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North Korea Tries to Ramp Up Tech Infrastructure

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computer user at Grand People's Study Palace in Pyongyang

A North Korean woman uses a computer at the Grand People's Study Palace in Pyongyang.

Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty

North Korea is trying to stimulate its dire economic fortunes by slowly opening its economy to foreign business. Investors now have an ally in Kim Jong Il, who has started upgrading the country's dilapidated communications infrastructure, a major irritant to the hundreds of Chinese firms active there. 

The leader has also launched an educational offensive to ramp up his country's computing skills and build an internationally competitive IT industry. Grade-school kids are now drilled in Pascal and other computer languages, while gifted students are channeled into science and technology programs at Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University. Another technical university, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, is scheduled to open soon; foreign professors are supposed to eventually teach there, in English.

"They understand IT is critical for their development," says Frederick Carriere, executive director of the New York–based Korea Society. Carriere helped broker a seven-year-long academic exchange between Syracuse University and Kim Chaek University, which recently was able to open the country's first digital library, using open-source software.

From Time
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