The president of North Korea’s State Academy of Sciences, Jang Chol, was recently dismissed from his position and sent to the countryside for “revolutionary education” in South Pyongan Province, Daily NK learned on Dec. 29. 

As the head of the country’s largest scientific academy, Jang had managed the country’s science and technology research activities, including the academy’s key role in North Korea’s nuclear program. He had succeeded Pyun Yon-rip, who left the post in 2009.

Jang had worked in close quarters with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to develop the country’s science and technology sectors. His dismissal has created an atmosphere of anxiety among scientists and other workers at the academy, sources said. 

FAILURE TO FOLLOW ORDERS

“Jang was removed from his post for not properly carrying out the government’s policies,” one source told Daily NK.

“He was criticized for failing to execute this year’s science and technology research projects in line with Kim Jong Un’s wishes,” the source continued. “The budget for science and technology research has increased over the years, but the academy failed to make any major breakthroughs. Ultimately, Jang was held responsible for this failure.” 

state academy of sciences
Kim Jong Un poses with staff of the State Academy of Sciences in 2014. / Image: Rodong Shinmun

Last year, Kim Jong Un had paid a visit to the State Academy of Sciences and, describing the institute as the “cradle of [North Korea’s] self-reliance,” charged it with taking the lead in North Korea’s economic development and efforts to “overcome” international sanctions. 

Compared to the Academy of National Defense Science, which has consistently produced results in its research, however, the State Academy of Sciences failed to produce results worthy of note. 

“The academy made little real progress in meeting its goals under Jang,” a source said. “The facility did not properly encourage or incentivize its scientists.”

FALLING MORALE AT THE ACADEMY

No other officials at the academy were punished apart from Jang, according to sources. Internally, the academy has been holding self-criticism sessions and a “solidarity rally” aimed at rectifying past mistakes. 

“Morale at the State Academy of Sciences has fallen due to Jang’s dismissal,” one source told Daily NK. “Jang’s absence may change the atmosphere at the academy for the better, but I doubt it will really impact the academy’s quality of research.” 

In April, Jang gave a speech at a ceremony in Kim Il Sung Square to mark the two year anniversary of Kim Jong Un being appointed as chairman of the State Affairs Commission. He has also penned several editorials in Rodong Sinmun, where he described his determination to bring about national prosperity through scientific and technological development. 

North Korea’s State Academy of Sciences is made up of 140 research institutions and laboratories, including 24 directly-run research labs and 11 scientific research facilities.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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