SAN FRANCISCO (Yonhap) -- Six professors of leading North Korean universities are staying in Vancouver to study capitalism at a Canadian university on a six-month program, the program director said Friday, drawing fresh attention to the North's possible transition under its Swiss-educated young leader.
The economics professors from three North Korean universities arrived in Canada earlier this month to take courses at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the fall semester, which begins in September, after a two-month language course, Professor Park Kyung-ae, director of the Center for Korean Research, said.
"They will mainly study international business, economics, finance and trade," Park told Yonhap News by phone, without giving further details of their identifications.
The elite universities include Kim Il-sung University, the top university named after the country's founding leader, the People's Economics University and the Pyongyang Foreign Language College, Park said. All the institutions are located in the North's capital, Pyongyang.
They are the second group of visiting professors to take the courses 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.
A group of six professors, five from Kim Il-sung University, attended the program in the fall semester last year, which included meetings with CEOs of Canadian law firms, banks, insurance companies and energy firms.
"There was no such long-term program related to North Korea in the past," said Park, who visited the communist state last month. "The professors who completed last year's course did their best and had good relations with other professors and faculty members. As they successfully finished the course, we were able to continue the program this year as well."
The rare exchange program, which started under late leader Kim Jong-il, recently attracted new media attention in light of the military reshuffle by his successor Kim Jong-un, who inherited a crumbled economy after decades of Stalinist management, and a starving population dependent on foreign food aid.
Some analysts say the untested leader, believed to have studied in Switzerland, could take his country into a new direction with a more receptive approach to market principles. Others point to the country's failed rocket launch in April as indication Kim is likely to continue to isolate the communist regime from the outside world over its nuclear development program.