North Korea’s only ‘Western’ university reopens for new term

Pyongyang University of Science and Technology feared closure when US travel ban took effect this month

September 8, 2017
Soldiers at North Korea monument
Source: iStock

North Korea’s only private university has opened for the new academic year despite fears that it might soon close as a result of a US travel ban.

Pyongyang University of Science and Technology announced that it has begun its autumn semester as planned despite admitting major recruitment difficulties after the US government banned its citizens from entering North Korea on 1 September.

The action by the US State Department follows the diplomatic crisis sparked by the rising nuclear threat posed by North Korea, which recently fired ballistic missiles across Japan.

About half the 60 to 80 foreign faculty who teach at PUST – a university joint funded by both North and South Korea – are American.

In a statement, PUST said its “initial arrangements for classes have been adapted to suit the available resources” given the travel restrictions placed on US staff, who have been advised to leave North Korea.

The university, which is the only Western-supported university in North Korea, said that its leadership anticipates that “additional faculty will join as the semester progresses”, adding that it is “actively seeking additional personnel who are willing to go to Pyongyang for short visits, to increase the number of foreigner-taught specialist courses”.

The US government has just published information on how to apply for an exemption from the travel ban, the university said. Its leadership would evaluate how to proceed with this, and its faculty remain “committed to do the best for its students, in a difficult situation, to maintain the progress of their education and to provide all the practical facilities on the campus, for students and local workers”.

“We believe that person-to-person contacts, academic bridge-building and developing capabilities that meet North Koreans’ real needs, offer a way forward in a spirit of peace and reconciliation,” said the university.

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