of appeal to the scientists and technicians were included in the article, which read, “The future of building a powerful nation depends on science and technology.” The letters encouraged scientists from each field to put in more effort. It was also stated that “Our party considers science and technology as the most important state affair and the basis for our nation’s development and is bringing scientification in all sectors.” Resolving the food situation and energy shortage problem was stated as the most urgent task for the scientists and technicians. The article also boasted the achievements made in the development of computer numerical control (CNC) and high-tech industries such as nanotechnology and defense-related science and technology.

Premier Pak Pong Ju also commented that North Korea will “push strongly and boldly for the creation of high-tech development zones” and stressed that investment in this sector will be prioritized, seemingly referring to the plan of building more areas that incorporate science and technology with the economy, as the ground-breaking ceremony for the “Kaesong High-Tech Industrial Park” is reported to have took place on Monday, November 11.

From early on the Kim Jong Un regime expressed interest in science and technology. After North Korea’s successful launch of a long-range rocket in December 2012, engineers and scientists were invited to Pyongyang and were officially proclaimed “heroes of the Republic.” Recently, in an effort to raise the living standard of elite scientists, construction of special residential complexes — Unha Scientists Street and residential complex for Kim Il Sung University faculty — were completed.

Since last August, new slogans such as “Science and Technology for Everyone” are being promoted for the purpose of cultivating young talent in the field of science and technology. This is reminiscent of the slogans associated with the former Kim Il Sung regime’s refined military doctrine of the 1960s, i.e., the ‘four-point military line’, which stressed the need for arming the entire nation to safeguard the homeland. The recent conference magnifies the prevalent atmosphere — that is, preferential treatment for scientists and increased emphasis on science and technology.

This recent trend reflects North Korea’s recognition that economic development must be backed by strong advancement in science and technology. Science and technology has been put forth as the instrument in which to achieve the nation’s goal of becoming an economic powerhouse of knowledge. Scientists are expected to play a critical, central role in North Korea’s economic development.

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