The Final Chapter

[In order to bring up-to-date our website readers who are not CanKor Report subscribers, we are posting the introductions of the last three issues for your information. Here follows the introduction to the last CanKor Report #350, dated 27 July 2013, the 60th Anniversary of the Armistice Agreement.  –CanKor]

Dear Friends,

Exactly 13 years after the first CanKor newsletter was sent out to a handful of subscribers on 25 July 2000, we have reached the end of the road with this CanKor Report number 350. Cordial expressions of thanks and regret about the closing of CanKor continue to reach us. Many of them are directed towards me personally. I wish to quote two of them here, because each author has been an important mentor of mine.

The first is from David B. Dewitt, currently Vice-President of Programs at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo. David was my faculty advisor when I did my fellowship year at York University in Toronto:

“I, too, am saddened by the pending termination of CanKor. You provide an important contribution and service to those interested in not just the Korean Peninsula but also in the larger Asia Pacific context. And you and your team have done this with focus, determination and integrity for so many years. Just at a time when some mix of both rhetoric by some and indifference by others seems to be emerging, your lens would have been all that much more important. Although CanKor may be winding down, I trust that it doesn’t mean that we won’t regularly or at least occasionally be hearing from you.”

The second comes from Baldwin Sjollema, who was a role model for me when he headed the highly controversial World Council of Churches’ Programme to Combat Racism in the 1970s:

“What you and your wife have done over these past years through CanKor is exactly what I think the ecumenical movement is about: serving with conviction and compassion the wider human community in its almost endless struggle for justice and peace. The Korean issue is one of the toughest in today’s world. You have set in motion something, and something will have to take its place! With your service you have made a real contribution, which is appreciated by many people like myself, especially because nobody else did it. I am most grateful to you and express my special gratitude to you.”

As much as I take pride in such heartfelt approbation, I cannot in good conscience take all the credit for what CanKor is and was. Some of those who were involved in the past are mentioned in “CanKor history” on our website. We had powerful moral and material support from many friends, colleagues, contributors, volunteers and donors. Let me just mention a few of them here: Read the rest of this entry »

North Korea’s Canadian classroom

[We have reported several times before about CanKor Brain Trust member Dr. Park Kyung-Ae‘s Knowledge Partnership Program (KPP), which has recently completed the second year that North Korean economics professors attended economics courses at the University of British Columbia (see links at bottom of this article). The following article is taken from a National Post article by Tristin Hopper, which was published on 2 January 2013. –CanKor]

UBC’s latest exchange with hermit nation quietly draws to a close

The University of British Columbia's campus, which played host to North America's only academic exchange with North Korea. (Photo: Postmedia News files)

The University of British Columbia’s campus, which played host to North America’s only academic exchange with North Korea. (Photo: Postmedia News files)

Two weeks ago, six professors packed up their dorm rooms at the quiet, Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia, boarded aircraft at the city’s international airport and began the Jacob’s ladder of flights that would eventually return them home to North Korea.

Just as quietly as it began, the second phase of the Knowledge Partnership Program (KPP), North Korea’s only academic exchange program with North America, had come to a close.

It is the product of a little-known relationship forged even before Canada had opened relations with the Stalinist country, and the University of British Columbia is the only academic institution in North America — and possibly the West — to host regular delegations of North Koreans. Little is known of the program and details are carefully guarded from public scrutiny, but just as a U.S. ping pong team helped open Maoist China to the West, proponents contend that one of UBC’s most obscure international programs may hold the key to opening the borders of one of the world’s most closed countries.

“Particularly when we do not have active interactions between Canada and North Korea, I think academic exchange is really needed,” said Kyung-Ae Park, a UBC political scientist and founder of the KPP. Read the rest of this entry »

The Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Programme, by Park Kyung-Ae

[CanKor Brain Trust member Park Kyung-Ae has for the second year in a row hosted six DPRK economics professors for further study in Western-style economics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. This article about the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Programme (KPP) was first published on our partner-site 38North. –CanKor]

Canada-DPRK-Cooperation-300x136Knowledge sharing is a powerful tool to promote economic growth and improve quality of life in developing countries. It gives participants access not only to practical information, but the worldview, motivations, and experiences of their partners. Sharing of this nature facilitates mutual understanding between individuals that, in turn, builds empathy, compassion, and patience—the foundation for all relationships, whether between individuals or states. Knowledge partnerships that focus on human resource development through various academic and practical programs can be one of the most successful areas of cooperation between North Korea and the outside world. Such programs are particularly important in this context because they create alternative, non-governmental avenues for dialogue that can remain active when the political environment limits official lines of communication. Read the rest of this entry »

6 North Korean professors in Canada to study free market

[The following Yonhap news agency article datelined San Francisco, 20 July 2012, appeared in The Korea Times of South Korea. –CanKor]

University of British Columbia Rose Garden

Six professors of leading North Korean universities are staying in Vancouver to study capitalism at a Canadian university on a six-month program, the program director said Friday, drawing fresh attention to the North’s possible transition under its Swiss-educated young leader.The economics professors from three North Korean universities arrived in Canada earlier this month to take courses at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the fall semester, which begins in September, after a two-month language course, Professor Park Kyung-ae, director of the Center for Korean Research, said.

“They will mainly study international business, economics, finance and trade,” Park told Yonhap News by phone, without giving further details of their identifications.The elite universities include Kim Il-sung University, the top university named after the country’s founding leader, the People’s Economics University and the Pyongyang Foreign Language College, Park said. All the institutions are located in the North’s capital, Pyongyang. Read the rest of this entry »

UBC fosters academic exchange with scholars from North Korea

[For the second year in a row, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, is hosting six economics professors from the DPRK. The following Program Information comes to us from CanKor Brain Trust member Park Kyung-Ae, as issued by the university’s Public Affairs Department. The North Korean scholars are unavailable to speak to media. However if you wish to speak to a UBC spokesperson, please consult the original July 2012 document here. –CanKor]

Kim Il Sung University, Pyongyang (Photo by David Stanley)

The University of British Columbia is hosting six North Korean professors for six months starting in July 2012 as part of the Canada-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Knowledge Partnership Program.The KPP was established in 2011 when a first visit of six professors was organized by Kyung-Ae Park, director of the KPP and a professor of political science at UBC. It aims to foster academic study and knowledge exchange between the two countries.

“This program is an example of how universities can promote constructive engagement through teaching, learning and research,” says Grace Wong, senior advisor international, office of the Provost and Vice President Academic at UBC. “We hope to continue to increase collaborations in the peninsula through our Korean studies programs.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sifting through the golf sands for a hint of North Korea’s future

[Many of the CanKor Brain Trust members have been inundated by the media for interviews in the past weeks. For this article, John Barber of Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail interviewed Hartmuth Kroll, Paul EvansDavid Hawk and CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner. “Your Brain Trust was a lifesaver!” John Barber wrote in an email to the editor. “I was very happy to talk to Canadians.” The article appeared in the 30 December 2011 edition of the Globe and Mail. –CanKor]

In keeping with his orderly ascension from ranking army general to top political official to supreme leader of the last hard-line Communist country on earth, North Korea’s chubby young Kim Jong-un is expected soon to take up golf, where he will challenge his father’s record of scoring almost a dozen holes-in-one on his first try at the game.

Afforded little else in the way of information on the internal doings of the secretive country, observers will be reduced to parsing news of the young leader’s score, speculating on what it might mean should he fail to match his father’s 38-under-par.

Such is the fantasy scenario of North Korea’s notorious – often ludicrous – propaganda machine, which is operating at full throttle after the death of the country’s last demigod ruler. Observers question whether the regime can maintain the barrage of lies big and little it has used for so long to mislead and repress its citizens.

In particular, they wonder how long it will be before the flood of information loosened by the digital revolution, which helped destabilize and wash away repressive regimes throughout the Middle East this year, finally leaks through slowly widening cracks in the Kimchi Curtain. Read the rest of this entry »

10 North Korean scholars present papers at UBC

The Department of Asian Studies and the Centre for Korean Research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, are hosting the 10th international conference organized by the International Society for Korean Studies (ISKS) on 24-25 August 2011. The ISKS, whose headquarters are in Osaka, has held such conferences every other year, including meetings in the UK, Beijing and Shanghai. The Society has branches in both Seoul and Pyongyang.

“We bring together scholars of Korea from all over the world,” says CanKor Brain Trust member Prof. Donald Baker, who is in charge of the UBC conference. “But the primary purpose of the conference is to bring scholars from the ROK and the DPRK together.”

Some 80 Korea scholars were expected to present papers at the conference, including participants from the DPRK, ROK, PRC, Japan, North America, Cuba, Europe, and elsewhere. Among these are 10 North Koreans from the DPRK National Academy of Social Science, as well as 22 South Koreans.

There is no specific theme for the conference. Scholars have a wide-open opportunity to share any ideas and the latest achievements on Korean Studies. The conference proceedings, including some 800 pages of learned papers, will be published on the dedicated website currently titled “ISKS conference at the University of British Columbia”.

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. Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor on Relaunch of CanKor Website

Erich Weingartner, Editor of CanKor, speaks about North Korea and the new version of The CanKor Website. This Canada-North Korea news service “aims to provide information and analysis that does not get the attention it deserves in the commercial media”.

Also in this interview, Mr. Weingartner discusses North Korea’s integration into the East Asia region and the world. He also talks about Canada’s role in opening North Korea.

This 5-part interview was produced at the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia:

  • Why a second version of CanKor?

  • How will the 2nd version of CanKor be different?

  • Are you optimistic that North Korea can integrate into the region and improve its position in the world?

  • What role would you like to see Canada play in opening up North Korea?

  • What can we expect from “Mr. Pak” in the new CanKor?

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