Skip to content

State Over Society: Science and Technology in North Korea

by

WPS 09-04: State Over Society: Science and Technology in North Korea, by Rian Jensen (August 2009). Since the late 1990s, the Kim Jong Il regime has laid an explicit emphasis on the role of science and technology (S&T) as an instrument of national power. Facing external security challenges, domestic economic stagnation, and rising political uncertainty stemming from the succession issue, North Korea has sought greater scientific and technological development for national revival. Yet few analysts have interrogated the contours of North Korea’s S&T policy or explored its dilemmas for the regime in Pyongyang. Considered a means of modernization, S&T strikes at the heart of manifold dilemmas facing the North Korean leadership as technology poses formidable challenges to the maintenance of political control by introducing new pressures to the balance of power between state and society. In this paper, Mr. Jensen identifies the goals of North Korea’s S&T policy, outlines its mode of implementation, assesses how science and technology is recalibrating North Korean state-society relations, and identifies key policy implications for the US government.