College reform focuses on development of high-tech field

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

It appears that North Korea has implemented college reform as part of its recent focus on cultivating skilled workers in the high-tech field. In an article released September 9, 2015 by the Japanese-based Choson Sinbo, Ho Kwang Il, head of the Higher Education Department in North Korea’s Education Committee, commented on the effort to improve higher education. According to Ho, the state is working hard to fulfill the tasks presented by Kim Jong Un on August 30, 2014, when he exhorted the people to “start an education revolution in the new century and turn our country into a country of education and a strong nation of skilled individuals.” Ho stated, “As we match our higher education system to international trends, we are working hard to create more skilled individuals, who are needed in the construction of a strong nation.”

The Higher Education Department has implemented a variety of changes to cultivate these skilled individuals. “We have organized college school systems, programs, and courses; offered new departments, including high-tech studies; and have worked meticulously to draw up a new education code,” Ho explained. In the process they have organized hundreds of departments at dozens of colleges across the country and created dozens of high-technology departments. In some departments, such as those at Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology, they have further developed higher education systems directly linking master’s and doctorate programs with regular programs.

In addition, Ho highlighted their efforts to unify colleges and convert them into universities. “By organizing regional and specialized universities and enhancing their functions, we have enabled universities to qualitatively develop the skilled individuals needed in each relevant sector and region […] We have raised the overall level of higher education by integrating certain technical colleges into normal colleges and converting others into vocational schools.”

Ho added, “We have established regional universities in several provinces. We organized them by selecting one college well suited for the province as the parent school and integrating several colleges into that school.” He said that in North Hwanghae Province they established Hwangbuk University, while in North Pyongan Province they established Pyongbuk University.

“We are promoting certain colleges to the level of specialized universities and working to unify colleges centering around universities and specialized universities,” he explained. The result is that “besides Pyongyang University of Architecture and Wonsan University of Agriculture, which already existed, Pyongyang University of Machinery, Pyongyang Jang Chol Gu University of Commerce, Pyongyang University of Railroad Engineering, and Han Duk Su Pyongyang Light Industry University have been newly formed.”

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