North Korean Science and Technology Journals: Getting to Know Wise Men (Part 1)

Kisul Hyoksin / 기술 혁신 (Technical Innovation), no. 12 (2020).

Who are the North Korean scientists and engineers? What are their origins? Where did they study abroad? Who are their foreign colleagues? Where are they working now? What do they know? What did they post? What laboratory equipment do they have? What are their main areas of research and development?

Questions are important for analysts, journalists, and others, including trying to complete puzzles about the technological level of various industrial sectors in the civilian economy, or the state of mass destruction weapons (ADM) research and development in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. (DPRK or North Korea).[1]

North Korea releases relatively little information on sensitive issues such as its general economy, specific industries, or ADM programs, but analysts and others may use the country’s open sources to gain valuable information about the DPRK’s science and technology. The most sensitive information — about ADM and other areas of military research — is not on the covers of books and magazines published by North Korea. Pyongyang has no military science journals or all-military research papers available abroad. However, a lot of published information is available, which gives a lot of pieces to one puzzle or another, be it of a purely civilian, dual-use or military nature.

This article is the first of two on the use of science and technology literature and other media in secondary education as a basis for building specific profiles of North Korean scientists, engineers, and related organizations. It begins with a list of available S&T journals and ends with a section on shortcomings compared to similar literature published in other countries.

Periodic List and Details

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

For this study, 40 science and technology journals from Secondary Education were analyzed (Appendix I contains a complete list of degrees with bibliographic information).[4]

Lots of titles Available, A lot More Missing

Kwahak-ui Segye’s cover / 과학 의 세계 (World of Science), no. 6 (2019).

The top 40 journals cover a wide range of fields, as their titles indicate, including scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as areas of industrial technology, including agriculture, forestry, and technical innovation in general. There are several scientific journals at Kim Il Sung University (KISU), the most emblematic university in the DPRK. There is also an international science news magazine, The World of Sciencefor the general reader.

Although they seem relative to the wealth of a country with a reputation for 40 secret titles, they are just the tip of the iceberg. For example, Kim Chaek University of Technology (KCUT), one of Pyongyang’s most powerful S&T universities, has its own publishing house. It produces at least one S&T magazine, which is not one of the 40 listed in the appendix.[5] One has to ask whether other universities in secondary education, not to mention the branches and institutes of the State Academy of Sciences or other units of work in North Korea, publish S&T literature.[6]

Brief information

Compared to comparable journals published in other countries, the RPDE publications listed above are brief details. Some of the available journals do not contain summaries and / or indexes of English articles, a standard feature of journals in China and other countries with science and technology literature published in languages ​​other than English.

There is little information about the authors of the articles; Only a few of the 40 journals provide author information. DPRK tickets Invention Magazine enter the standard field code (72), which is the name of the inventors, and (77), which identifies the organization to which they belong. In the magazine Agricultural Irrigation and The World of Science, some writers identify themselves as “reporters for this company” or by title and / or affiliation. It may make sense to think that the authors who appear in KISU journals are affiliated with Kim Il Sung University, but their affiliation is not given. The 40 journals used for this study do not have a standard precedent such as an author’s education or research interests.

Kim Il-song Chonghap Taehak Hakpo’s cover: Chongbo Kwahak / 대학 종합 대학: 정보 과학 (Kim Il Sung University Magazine [Information Science]) 66, zk. 3 (2020).

Articles in peer-reviewed journals are also much shorter than those published in scientific journals elsewhere in the world. A six-page article is quite long in magazines, where many articles are only three or four pages long. Concluding remarks are also few. It’s possible to come across an article with a dozen or two citations, but most have less than half a dozen references.[7] By comparison, it’s common to have a dozen endnotes in a single article in Western S&T literature.

The accompanying illustrations also appear to be smaller than those that would appear in articles published elsewhere in the world. Pyongyang monthly The World of Sciencefor example, it shows only a few black-and-white illustrations for each issue Get to know him and American scientist, To name two similar U.S. magazines, there are plenty of color photos and illustrations. North Korean articles do not even have a language of conflict of interest, which is common in articles published elsewhere, and a section on confessions.

One thing that North Korean S&T magazines don’t find in Western magazines is political justification. Each article begins with a quote from a leader. Older articles mention the first leader, Kim Il Sung; new ones often refer to works collected by Kim Jong Il or something by Kim Jong Un. The citations, which can range from specific to general, are a justification for researchers to continue working in one area or another. For example, in an article last year on calculating the effectiveness of Internet of Things (IoT) -based equipment, the authors began their article with a reference to current leaders on how to make strong strides in advanced technology to build the country’s knowledge economy.[8]

In addition to these differences, secondary school researchers follow essentially the same format as members from other countries. They pose a problem, refer to previous academic literature, present materials and methods, provide a conclusion, and end with references.

What’s Next

After listing the available titles and shortcomings of these RPDC Science and Technology journals, in the next article I will provide ways to learn about these journals about Pyongyang scientists and engineers, from their origins to international connections, knowledge and tools available. .


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

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