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North Korea's high-tech pursuits: Propaganda or progress?


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North Korea often flaunts its military hardware but of late, it appears to be making progress in developing civilian technologies - or at least is claiming to be.

As with most things in the country, it is difficult to verify these claims, but it is significant to note the importance being given to technology.

In recent months, state media have publicly celebrated various achievements in advanced technologies, including an "intelligent home system".

Beyond the purpose of propaganda, emphasis on the sector reflects North Korea's desire to harness technology to improve its economy - a key goal for Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Growing tech prowess?

One of the latest tech ventures is a new wi-fi service called Mirae, which enables mobile devices to access a state-sanctioned intranet network in the capital, Pyongyang.

State-run Korean Central Television on 8 November showed an Arirang 171 smartphone being used to access Mirae during an "Exhibition of IT Successes".

The US-based monitoring website 38North noted that this was the first time an outdoor wi-fi service had been mentioned in North Korean media, and that it runs alongside two cellular networks operating in the country that provide wireless data service.

Another device shown at the exhibition was an "intelligence home system" which recognises human voice to automatically operate electronic instruments such as fans, air conditioners, televisions and lights.

This system was developed by the Kim Il-sung University, which seems to be at the forefront of the country's high-tech endeavours.

DPRK Today, a propaganda website, reported on 21 November that researchers from the university had developed a number of advanced artificial intelligence systems, including a Korean-language voice recognition programme.

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