North Korea Uses Linux But Open Source Is Dying Here: Here’s Why!

Open-source received contributions from North Korea only once in the year 2016.


The Open-source software model has existed for years now, and we have seen communities develop uncountable software. One example is Linux which is either directly or indirectly used in almost every device on the planet. All of this is great, but have you ever wondered if open-source exists in countries like North Korea? If yes, then what kind of process do the North Koreans follow?

Mike Izbicki, one of the contributors, shares his experience teaching open-source software in North Korea. He taught a class of master’s students about how to contribute to open-source software.

Open-source In North Korea

In Mike’s blog post, he said, “As part of the class, students were required to submit patches to a project of their choosing, and I want to share the stories of how two of these patches landed into the popular machine learning libraries mlpack and vowpal wabbit. I believe these examples highlight how academic collaboration between North Koreans and Americans can benefit ordinary citizens of both countries and improve diplomatic relations.”

Mike's class in north korea

One of the students was working on a vision-based vehicle detection system for his master’s thesis. He was assigned to solve the problem by the transportation department because of the traffic in Pyongyang city. And the student developed something that looked like this.

The author said that the compilation required at least 2GB of RAM but the student’s laptop had only 1GB; hence the process was slow. Is it safe to assume that the North Korean people are backward when it comes to technology? Yes.

North Korea open source

Not everyone in North Korea has access to the internet except the graduate students and higher authorities. mlpack was the library was chosen for the project as it turns out most undergrad students are taught C++.

What’s The Future Of Open-source In The Country?

“The patches submitted for this class were the first-ever open-source contributions to come from North Korea; unfortunately, they were also the last,” Mike added. This is because former US President Donald Trump banned Americans from traveling to North Korea in 2017. North Korea does have a closed-source Linux distribution called the RedStar OS, and its wallpapers were recently extracted from the ISO.

It is also very unfortunate to see a country unable to contribute to open-source due to laws restriction. If it was not due to the restrictions, we might’ve got some bright minds with their valuable contributions to open-source communities. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments section below.

Source: Mike Izbicki

Abubakar Mohammed

Abubakar Mohammed

Abubakar is a Linux and Tech Writer. Hailing from a Computer Science background, the start of his love for Tech dates back to 2011, when he was gifted a Dell Inspiron 5100. When he's not covering Tech, you'll find him binge-watching anime and Tech content on YouTube or hunting heads in competitive FPS games. You can also find his work on Android Police and How-To Geek.
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