North Korean Science and Technology Journals: Introducing Scientists (Part 1)

Cover of Kisul Hyoksin / Technical Innovation, no. 12 (2020).

Who are the scientists and engineers of North Korea? What is their origin? Where did they study abroad? Who are their foreign colleagues? Where do they work now? What do they know? What did they publish? What laboratory equipment do they have? What are their main areas of research and development?

Such questions are important for analysts, journalists and others trying to put together puzzles such as the technological level of various industrial sectors in the civilian economy or the state of research and development on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or the DPRK. North Korea).[1]

North Korea publishes relatively little information about its overall economy, specific industries, or sensitive military topics such as WMD programs, but analysts and others can use the country’s open sources to gain valuable information about North Korea’s science and technology (S&T). The most sensitive information – that about WMD and other areas of military research – is not found on the covers of published books and periodicals in North Korea. Pyongyang does not provide military scientific journals or purely military research abroad. However, there is a lot of published information that provides many pieces of one or another puzzle, whether purely civilian in nature, dual-use or military.

This article is the first of two to use the scientific and technical literature of the DPRK and other media as a basis for building relatively detailed profiles of North Korean scientists, engineers and related institutions. It starts with a list of available S&T periodicals and ends with a section on its shortcomings compared to similar literature published in other countries.

Periodic list and details

Korea Publications Export & Import Corporation (KPEIC), the DPRK’s exclusive agency for foreign sales of North Korean books and periodicals, has published a catalog of publications that includes Rodong Sinmunthe daily newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea;[2] the illustrated monthly Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other propaganda magazines published for foreign audiences; and journals in natural and social sciences.[3]

For this study, 40 DPRK research journals were examined (Annex I includes a complete list of bibliographic titles).[4]

Lots of titles Available, a lot | More ▼ Missing

Cover of Kwahak-ui Segye / World of Science, no. 6 (2019).

The 40 periodicals above cover a wide variety of fields, as their titles suggest, including scientific fields such as biology, chemistry and physics, as well as areas of industrial technology, including agriculture, forestry and technical innovation in general. Several scientific journals from Kim Il Sung University (KISU), the leading university in the DPRK, are included. There is also a periodical with international scientific news, The world of sciencefor the general reader.

Although 40 titles may seem like a relative abundance of wealth for a country with a reputation for secrecy, they are just the tip of the iceberg. For example, Kim Chaek University of Technology (KCUT), another of Pyongyang’s strongest S&T universities, has its own publishing house. It produces at least one S&T periodical, which is not among the 40 listed in the app.[5] One has to wonder how many other universities in the DPRK, not to mention the branches and institutes of the State Academy of Sciences or other work units in North Korea, publish scientific and technical literature.[6]

Brief information

Compared to comparable periodicals published in other countries, the DPRK publications listed above do not contain details. Some of the available journals lack abstracts of articles and / or content in English, a standard feature in journals in China and other countries with scientific and technical literature published in languages ​​other than English.

There is little information about the authors of the articles – only a few of the 40 magazines offer information about the author at all. Entries in the DPRK Journal of Inventions include the standard field code (72), which is the name of the inventors, and (77), which seems to identify their related organization. In the diary Agricultural irrigation and The world of science, some authors have been identified as a “reporter for this company” or by title and / or affiliation. It may be reasonable to assume that the authors appearing in KISU journals are affiliated with Kim Il Sung University, but their affiliation is not specified. None of the 40 journals used for this study included such standard background information as the author’s education or research interests.

Cover of Kim Il Sung Chonghap Taehak Hakpo: Chongbo Kwahak / Kim Il Sung University Newspaper [Information Science]) 66, no. 3 (2020).

Articles in the journals studied also tend to be much shorter than those published in scientific journals elsewhere in the world. A six-page article is relatively long in journals, where many articles extend to only three to four pages. The final notes are also few in number. It is possible to come across an article with one or even two dozen citations, but most have less than half a dozen references.[7] By comparison, it is common to have several dozen final notes in an article in the Western scientific and technical literature.

The accompanying illustrations also look less than what would be presented in articles published elsewhere in the world. Pyongyang is two months old The world of sciencefor example, includes only a few illustrations in black and white in number while Discover and Scientific Americanto name two similar periodicals in the United States, abound in color photographs and illustrations. North Korean articles also lack a language of conflict of interest, common in articles published elsewhere, and a section on confessions.

One thing that North Korean S&T magazines include that are not found in Western magazines is political justification. Each article begins with a quote from a leader. Older articles cite first leader Kim Il Sung; newer ones tend to cite some of Kim Jong Il’s collected works or some of the current Kim Jong Un. Quotations, which can range from specific to general, are an excuse for researchers to continue working in one area or another. For example, in an article published last year on calculating the efficiency of equipment based on the Internet of Things (IoT), the authors began their article with a quote from the current leader on vigorous breakthroughs in modern technologies to build the knowledge economy.[8]

Apart from the above differences, the DPRK researchers follow basically the same format as their counterparts in other countries. They pose a problem, cite previous academic literature, present their materials and methods, offer a conclusion and end with references.

What next

Having listed the available titles and shortcomings of these DPRK periodicals S&T, in the next article I will suggest ways to use these magazines to learn about Pyongyang scientists and engineers, from their experience to their international connections, knowledge and tools, with who have. .

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“North Korean Science and Technology Journals: Getting to Know Scientists (Part 1) Annex I”, by Stephen Mercado



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