SAN FRANCISCO (Yonhap) -- Six North Korean professors are studying economics and other related subjects at a university in Canada on a months-long program initiated by the school, the program director said Wednesday, opening a rare opportunity for the people of the repressive regime.
Professor Park Kyung-ae, director of the Center for Korean Research at the University of British Columbia, told Yonhap News Agency the North Koreans arrived last month to study international business, international economics, finance and trade. Five of the visiting professors teach these subjects at Kimilsung University, the elite North Korean institution named after the country's founding leader, while one teaches at a university of economics in the eastern city of Wonsan, she said, declining to give further details.
The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported earlier that the six professors from Kimilsung University were studying on an MBA course at the university in Vancouver. In fact, Park said the North Koreans will study four subjects at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels starting in September, after completing a two-month English language course.
The visiting professors are the first group to have been invited under the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program, which Park helped launch at UBC last year. DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The program is very unusual in that it allows North Korea's college professors to conduct research (overseas) on a long-term basis," Park said, saying the professors will stay for a total of six months. "Other universities in North America are paying close attention to the program, and through it, I plan to push for exchanges between university officials of the two countries."
Park, who has traveled to Pyongyang on several occasions since the mid-1990s and hosted North Korean delegation visits to Canada, said she believes educational exchanges are an important mechanism through which the two countries can improve ties.
She noted that North Korea and Canada established diplomatic relations in 2001, but their ties have faltered over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
Since the 1990s, the North Korean regime has been known to send a selected few, mostly government officials, to study the market economy in Switzerland and other countries. However, these people have only been allowed to stay for several weeks, apparently due to fears they will try to escape the control of their repressive regime.