Korea Computer Center - The Core of North Korea's IT Strategy
Korea Computer Center (KCC) is situated in the Mangyongdae District of Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The computer center was established on October 24, 1990 as a subsidiary company of the Software Industry General Bureau. It is comprised of 10 R&D centers and 11 regional information centers.
As North Korea's producer of websites home and abroad, KCC operates Naenara Information Center and a quality management center. It produces a variety of software and hardware products, employing more than 1,200 workers. Over 800 workers are employed as R&D staff and 100 of them are doctorate holders. KCC has branch offices in Germany, China, and Syria and actively engages in marketing activities as well as technological joint ventures and exchange programs with North Korea's famous software companies and scientific research institutions. Being one of the most open places in North Korea, KCC recently introduced the ISO9001 quality management system.
Evaluated to be a core organization responsible for North Korea's information industry and cyber welfare, KCC was established with the support of Jochongryeon, the pro-Pyeongyang federation of Korean residents in Japan. There are ten R&D centers, an information technology university, a doctoral academy and a training school under the three bureaus of development, international business, and administration. Under the research center branch, there are research departments for system programs, multi-media, business management programs, computer operations, equipment, and application programs. Also, there is a university branch of Kim Chaek Industrial University.
It is said that North Korea's founder Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jung-Il attended the opening ceremony of KCC and personally gave advice to the corperation. Presently, the average researcher at the research institute is in their 30s. Top-class computer experts who have graduated from Kim Il Sung University, Kim Chaek Industrial University and Pyeong Sung College of Science are leading the center and accelerating the development of software, while taking over the roles of not only development and dissemination of software programs, but also development of human resources.
KCC has set up an information technology college at Kim Chaek Industrial University for the purpose of educating high school graduates in becoming professional IT technicians. Having established a doctoral academy for the education of degree holders and a training school for re-education of technicians and experts with new IT technologies, KCC focuses on constructing a pool of highly capable and talented men.
If the research center becomes dependent on the national economy when North Korea's overall economic situation is stagnant, it may be difficult for it to grow independently, but KCC is turning the software industry into a leading part of the national economy by expanding its status and influence. It has become a profit-creating model as it develops and supplies software programs to companies and factories with its own strategies and an independent budget.
KCC's administration is diversified and is made up of six administrative departments in the areas of planning & production, financing, marketing, strategic research, legal affairs, and other affairs. Strategy planning and management operations are carried out systematically by awarding power to the departments themselves and profits are sought by adopting a 'marketing' concept.
There are ten R&D service units for operational systems, information security, language processing, medical information technology, quality management, network communication, administration processing, control system, multimedia, and information services. Intensive R&D activities are performed within each service unit. The application program development group is divided into health information technology and language processing subgroups, and network communication and information service units are established separately and are expanding their operations.
All these measures reflect the social trend of 'computerizing the country'. The Network Communication Program Center develops software programs used in telecommunication equipment and provides IT network solutions. The Information Service Center serves as a network information center which designs and operates the central computer network and websites.
All the software programs developed by KCC are based on Linux, capitalizing on the advantages of an open source and avoiding the royalty burden of using Microsoft. Such Linux-based programs, especially the embedded Linux, are on the rise globally in the development of commercial software programs.
KCC developed the Korean language input program 'Naenara', the game 'go' program 'Ryugyeong' and the human constitution classifier 'Geumbitmal,' which are well known even in South Korea. On top of these, KCC also developed 'Koryo Pen', a multi-language handwriting reader, software programs for character and speech recognition, a translator and an electronic dictionary in addition to the Korean Linux 'Red Star' developed for the general public.
There are also 'practical' software programs that can be used at work sites, such as a hospital management system, debt and credit management program, a tax management system, and paper mill production process control system. KCC also developed cutting-edge security programs such as 'Cheongsong', a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) system, and an automatic fingerprint search system. As for multi-media contents, KCC placed the video file of an 'Arirang' performance into a database.
The goal of KCC is to be reborn as a world-renowned incubator of Linux research. Aiming to make an entry into the world software market, KCC is carrying out projects such as Class B1 Secure-Linux OS, real-time Linux Kernel, and Mobile DBMS. These projects are undertaken with much interest so as to catch up with the world trend. If North Korea can be technologically competitive with the help of South Korea by opening its doors, the ripple effects will be enormous.
Such a change of KCC is not irrelevant to the development of South Korea's IT industry. What does the future hold for KCC, as it has immersed itself into a sea of information and telecommunications? I dream the day when South and North Korea leap forward and become an IT powerhouse in the not too distant future.