The DPRK’s artificial intelligence “Go” software

According to the Korea IT Times:

Eunbyul 2010 is a “Go” game, or commonly known as baduk in Korean; a software program developed by North Korea and played in North and South Korea. Winner of the third Computer Go Competition UED Cup in 2009, defeating so many outstanding programs from all over the world, Eunbyul 2010 is maintaining 3-dan at and also ranks number one in sales in Japanese computer Go program market.

Go was invented by Chinese emperor Yao around 2300 BC, and has been widely played in the three countries in Far East: Korea, Japan, and China. In North Korea, the game was previously considered ‘the bourgeoisie game,’ thus a taboo; however since the 1990’s, the government has promoted Go as a traditional game that dates back to the Three States era; in addition it highlights the game as a brain exerciser that helps children develop their intelligence and old people keep their brains from aging. North Korea classifies Go – also called brain combat or brain fight in the country- as a type of martial arts just like Taekwondo or Ssireum, the Korean wrestling. North Korea’s Go was controlled by Chosun Sports Association, but under the command from Kim Jeong-il in 1990s; it was transferred to Chosun Martial Arts Federation that had better training environment, and subsequently categorized as public sport; now Taekwondo Commission is in charge of the game. Cho Daewon, 22 and MunYoungsam, 33, both amateur 7-dan, are noted as the top players in the country.

The estimated number of Go players in North Korea was around 10,000 in 1994, and is currently over 30,000. North Korean government encourages children to play Go as they believe the game has a significant effect on improving many brain activities such as concentration, observation, memory, imagination, and structure perception. Go classes are organized at kindergarten and the government tries to promote the game by holding various Go competitions for children.

Along with their passion for the game, North Korea is also regarded as one of the world’s best developer of computer Go game. Since early 1990s, the university computer development group composed of Kim Ilseong University, Kim Chek Engineering College, etc. – has developed computer Go programs. In 1995, Eunbyul Computer Technology Trade Center which is now called Korea Computer Center (KCC) focused on making software programs for Go, chess, Janggi and the like. The Go software ‘Eunbyul 2010 (see the picture above)’ – was imported into South Korea and is now available to the public consumers (here).

Eunbyul 2010 is the latest version of Eunbyul 2006, which was released in 2006 drawing attention to the industry. It integrated Monte Carlo Method into the algorithm of the original 2006 version, substantially improving the level of performance. While Eunbyul 2006 was rated level 6 according to Korea Baduk Association’s system, its 2010 counterpart attained 2-dan after the battles with random user at Cyber Oro, the internet Go match website. The user won 54 and lost 46games – 31 victories and 25 defeats in 1-dan battles and 23 victories and 21 defeats in 2-dan battles -hence, with 54 percent of winning rate. The software also won the International Computer Go Tournament held last year in Japan, sweeping all the matches and, thus, proving to be the best of its kind in the world.

There are two types of engines in Go programs. Tree search system, in theory, takes more than 361 (factorial) searches for one match because it has to create a move by move searching tool to explore every path. There is Monte Carlo method engine, which randomly selects one of the undefeated moves after proceeding hundreds of thousands of simulated battles to the end. Despite the relatively higher performance (on amateur beginner’s levels), this method was difficult to be adopted for commercial use because it required computation by either supercomputer or tens of CPUs from parallel wired computers.

4OneBiz, the sales rights holder in South Korea, signed the contract with North Korea in June 2006 before beginning the sales in the South. In September the same year, the company held an 8-day workshop in which an engineer who spent over a decade on developing Go programs at KCC and a professional5-dan Go player participated in the activities. The main objective of the workshop was to decide whether they should improve the performance of the existing Eunbyul program or develop a completely new engine from the design. Ultimately, they chose the latter.

North and South Korea agreed to develop a whole new level of Go program engine that contains tactical data, which narrows down the potential moves to only a few, so as to make the next move in a simpler way. They also aim to make a program with optimal performance that is light and fast enough to be installed in a mobile device. South Korea provides an expert-levelalgorithm design whereas North Korean developers will take charge of creating a program based on the theory and basic algorithm. This new expert-level Go engine is already completed, and its automatic evaluator and situation-determination module are currently being supplied to a popular Korean Go website. Further use is currently under negotiation. One engineer who specialized in expert-level Go engine and gave up after spending more than 10 years on developing the engine once contended that “it is beyond human capability to develop an amateur-expert level of Go engine.”

However, the recent success can be largely contributed to the thoughtful collaboration between South and North Korea: i.e., the North Korean engineers spent more than a decade focused and devoted to Go engine development, and South Korea’s also has well-known competence in Go game. The incredible synergy was all thanks to the socialist system of North Korea where the engineers could stick to the Go engine development project for nearly 20 years regardless of its profitability; and also the capitalist South fostered the best Go players with its wealth and the professional Go player system. For those reasons, North Korea could have developed Eunbyul 2010, the best artificial intelligence Go program in the world.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s Artificial Intelligence Go Software
Korea IT Times
Choi Sung, Professor of computer science at Namseoul University


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