|North Korean students are taking a lecture at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. (Yonhap)|
The elite Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea offers all classes in English and has many American lecturers, seen as “remarkable” considering that the U.S. is North Korea’s longtime enemy, according to the BBC.
After 18 months of negotiations with Pyongyang authorities, the British broadcaster was given a chance to have a quick glimpse into the lives of students at the first private university offering a Western education in the reclusive state.
The BBC reported that the university is attempting to open the minds of the state’s future elite in the heart of North Korea’s dictatorship after gaining unprecedented access to the school.
The university, located on the outskirts of the capital, opened in 2010 and is currently giving some 500 hand-picked students a taste of the outside world.
The students are known to be the children of the some of the most powerful men in North Korea, including senior military figures, according to BBC.
The students, however, drew a clear distinction between the U.S. government and Americans. “Of course, at first we were nervous, but we now believe American people are different from the U.S.,” one student was quoted as saying.
The Western-backed university was founded by Kim James Chin-kyung, a Korean-American Christian entrepreneur. The 78-year-old Kim was invited by the regime to build a university based on his college in northern China that opened in 1992.
In a country where those found practicing Christianity are persecuted, the school is largely funded by American and South Korean Christian charities. Some 40 professors are paid through church sponsorships.
Unlike most of North Korea, the students have Internet access, though email, social media and international news are strictly forbidden.
Lord Alton, a patron of the university, hopes the experiment can bring about more fundamental changes and alter the mindset of a generation.
The BBC concluded that it is clear some students are aspiring to connect with the outside world, citing one as saying, “Learning a language is learning a culture. I want more of that.”
By Ock Hyun-ju, Intern reporter (firstname.lastname@example.org