UPDATE 4: More on the Leadership of PUST from Houston Business Journal:
A Rice University professor has paved the way for a private university in North Korea.
Malcolm Gillis, the Ervin Kenneth Zingler professor of economics and professor of management, is part of a four-person committee that founded the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which will open next spring.
Members of the committee include founding President James Chin-Kyung Kim; Chan-Mo Park, former president of Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea; and Jung Bae Kim, former president of Korea University.
Gillis, who was president of Rice from 1993 to 2004, said the project goes back to 1997 when he met with the late Kim Dae Jung, then president-elect of South Korea, to engage in peace talks between North and South Korea.
PUST will offer programs for information technology, industry and management, and agriculture studies, with plans to open new schools for architecture, engineering and public health in the near future.
“North Korea is stumping for opening this university,” Kim Jin-kyung, co-president of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, said, returning from a three-day trip to the North Korean capital.
“There are many difficulties, but we are aiming to open the school within this year,” Kim said. He is also president of the Yanbian University of Science and Technology, run with South Korean non-governmental funding, in the Korean autonomous prefecture of Yanbian, northeastern China.
The school seeks to first accept 150 students in the fields of information and communications engineering; agricultural biotechnology and food engineering; and industrial management, he said.
All lectures will be in English, and students will be required to meet the paper-based TOEFL score of 550, Kim said. North Korea has already recruited prospective students among “carefully chosen elites” who studied at top North Korean schools like Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology, he added.
“North Korea asked us to get the school to have competent faculty members,” he said. “We expect the South Korean government to lend support in the larger context of inter-Korean reconciliation.”
Park Chan-mo, a science and technology advisor to President Lee Myung-bak who attended the completion ceremony with Kim, said Seoul is supportive.
“The fact that (the government) gave permission to the North Korea trip shows it has a will to lend support,” Park said.
The school will be reportedly co-headed by North Korea’s vice education minister, Jon Kuk-man. North Korean media reported the South Korean delegation’s departure earlier Thursday.
UPDATE 2: According to KCNA:
First-Phase Construction of University of Science and Technology Completed
Pyongyang, September 16 (KCNA) — A ceremony for the completion of the first-phase construction of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology was held Wednesday.
Present there were Jon Kuk Man, vice-minister of Education, officials concerned and members of a delegation led by Chin Kyung Kim, founding-president of the university.
Speeches were made there.
After a certificate on nominating the co-managerial president of the university was conveyed to the founding-president, the participants looked round the building of the university completed as the first-phase construction.
James Kim, an American businessman turned educator, once sat in the very last place that anyone in the world would wish to be: a cold, dank prison cell in Pyongyang, the godforsaken capital of North Korea.
Kim, who had emigrated from South Korea to the United States in the 1970s, had been a frequent visitor to Pyongyang over the years in pursuit of what, to many, seemed at best a quixotic cause. He wanted to start an international university in Pyongyang, with courses in English, an international faculty, computers, and Internet connections for all the students.
Not only that — in the heart of the world’s most rigidly Communist country, Kim wanted his school to include that training ground for future capitalists: an MBA program.
During one of his trips to the capital in 1998, with North Korea in the midst of a famine that would eventually kill thousands, the state’s secret police arrested Kim.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il didn’t lock up the educator for being crazy. He got it in his head that the oddly persistent American — who at the time, among other things, was helping to feed starving North Koreans with deliveries of food aid from China — was a spy.
So for more than 40 days, Kim languished in a North Korean prison. An evangelical Christian, Kim wrote his last will and testament during those days, not knowing if he’d ever get out.
Which makes where he plans to be in mid-September all the more astonishing. Kim will lead a delegation of 200 dignitaries from around the world to North Korea for the dedication of the first privately funded university ever allowed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).
The school will have an international faculty educating, eventually, around 600 graduate students. Kim dreams ultimately of hosting an industrial park around the PUST campus, drawing firms from around the world — a North Korean version, as bizarre as it sounds, of Palo Alto or Boston’s Route 128.
There will be Internet access for all, connecting the students to an outside world that they’ve heretofore been instructed is a hostile and dangerous place. And among the six departments will be a school of industrial management.
“We ended up not calling it an ‘MBA program,’” jokes David Kim (no relation to James), a former Bechtel and Pacific Gas & Electric executive who has relocated to Pyongyang to help set up PUST, “because they [the North Koreans] think it sounds vaguely imperialistic.”
That the North Koreans are permitting this to happen — that they have given James Kim the nod to create his university, just as he intended — is remarkable.
It’s hard for outsiders to understand just how backward, isolated, and impoverished North Korea is. Since the collapse of the Eastern bloc 20 years ago, fewer and fewer North Korean university students study abroad. Allowing PUST to proceed lets a gust of fresh air into a stilted, frightfully isolated environment.
ORIGINAL POST: Although the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) has yet to set an opening date, a South Korean delegation will be visiting the DPRK to commemorate the completion of the facility. According to Yonhap:
South Korea permitted a delegation from a private foundation to visit North Korea this week to celebrate the completion of a science and technology university jointly built with the North, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Monday.
The ceremony for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is scheduled for Wednesday, according to ministry spokesperson Chun Hae-sung. He said the 20-member delegation will make a three-day trip to the North beginning Tuesday.
The delegation includes Kwak Seon-hee, head of the Seoul-based Northeast Asia Foundation for Education and Culture. The foundation was mostly responsible for organizing donations and fundings for the university, the first to be jointly-operated with an organization not based in the North.
The move marks the first time that the Seoul government has approved a non-humanitarian visit to the North since the communist state carried out its second nuclear test in May.
The date of the school’s opening and other administrative affairs, however, have yet to be decided and must be worked out between the North Korean authorities and the foundation.
Kim Jin-kyung, head of the Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China, will serve as president of the university until its official opening, according to ministry officials.
1. Here are previous PUST posts.
Read the full story here:
Seoul approves N.K. trip to mark completion of tech university