BBC Gets Rare Glimpse of N.Korean Private University

The BBC on Monday offered viewers a rare glimpse of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, North Korea's only private university where all courses are conducted in English.

The university opened in 2010 with W35 billion (US1=W1,081) from South Korean and American evangelical charities.

"There are 500 students here -- dressed smartly in black suits, white shirts, red ties and black, peaked caps with briefcases at their sides," the BBC said. "They are all hand-picked by Kim Jong-un's regime to receive a Western education." They are the "regime's future elite," it added.

Subjects include capitalism. "I'm sure the leaders and the government here recognise they need to connect with the outside world," said Colin McCulloch, who teaches business. "It's not possible to be a totally hermetic, closed economy in the modern age."

The university's official aim is to equip students "with the skills to help modernise the impoverished country and engage with the international community," but students still seem to be isolated from the outside world, the BBC said.

In a lecture room, a reporter asked the students to "raise your hands if you've heard of Michael Jackson," but "not a single arm goes up." "They tell us they like a North Korean girl group called the Moranbong [troupe], one of Kim Jong-un's latest propaganda tools."

"In the computer room a female minder censors all internet access. It is strictly no email, no social media, and no international news."

Greg Scarlatoiu of the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea commented, "The key question is whether the university is training those young Koreans most likely to change the country in a positive way, or those most likely to perpetuate the current regime."

David Alton, a member of the U.K. House of Lords and a patron of the university, expressed hope that the "experiment could kick-start more fundamental change and alter the mindset of a generation."

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 05, 2014 10:04 KST