Archive for the ‘Pyongyang Informatics Center (PIC)’ Category

Some recent DPRK publications (UPDATED)

Monday, October 31st, 2011

“North Korea on the Cusp of Digital Transformation”
Nautilus Institute
Alexandre Mansurov

“North Korea: An Up-and-Coming IT-Outsourcing Destination”
38 North
Paul Tija, GPI Consulting

“NK People Speak, 2011″ (Interviews with North Koreans in China)
Daily NK (PDF)

“The Rise and Fall of Détente on the Korean Peninsula, 1970-1974″
Wilson Center NKIDP
Christian F. Ostermann and James Person
(Coverage of the report in the Donga Ilbo can be found here)

Don’t Expect a Pyongyang Spring Sometime Soon
Center for Strategic and International Studies (via CanKor)
Hazel Smith

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UN report explains sanctions decisions

Friday, August 6th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

The 1718 Committee of the UN Security Council has published the final version of its “Report to the Security Council from the Panel of Experts established Pursuant to Resolution 1874,”

In the report, of which the Daily NK has obtained a copy, the 1718 Committee revealed North Korean overseas accounts which had likely been used for North Korea’s illicit activities such as conventional weapons transactions and luxury goods, and the names of entities and individuals involved in those activities. The lists were submitted by UN member states.

The report singles out 17 North Korean officials thought likely to violate UN Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and outlines the reasons why they were designated by the UN member states.

They are Jang Sung Taek, Vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission and the closest associate of Kim Jong Il, Vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission Oh Keuk Ryul, Kim Young Chun, the Minister for the People’s Armed Forces, Director of No. 39 Department Kim Dong Woon, Military Supplies Secretary in the Central Committee of the Party Jeon Byung Ho, former Yongbyon technical director Jeon Chi Bu, First Vice-director of the Ministry of the Munitions Industry Chu Kyu Chang, Standing Vice-director of the People’s Army’s General Political Department Hyun Cheul Hae, President of the Tanchon Commercial Bank Kim Dong Myung, Member of the National Defence Commission Baek Se Bong, Deputy Director of the General Political Department of the People’s Armed Forces Park Jae Kyung, President of the Academy of Science Byeon Youong Rip, Director of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy Ryeom Young, Head of the Department of Nuclear Physics of Kim Il Sung University Seo Sang Il, President of Kohas AG Jacop Steiger and Alex H.T. Tsai, who is known to have provided financial, technological and other support for KOMID, and his wife, Su Lu-chi.

It also released a list of autonomous designations provided by member states, covering 19 North Korean entities. That list was made based on information collected as of April 30th this year.

They are Amroggang Development Banking Corporation, Global Interface Company Inc., Hesong Trading Corporation, Korea Complex Equipment Import Corporation, Kohas AG, Korea International Chemical Joint Venture Company, Korea Kwangson Banking Corp, Korea Kwangsong Trading Corporation, Korea Pugang Trading Corporation, Korea Pugang Mining and Machinery Corporation ltd., Korea Ryongwang Trading Corporation, Korea Ryonha Machinery Joint Venture Corporation, Korea Tonghae Shipping Company, Ponghwa Hospital, Pyongyang Informatics Centre, Sobaeku United Corp., Tosong Technology Trading Corporation, Trans Merits Co. Ltd., and Yongbyon Nuclear Research Centre.

13 out of the 19 have direct or indirect links to Tanchon Commercial Bank and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID).

Amroggang Development Banking Corporation is the financial arm of KOMID and related to Tanchon Commercial Bank, which has also been designated by the 1718 Committee. Additionally, Global Interface Company Inc. is owned by Alex Tsai, who is thought to have provided, or attempted to provide, support to KOMID.

Sobaeku United Corp. is involved in activities related to natural graphite, producing graphite blocks that can be used in missiles.

The report points out, “North Korea has established a highly sophisticated international network for the acquisition, marketing and sale of arms and military equipment, and arms exports have become one of the country’s principal sources for obtaining foreign exchange,” and goes on to say, “Agencies under the National Defense Commission (NDC), the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and the Korean People’s Army (KPA) are most active in this regard.”

The report explains, “The Second Economic Committee of the National Defense Commission plays the largest and most prominent role in nuclear, other WMD and missile-related development programs as well as in arranging and conducting arms-related exports.”

It adds, “The General Bureau of Surveillance of the Korean People’s Army is involved in the production and sale of conventional armaments.”

The report points out that North Korea has opened 39 accounts with 18 overseas banks in 14 countries. 17 of which are held with Chinese banks.

Besides China, 11 banks in eight European and former Soviet countries (Russia, Switzerland, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Italy, German, Belarus and Kazakhstan) hold 18 North Korean accounts. There is one account in Malaysia.

“The DPRK also employs a broad range of techniques to mask its financial transactions, including the use of overseas entities, shell companies, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers and barter arrangements,” the report notes.

According to experts on North Korea, since North Korean overseas illegal activities are all led by the loyal group surrounding Kim Jong Il, U.S. financial sanctions in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions 1817 and 1874 and also U.S. Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 have the potential to be a great pressure on the Kim Jong Il regime.

The Panel of Experts, which was appointed by the UN Secretary-General on 12 August 2009 to author the report, are David J. Birch (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, coordinator), Masahiko Asada (Japan), Victor D. Comras (United States of America), Erik Marzolf (France), Young Wan Song (Republic of Korea), Alexander Vilnin (Russian Federation), and Xiaodong Xue (People’s Republic of China).

Read the full story here:
Report Explains Sanctions Decisions
Daily NK
Kim Yong Hun
8/6/2010

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DPRK IT update

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

According to the Korea IT Times:

The number of science and technology institutions in North Korea is estimated to hover around 300; about 200 institutions have been officially confirmed. Therefore, the North is unable to focus on building the hardware industry, which requires massive capital input and long-term investment, and is left with no choice, but to be keen on nurturing IT talent geared toward software development. As a result, the North has been producing excellent IT human resources in areas like artificial intelligence, needed for controlling man-made satellites and developing arms systems, and programming languages.

The following IT institutions are in charge of fostering the North’s software industry: DPRK Academy of Sciences, Korea Computer Center (KCC), Pyongyang Information Center (PIC) and Silver Star, which is currently under the KCC.

In particular, the creation of the PIC, modeled on the Osaka Information Center (OIC) at Osaka University of economics and law, was funded by Jochongnyeon, the pro-North Korean residents’ league in Japan, and was technologically supported by the UNDP. The Jochongnyeon-financed KCC has been responsible for program development and distribution; research on electronic data processing; and nurturing IT talent.

Thanks to such efforts, nearly 200,000 IT talents were fostered and about 10,000 IT professionals are currently working in the field. Approximately 100 universities such as Kim Il-sung University, Pyongyang University of Computer Technology and Kim Chaek University of Technology (KUT) – and 120 colleges have produced 10,000 IT human resources every year. At the moment, the number of IT companies in the North is a mere 250, while the South has suffered from a surplus of IT talent. Therefore, inter-Korean IT cooperation is of great importance to the two Koreas.

As aforementioned, the North has set its sights on promoting its software industry, which is less capital-intensive compared to the hardware industry. Above all, the North is getting closer to obtaining world-class technologies in areas such as voice, fingerprint recognition, cryptography, animation, computer-aided design (CAD) and virtual reality. However, the North’s lack of efficient software development processes and organized engineering systems remains a large obstacle to executing projects aimed at developing demand technology that the S. Korean industry wants. What is more, as the North lacks experiences in carrying out large-scale projects, doing documentation work in the process of development, and smoothing out technology transfer, much needs to be done to measure up to S. Korean companies’ expectations.

Thus, the North needs to build a system for practical on-the-job IT training that produces IT talent capable of developing demand technology- which S. Korean companies need. In addition, it is urgent for both Koreas to come up with an IT talent certification system that certifies both Koreas’ IT professionals.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Needs to Set Up Practical IT Training and Certification Systems
Korea IT Times
Choi Sung
4/2/2010

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North Korea Google Earth (Version 7)

Friday, December 14th, 2007

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
North Korea Uncovered v.7
Download it here

koreaisland.JPGThis map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the sixth version.

Additions to the latest version of “North Korea Uncovered” include: A Korean War folder featuring overlays of US attacks on the Sui Ho Dam, Yalu Bridge, and Nakwon Munitians Plant (before/after), plus other locations such as the Hoeryong Revolutionary Site, Ponghwa Revolutionary Site, Taechon reactor (overlay), Pyongyang Railway Museum, Kwangmyong Salt Works, Woljong Temple, Sansong Revolutionary Site, Jongbansan Fort and park, Jangsan Cape, Yongbyon House of Culture, Chongsokjong, Lake Yonpung, Nortern Limit Line (NLL), Sinuiju Old Fort Walls, Pyongyang open air market, and confirmed Pyongyang Intranet nodes.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.

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Google Earth North Korea (version 6)

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
North Korea Uncovered: Version 6
Download it here

kissquare.JPGThis map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the sixth version.

Additions to the newest version of North Korea Uncovered include: Alleged Syrian nuclear site (before and after bombing), Majon beach resort, electricity grid expansion, Runga Island in Pyongyang, Mt. Ryongak, Yongbyon historical fort walls, Suyang Fort walls and waterfall in Haeju, Kaechon-Lake Taesong water project, Paekma-Cholsan waterway, Yachts (3), and Hyesan Youth Copper Mine.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.

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South, North Korea to open joint college in September

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

Yonhap
4/4/2007

South and North Korea will open their first joint college later this year in a show of warming ties between the two sides, officials said Wednesday.

The Pyongyang Science and Technology College is scheduled to open in the North’s capital on Sept. 10 and will initially house 150 graduate students for such courses as master of business administration (MBA).

“We had originally planned to open it in April but strained inter-Korean ties delayed the project. The favorable environment will make the project go smoothly this time,” said Lim Wan-geun, a boarding member of the Northeast Asia Foundation for Education and Culture.

Kim Jin-kyong, dean of Yanbian Science and Technology College, will be the first dean of the inter-Korean college, the official said. The college will consist of a five-story building for lectures, a four-story building for a library, dining facilities and research and five dormitory buildings.

Inter-Korean relations have warmed considerably since the 2000 summit of their leaders, but tension persists since the rival states are still technically in a state of war, as no peace treaty was signed at the end of the Korean War.

South Korea suspended its food and fertilizer aid to North Korea after it conducted missile tests in July. A possible resumption of the aid was blocked due to the North’s nuclear bomb test in October.

But the relationship was revived after North Korea promised to end its nuclear weapons program in return for energy aid, and the two sides held the first ministerial talks in seven months in March.

Koreas to open first joint university
Korea Herald

Cho Ji-hyun
3/15/2007

The first joint university between South and North Korea will open in Pyongyang in September, a senior member of the founding committee told The Korea Herald.

South Koreans including Park Chan-mo, president of POSTECH in Pohang, visited Pyongyang yesterday to discuss the establishment and operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, or PUST.

Early last year, the Northeast Asia Foundation for Education and Culture, a Seoul-based nonprofit organization, agreed with the North’s education authorities to open PUST as early as last October.

The schedule has been delayed due to the lack of progress in their talks amid tensions caused by North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests last year.

Their contacts have recently resumed as the ties between the two Koreas improved following the six-party agreement on the North’s nuclear programs in Beijing.

In an interview with The Korea Herald, Park, a member of the founding committee, said the school will open in September and that further discussions will take place before the opening.

The visiting delegation includes Kim Chin-kyung, president of Yanbian University of Science and Technology, who assumes the post of founding president of the Pyongyang university.

Choi Kwang-chul, professor of Seoul’s Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, also joined the trip.

For the four-day trip, they are to inspect the progress of construction work, and discuss the cross-border passage of faculty and internet connections for the school.

“We will raise two demands – constructing a land route between the two Koreas to allow professors to travel across the borders and providing internet connection,” Park said.

A Seoul government official also confirmed that the school will open in September.

The project was first initiated in 2001. The Northeast Asia Foundation for Education and Culture plans to expand the school into a university with 240 professors and more than 2,000 students from both countries.

However, the university plans to open with 50 professors and 200 students participating in master’s and doctoral programs in its first year, university officials wrote on their school website.

The university project is led by Park, Lee and Malcolm Gillis, former university president of Rice University in Texas.

In a separate effort, POSTECH has worked on a joint project with the Pyongyang Informatics Center, or PIC, since April 2001, according to Park.

Using PIC’s three dimensional computer aided design program, POSTECH has completed the development of a software called “Construction,” which offers a virtual walk through the construction site to detect errors, he said.

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Summary of DPRK technological efforts

Monday, December 1st, 2003

From the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive:

North Korea: Channeling Foreign Information Technology, Information to Regime Goals Pyongyang is working with Koreans abroad and other foreign partners in information technology (IT) ventures, sending software developers overseas for exposure to international trends, granting scientists access to foreign data, and developing new sources of overseas information in a bid to develop the economy. Cellular telephones and Web pages are accessible to some North Koreans, while foreigners in Pyongyang have access to foreign television news and an Internet café. While such steps are opening windows on the world, however, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) oficials are largely limiting such exposure to areas required for economic development. Moreover, they are applying IT tools to develop new means of indoctrinating the public in North Korea and reaching audiences overseas.

Working With Foreign Partners in IT Ventures
North Korea is promoting cooperative ventures with foreign partners to develop IT, which DPRK media have repeatedly described as a priority area in science and technology. An editorial in the 10 November 2003 issue of the party newspaper Nodong Sinmun, for example, named IT as the first of three technical fields, along with nanotechnology and bioengineering, to which “primary efforts should be directed.”

North Korean media suggest that officials have grasped the potential of leveraging IT for national development. A recent article in the government’s newspaper asserted that (1) “IT trade surpasses the automobile and crude oil industries” and (2) “IT goods are more favorable in developing countries than they are in the developed nations” (Minju Choson, 7 March).

ROK analysts, such as those who compiled a survey of Pyongyang’s IT industry (Puhkan-ui IT Hyonhwang-mit Nambuk Kyoryu Hyomnyok Pangan, 1 January), have suggested that DPRK policies for promoting a domestic IT industry reflect the nation’s lack of capital, dearth of natural resources, and relative abundance of technical talent.  Hoonnet.com CEO Kim Pom-hun, whose extensive experience in North Korea includes residence in Pyongyang from December 2001 to October 2002, has assessed North Korean IT manpower as resembling “an open mine with the world’s best reserves of high-quality ore” ( Wolgan Choson, 1 January).

Pyongyang is partnering with Koreans in South Korea, Japan, and China, as well as Chinese, in ventures to develop both software and hardware, including:

  • The Morning-Panda Joint Venture Company in Pyongyang, a partnership between North Korea’s Electronic Products Development Company and China’s Panda Electronic Group, which began making computers in late 2002.
  • The Pyongyang Informatics Center (PIC) and South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology (PUST), which are cooperating to develop virtual reality technology. In addition:
  • The ROK’s Hanabiz.com and PIC launched the Hana Program Center in Dandong, China, in August 2001 (http://hanabiz.com/history.html) for joint software development and training of DPRK programmers.
  •  IMRI—ROK manufacturer of computer peripherals—and CGS—a Tokyo-based software company affiliated with the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (GAKRJ, a.k.a. Chosen Soren)—joined hands in July 2000 to form UNIKOTECH (Unification of Korea Technologies) to develop and market software. Both partners maintain links to North Korean IT enterprises.
  • The ROK’s Samsung Electronics and the DPRK’s Korea Computer Center (KCC) have been developing software together at a Samsung research center in Beijing since March 2000 (Chonja Sinmun, 15 October).

Venturing Overseas To acquire information on foreign IT trends and to promote their domestic industry, North Koreans have begun venturing overseas in recent years.

  • State Software Industry General Bureau Director Han U-ch’ol led a DPRK delegation in late September 2003 to the China International Software and Information Service Fair in Dalian. The North Koreans joined specialists from China and South Korea in describing conditions in their respective IT industries and calling for mutual cooperation. Participants from China and the two Koreas expanded on the theme of cooperation at the IT Exchange Symposium, sponsored by the Dalian Information Industry Association, Pyongyang’s State Software Industry General Bureau, and Seoul’s Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Dalian Alios Technical Consulting, a company run by Chinese Korean Yi Sung-nam, hosted the exchange (www.kotra.or.kr, 15 October, http://hanabiz.com, 9 October).
  • Pyongyang opened, in April 2002 in Beijing, its first foreign exhibition of DPRK software products developed by Kim Il-song University, Korea Computer Center (KCC), PIC, and other centers of software development (DPRK Korea Infobank, 16 May 2002).
  • KCC Deputy Chief Technician Kim Ki-ch’ol led a delegation of DPRK computer technicians to the World PC Expo 2001, held in September 2001 outside Tokyo. KCC has worked with Digiko Soft—a company run by a Korean resident of Japan—to develop commercial software. Through Digiko Soft, the expo was the first show in Japan “of computer software developed in [North] Korea” (Choson Sinbo, 22 October, 1 October 2001).
  • KCC computer programmers Chong Song-hwa and Sim Song-ho won first place in August 2003 in a world championship software competition of go—an Asian game of strategy—held in Japan. KCC teams have visited Japan and China on at least eight occasions since 1997 to compete in program contests for go, taking first prize three times.

Gaining Access to Foreign Data North Korea has been acquiring foreign technical information from a variety of sources in recent years, benefiting from developments in technology, warming ties between the Koreas, and longstanding sympathies of many Korean residents in Japan.

  • Authorities have held the annual Pyongyang International Scientific and Technological Book Exhibition since 2001, bringing foreign vendors and organizations related to S&T publications to North Korea (KCNA, 18 August).
  • The Trade and Economy Institute, advertised as North Korea’s “sole consulting service provider” on international trade, has been exchanging information with “many countries via Internet” since September 2002 (Foreign Trade of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 1 April).
  • According to PUST President Pak Ch’an-mo, who has extensive DPRK contacts in academic and scientific circles, North Korea has been purchasing technical books from amazon.com and from South Korea (Kwahak-kwa Kisul, 1 April).
  • Pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan have long sent technical literature to North Korea.
  • ROK organizations, including PUST and IT publisher youngjin.com, have been donating technical publications on IT in recent years to DPRK counterparts as a means of earning good will and contributing to the eventual unification of Korea (Chonja Sinmun, 11 August).

Cell Phones, Web Pages, and NHK
Within North Korea, the advance of IT technology has been suggested by a number of recent developments:

  • Approximately 3,000 residents of Pyongyang and Nason have reportedly purchased cell phone service since November 2002 (The People’s Korea, 1 March).
  • Installation of a nationwide optical-fiber cable network in 2000, launch of the Kwangmyong 2000 Intranet the same year, and establishment of computer networks have made available domestic access to extensive technical databases maintained by the Central Scientific and Technological Information Agency, the Grand People’s Study House, and other repositories of technical information.
  • Via North Korea’s Silibank Web site (www.silibank.com), established in Shenyang, China, in September 2001, registered foreign users can exchange e-mails with DPRK members.
  • In August 2002, Kim Pom-hun, CEO of the ROK IT company Hoonnet.com, opened an Internet café in Pyongyang, the only place in North Korea for the public to access the Internet. Most customers of the service, which uses an optical cable linking Pyongyang and Shanghai via Sinuiju, are foreign diplomatic officials or international agency staffers; steep fees reportedly keep most Koreans from going on line (Wolgan Choson, 1 January).
  • Foreign guests in Pyongyang hotels have had access to foreign news broadcasts of Britain’s BBC and Japan’s NHK since May 2003, according to a Japanese television report (TBS Television, 2 September).

Limiting Information to Technical Areas, Harnessing IT for Domestic Indoctrination and Foreign Propaganda Development of the nation, rather than empowerment of the individual, appears to be driving DPRK efforts to develop domestic IT infrastructure and industry. Officials, scientists, and traders can now access and exchange information pertinent to their duties within the domestic Kwangmyong Intranet. Those with a “need to know” can even surf the worldwide Web for the latest foreign data. While Kim Chong-il reportedly watches CNN and NHK satellite broadcasts (Kin Seinichi no Ryorinin, 30 June) and supposedly surfs the Internet, the public has no such freedom to learn of the outside world without the filter of official propaganda.

Indeed, Pyongyang is using IT to indoctrinate the public and put its propaganda before foreign audiences. In addition to studying the party line through regular group reading of Nodong Sinmun in hard copy, a practice for indoctrinating members of work units throughout North Korea, the installation of computer networks now brings the newspaper to some workplaces on line, as the photograph below shows:

Moreover, Pyongyang has put its propaganda on the Internet.

  • KCNA offers Pyongyang’s line in English, Korean, and Spanish at a Web site in Japan at www.kcna.co.jp.
  • News and views of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and its affiliated organizations appear on the group’s site at www.chongryon.com.
  • DPRK media, including newspapers Minju Choson and Nodong Sinmun, have appeared on sites originating in China, such as www.dprkorea.com and www.uriminzokkiri.com.
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