Six North Korean professors will study English and Business at the University of British Columbia over the next six months. Professor Kyung-ae Park, director of the Centre for Korean Research at UBC, told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that the six professors are the first group to have been invited under the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program. DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The program is very unusual in that it allows North Korea’s professors to conduct research on a long-term basis,” said Park. “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.”
The professors will have much to teach Canadians too. It’s rare that North Koreans are granted permission to travel beyond the borders of the repressive regime headed by Kim Jong Il. Universities, like much of the country, are in shambles due to the failure of its centrally-planned economy. Earlier this year, university students were reassigned to physical labour projects, in part to prepare for the 100th anniversary of the birth of their dead founder, Kim Il Sung.
Park said she believes educational exchanges are an important mechanism through which the two countries can improve relations. North Korea and Canada established diplomatic ties in 2001, but things soured when the DPRK tested nuclear weapons.
This isn’t the first time North Korea has sent professors abroad. They have also sent professors to study economics in Switzerland.