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Changes in the air in DPRK, Part 2

January 17, 2012

Yes, the changes we felt in North Korea during our visit there in October are sensed by others. In a recent issue of Science (Vol. 334, Dec 23 2011, p 1624-1625) there is a report from the new Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, PUST, by the scientific journalist Richard Stone.

This institution is founded and supported by evangelical Christians in the USA!  More than half the staff of 29 foreign faculty members are from the USA.  The teaching is entirely in English. The students have access to the Internet, although they have to log the sites they visit. Twenty graduate students will visit universities in China at the end of their studies. Cooperation with the Erasmus university exchange program in Europe is expected.

At this university there are 267 students – all male – from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK. They study such traditional subjects within the area of technology as chemistry and computer programming but also international finance.

The leaders in DPRK do understand that there is a need for scientific exchange with other countries. Five hundred IT specialists from the country have been sent to Europe and hundreds to China in recent years.

The report in Science is really very encouraging.  There is apparently backing from the government of DPRK, although with close supervision by a parallel faculty from the Kim Il Sung University. However, the future development of the institution is uncertain. The building of the university was supported from South Korea, but that support has dwindled as the present South Korean government has taken a harder line against North Korea. The founding president of the university now has to travel around the world to obtain economic support for the university. There is very little equipment in the university to be used for laboratory studies.

In the present uncertain situation in DPRK after the demise of the “Dear Leader” we do not know who or what group is going to be the strong force in the country. Now there may be a chance to open contacts with young people there and show what the rest of the world is like.

Here is a chance not to be missed. People of DPRK know next to nothing about democracy and about the open society.  If a few thousand of the future leaders of the country could come abroad to study, that might be important in the future.

The PUST University is in a difficult economic situation and the future is uncertain. How unreasonable, that when we spend billions of dollars on military defence against the perceived threat from North Korea, we can not find a few millions for this investment in the future! There is plenty of money in EU coffers for such purposes, even today!

In IPPNW we have been able to bring a few doctors from North Korea to Europe for short-term medical training.  Can we do more? Can we find EU money for a greater exchange? Do we have the contacts and the resources, and the will?

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