A Rogue State's Strong Suit

Jun 17, 2010, 13:31 ET from Prism Magazine

Isolation, Poverty Fail to Curb North Korean Engineering

WASHINGTON, June 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Despite its poverty and inability to feed its population, North Korea produces skilled engineers  who excel at nuclear technology, aerospace, dam- and tunnel-building, and computer software.

The cover story in the latest Prism magazine, published by the American Society for Engineering Education, takes an in-depth look at North Korea's quest for technological advancement. In nuclear technology, North Korean engineers "took the Soviet-made, and initially Soviet-operated, research reactor, and then they upgraded it to run on highly enriched uranium," Siegfried Hecker, former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States, told Prism.

Despite scarce computer technology and Internet access limited to a small elite, North Korea has also made strides in software development. Prism quotes Chan-Mo Park, president of the National Research Foundation of (South) Korea, as saying, "Their software technology is as good as any advanced country."

The Prism report coincides with a crisis on the Korean peninsula stemming from the March 26 explosion that sank a South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. South Korea blamed a North Korean torpedo for the explosion and has cut off trade ties with the North. In response, the Communist regime led by Kim Jong Il announced it would sever all ties with the South.

The cover story, "Hammer, Brush and Sickle," traces the history of the totalitarian state's science and technology education to the late 1950s, when Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, cemented his control of the country and began a headlong rush to industrialize.

Prism is the award-winning flagship publication of ASEE, a nonprofit organization of individuals and institutions committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology.

Read the latest issue: www.prism-magazine.org

SOURCE Prism Magazine