SEOUL--Capitalism is creeping into North Korea's classrooms.
A Swiss-run business school in Pyongyang is thriving, while the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the country's first university to accept foreign professors, is offering courses in the capitalist market economy, according to its chancellor, Park Chan-mo.
Park, a South Korean-born U.S. citizen, spoke to The Asahi Shimbun during his brief visit to Seoul about the university and the changing attitudes toward capitalism.
"Young people in North Korea are open to learning about the capitalist economy," Park said. "It seems they feel the need to learn extensively about the world for North Korea's future."
Plans for the university began as a joint project between the North and South Korean governments, with a private foundation in South Korea involved as well. After deteriorating relations led the South Korean government to withdraw its support, Park said, private Christian organizations in Europe and the United States in which people with South Korean origins are involved stepped in to aid the project. After years of preparation, the all-male university opened its doors in October 2010.
Currently 300 undergraduate and 70 graduate students are enrolled in the PUST’s three departments: electronic and computer engineering; international finance and management; and agriculture and life sciences. Thirty computers, with access to the Internet, are available for graduate students. At least some of those computers seem to be made by Chinese subsidiaries of South Korean electronics giants Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc., he said.
The goal of the university is to nurture personnel capable of working in the international community.
About 50 professors from Europe, the United States, Australia and elsewhere give lectures in English, with the content of the courses left to their discretion, Park said, and lectures on economics include finance, investment, insurance, equity and trade in Europe and the United States.
The students at PUST are selected from among those who have studied at least two years at the country's top universities, including Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology. Students live in a dormitory, and tuition and living expenses are free. Each student is given a monthly allowance of $10 (790 yen) in card form, which they can use to purchase daily commodities and school supplies at a campus store.
When a large number of the country's students were recruited for construction work and other projects in preparation for the 100th anniversary in April of the birth of North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung, PUST students received special exemptions.
In September the university plans to send the first three students to study at a British university.
In addition to PUST, a business school in Pyongyang founded by a Swiss investor is proving popular among bureaucrats and corporate workers looking to learn about the business world beyond North Korea's borders, Park said. The school provides an opportunity for students to connect with foreign businessmen living in the city and learn about actual management practices.
Since last year, North Korean authorities have also shown an increasing enthusiasm for absorbing instruction in the capitalist economy and economic policies, Park said, sending scholars to study in Canada or inviting specialists from Singapore.
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