Six North Korean professors study economics at UBC

Sauder School of Business (Photo by UBC)

[CanKor Brain Trust member Prof. Park Kyung-Ae, director of the Center for Korean Research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, is host to six DPRK Professors who are studying economics for 6 months at UBC. CanKor has been aware of this project for some time, but honoured Dr. Park’s request for discretion, considering the sensitivity of the guests and the subject they are studying. The article we are reprinting here appeared first in the Yonhap News Service and is taken from The Korea Times. An earlier article in by Yoshihiro Makino, under the title “N. Korean professors start capitalism studies in Canada” contained some factual errors which have been corrected in the current article. The DPRK’s Ambassador (to Canada) Sin Son Ho, accompanied by two of his colleagues from the DPRK Permanent Mission to the United Nation in New York visited Vancouver from 11 to 14 August to meet with the visiting professors, who are the first group to have been invited under the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program, which Professor Park helped launch at UBC last year. –CanKor.]

SAN FRANCISCO (Yonhap) — Six North Korean professors are studying economics and other related subjects at a university in Canada on a months-long program initiated by the school, the program director said Wednesday, opening a rare opportunity for the people of the repressive regime.

Professor Park Kyung-ae, director of the Center for Korean Research at the University of British Columbia, told Yonhap News Agency the North Koreans arrived last month to study international business, international economics, finance and trade. Five of the visiting professors teach these subjects at Kimilsung University, the elite North Korean institution named after the country’s founding leader, while one teaches at a university of economics in the eastern city of Wonsan, she said, declining to give further details.

The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported earlier that the six professors from Kimilsung University were studying on an MBA course at the university in Vancouver. In fact, Park said the North Koreans will study four subjects at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels starting in September, after completing a two-month English language course.

The visiting professors are the first group to have been invited under the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program, which Park helped launch at UBC last year. DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The program is very unusual in that it allows North Korea’s college professors to conduct research (overseas) on a long-term basis,” Park said, saying the professors will stay for a total of six months. “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.”

Park, who has traveled to Pyongyang on several occasions since the mid-1990s and hosted North Korean delegation visits to Canada, said she believes educational exchanges are an important mechanism through which the two countries can improve ties.

She noted that North Korea and Canada established diplomatic relations in 2001, but their ties have faltered over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Since the 1990s, the North Korean regime has been known to send a selected few, mostly government officials, to study the market economy in Switzerland and other countries. However, these people have only been allowed to stay for several weeks, apparently due to fears they will try to escape the control of their repressive regime.

One Response to “Six North Korean professors study economics at UBC”

  1. Dr. Lee Stothers Says:

    To Whom It May Concern:
    This is to inform you of a recent film release by Four Dots Press. To access the film, “Korean Surfaces Claiming to be North Korean Spokesman to the World,” click on the link:
    The film should be of particular interest to professors and students in Korean Studies and related areas. Presented in six segments, it can be viewed sequentially when you “Click here to view in HD.”

    We hope you will find the film entertaining and refreshingly relevant to the increasingly immanent North Korean situation. If so, please pass it on to your colleagues and friends. We welcome any comments via email or directly on the website. In addition, you are invited to read the Press Release below.

    Thank you for watching!

    Dr. Lee Stothers

    Korean Surfaces Claiming to be North Korean Spokesman to the World
    Four Dots Press is a publishing house and film production company that has recently put out a film entitled, Korean Surfaces Claiming to be North Korean Spokesperson to the World. In it Dr. Lee Stothers interviews Won Seok Lim (Sok), author of Grey Canvas available on He begins by quoting from his book in which he states, “The country for which he (Sok) has the most compassion is North Korea.” He expounds on this by addressing his own deeply-rooted trauma he experienced as a kid when he was almost killed by the person he trusted most.

    Sok believes he shares a common experience with North Koreans, despite the fact that he is South Korean born and a Canadian citizen. He likens this collective psyche to children depicted in the movie, The Killing Fields, which shows kids joyously killing while living through an adult war. He surmises a similar mindset in North Koreans, isolated yet caught in the world’s turmoil. As he imagines is the case with North Koreans, Sok admits he has struggled with his own anger and killing urges stemming from his original trauma.

    In the interview Sok delves into Korean psychology through one prominent family member, his paternal uncle Lim Bong Hun, who was considered to be the brain behind the importation of communism to Korea during the Japanese colonization leading up to the Korean War. Through this discussion, Sok communicates his unique vision by drawing a parallel between his own psychological trauma and the fate of the entire Korean Peninsula.

    Hot off the press and available on our website (, Vimeo and YouTube, this film by Four Dots Press sheds light on a country that at this crucial point in human history can no longer be ignored, even though it remains the darkest and most misunderstood. Sok admits how easy it is to dismiss an individual or people as incomprehensible, but nevertheless urges viewers to grasp how every human being on this planet is interconnected. Just as children in The Killing Fields reflect adult society, Four Dots uses North Korea as a window to see ourselves and each of our choices as being reciprocal and relevant to decisions currently being made by other people, governments and organizations around the world.

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