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North Koreans visit university in Canada

Oct 13,2018
Heads of six top North Korean universities and senior North Korean officials will visit University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver on a five-day program next week to help them widen their perspective beyond their country.

Presidents and vice presidents of the North’s key universities, which include Kim Il Sung University and five others, will visit the Canadian university from Tuesday to Saturday, the U.S.’s Radio Free Asia reported Friday.

The delegation will be comprised of 12 university heads and deputy heads as well as some officials from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry and education commission, according to the Radio Free Asia.

The visit is part of the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program (KPP) run by the Canadian university, using an acronym for the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

First launched in 2011, the KPP has been offering six-month immersion programs from July to December each year for North Korean professors.

They can take classes and research in areas ranging from economics to business, trade, finance and the environment. Field trips give the North Koreas a glimpse of Canadian culture.

According to Radio Free Asia, a total of 46 North Korean professors have done the academic exchange program.

The five other North Korean universities invited by the KPP for next week’s trip are Kim Chaek University of Technology; Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies; University of National Economy; Wonsan University of Economics; and Pyongyang University of Commerce, according to the report.

An official involved in the program was quoted as saying that it was “unusual” for North Korea to send a delegation comprised of heads of key North Korean higher education institutions. “The purpose of the upcoming visit is to expand the scope of academic exchange and knowledge exchange between Canada and North Korea,” the official reportedly said.

The one-of-kind program for North Koreans has been run by Prof. Park Kyung-ae, who teaches at the UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. She is also the director of the UBC’s Institute of Asian Research.

In an interview with the Toronto-based National Post in June, Park emphasized the importance of running a program that could widen the horizon of knowledge for academics from one of the world’s most reclusive states.

“I strongly believe that the right to education and access to knowledge is a universal human right,” she was quoted as saying in the interview, adding, “In that way, I think we are contributing to promoting human rights in North Korea.”

She also said she had tried to keep her program for North Koreans low profile given “sensitive elements” about the Communist state, apparently referring to its nuclear weapons program and human rights violations.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]