Profs from North learn capitalism in Canada

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Profs from North learn capitalism in Canada

Six professors from North Korean universities are set to immerse in a half-year academic exchange program studying economics and English at a Canadian university from September, said the director of the program.

Economics professors from three North Korean universities, including Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung University, arrived in Vancouver earlier this month to take courses at the University of British Columbia (UBC) for the fall semester, starting in September, to be exposed to capitalist economics.

The North Korean scholars will mainly study international business, economics, finance and trade, Park Kyung-ae, director of UBC’s Center for Korean Research and a political science professor, was quoted as saying by the Yonhap News Agency yesterday. The North Korean scholars are also taking a two-month language course over the summer.

This is the second group of visiting professors to undergo the Canada -Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name of the North), launched with the help of Park.

“The professors who completed last year’s course did their best and had good relations with other professors and faculty members,” Park, who visited North Korea last month, also told Yonhap. The successful experience for the first batch of professors enabled the second run.

A six-month educational program for North Koreans in North America is unprecedented, the university said last year when the program first launched.But ties between the Canadian and North Korean government officials and scholars have been building since the 1990s, with other smaller exchanges having occurred before.

The first six North Korean professors arrived in last July, five from Kim Il Sung University and one from Jong Jun Thaek University of Economics in Wonsan.

They were in Vancouver when North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died unexpectedly of a heart attack in December.

North Korean analysts are speculating if such exchanges indicate the Swiss-educated North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is taking a new approach to economic reform.

“It is difficult to say if there will be an immediate change in the internal economy of North Korea,” said Chang Yong-suk, North Korean economics researcher with Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies. “The focus in Canada may be learning about trade and industry, not necessarily capitalism. However programs like this definitely will be the foundations of economic changes within the country.”

Chang pointed out there are also many programs with China and Singapore.


By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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