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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
One of North Korea’s top universities, Kim Chaek University of Technology (KCUT), opened their new Mirae (Future) Sci-Tech Center on Monday to advance the country’s high-tech consumer goods development, state media announced.
In a report on the opening featured on the front page of the party daily Rodong Sinmun on Tuesday, the Mirae Sci-Tech Center was said to house “modern equipment for developing, producing and testing products of up-to-date technology,” and that other facilities include an “international symposium hall, conference room, interview room, etc.”
The opening follows a similar center’s recent establishment at another of the country’s top schools Kim Il Sung University (KISU), where the High-Tech Development Center is also focusing on consumer goods research and production.
KCUT’s new center, located on the eastern edge of the campus block in downtown Pyongyang, was “ordered as an important large construction project” by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un as a “base for high-tech product development,” the school’s president Hong So Hon said in a speech at the ceremony.
He said it was established “to produce high-tech products in our style and to actively push ahead with juche-ization, modernization, informatization, and scientificization as the center for today’s battle for the creation of a self-reliant [state].”
An April article in the Rodong on nurturing the country’s scientific talents said the new center would work on modern technologies such as cloud computing, as well as new energy solutions such as hydrogen energy storage.
Kim Jong Un was shown on state television voting for Hong at the university campus in the March 10 Supreme People’s Assembly elections, with the two holding a brief conversation before Kim returned to his vehicle.
A Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report quoted Kim as saying in that meeting that KCUT “plays a very important role in all key sectors of socialist economic construction.”
Kim reportedly described the school as “the eldest son most trusted by the Party to make a breakthrough in improving science and education, invigorating the economy, and bettering the standard of the people’s living.”
The KCUT president in his speech on Monday said Kim Jong Un “gave enormous love for the integration of education, scientific research, and production” to be realized with the new center.
Hong also serves as chairman of the DPRK-Russia Friendship Parliamentary Group and has been actively involved in high-level government exchanges in recent months.
Additionally, in the past year he has expanded cooperation with Russia’s Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), where DPRK leader Kim Jong Un met President Vladimir Putin for their summit in April.
Images carried by KCNA show the building is 18 stories tall, while Google Earth satellite imagery shows construction began in the spring of 2017 with its frame mostly finished by that fall.
It was only first mentioned in state media, however, in an early-December 2018 article in the Rodong Sinmun saying construction of the Mirae Sci-Tech Center and “modernization of practical training factory” facilities were in their final stages.
The training factory was not mentioned in Monday’s report on the new KCUT sci-tech center’s opening, though “product testing” was mentioned next to “high-tech product development” as a main function of the center.
KISU CENTER’S QUIET OPENING
Across town on the country’s symbolic Ryomyong Street, Kim Il Sung University also recently opened its own new building focused on consumer goods research and production with the High-Tech Development Center.
But its opening did not receive similar coverage to KCUT’s new center this week, with its completion instead being quietly announced in a late-December 2018 Rodong Sinmun article on developments in the education sector.
The article mentioned the KISU High-Tech Development Center as having already been established, without including the completion date – though an article in the Rodong from that August said construction began in February 2017 and that it was still in progress.
Images of the school were only first published by Choson Sinbo – an organ of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) – earlier this month.
The photos showed it is a 9-story building located at the eastern edge of the campus – a building constructed concurrently with and directly adjacent to a sprawling new campus which has yet to be announced in state media and whose purpose remains unknown.
Choson said several formerly-separate departments in the university “such as machinery, biology, chemistry, and telecommunications” were integrated into the High-Tech Development Center in 2014, with the new building now finally operating.
It conducts “substantive scientific research and product development” in areas such as “electric machinery products, biotechnology products, electronic components, lab equipment, chemical products, telecommunications technology products, and IT products,” Director Kang Un Hyok told the outlet.
“We are pushing ahead with building an economic powerhouse amid sanctions and pressure from hostile forces,” Kang reportedly said. “Now, our scientists and researchers are determined to fulfill their mission and role in establishing high-tech industries.”
Other schools were also mentioned in both the Choson and the December Rodong article as having established new “bases for high-tech product development” in 2018.
These are the Han Tok Su University of Light Industry in east Pyongyang, the University of Sciences in the city’s north, the Hamhung University of Chemical Engineering, and the Chongjin University of Mining and Metallurgical Industry.
Featured image: KCNA