Not even the second-world authoritarian regime can ignore the impact immersive technology is having on modern education.
There are few modern nations more perplexing than the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Since its relatively recent establishment in 1948, the East Asian country has served as a hotbed of controversy. So much so the nation has been accused of being the world’s worst violator of human rights by multiple organizations over the years. According to a 2014 inquiry by the United Nations, “The gravity, scale, and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”
In addition to numerous other atrocities, North Korea has become infamous for its state-run media and tight control over its civilian population. Isolated from the outside world, former residents compare life in North Korea to living on a different planet. This is especially true when it comes to technology, with most of the general population completely cut off from the internet.
During the Fourth Plenum of the Seventh Party Central Committee meeting in 2019, Kim Jong Un ordered North Korean institutions to begin using new technologies as part of their learning curriculums, including artificial intelligence, digital chalkboards, and computers. Apparently, this initiative also includes immersive technology.
According to a report by Choson Sinbo (The People’s Korea), a pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan, a “model” elementary school located in the capital city of Pyongyang has employed new communication technologies as part of its learning curriculum. This includes VR headsets and several interactive AR experiences.
As for how exactly VR technology is being used in the classroom, little information is available at the moment. United Press International reports that AR technology is being used as a teaching aid to enhance student engagement through captivating animated sequences. According to the report, students can use a special device to scan physical cards and unlock educational AR content, such as 3D dioramas. One card, for example, shows the entire life cycle of a shark using a custom AR animation.
“Well aware that the introduction of high value-added industries would speed up economic development, the North appears to have embarked on its own fourth industrial revolution,” said Lim Eul-chul, a professor at South Korea’s Kyungnam University, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
Of course, any and all information delivered using VR and AR technology will no doubt be under strict control by state authorities, so don’t expect to bump into any Pyongyang residents in VRChat or Rec Room any time soon. Still, it’s somewhat incredible to see even one of the most oppressed countries on Earth utilizing “modern” immersive technology.
Feature Image Credit: How Hwee Young/EPA-EFE