Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

German NGO establishing school for deaf

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

According to the Associated Press:

In a country with zero kindergartens specifically for the deaf, Robert Grund wants to help establish the first — just a small suite of rooms for perhaps a couple dozen kids, in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, a city of roughly 2.5 million.

It’s a small step, but Grund, the Pyongyang representative of the World Federation of the Deaf and the city’s only full-time deaf foreign resident, sees it as part of a larger push to end isolation for the deaf here by helping them be heard, involved and empowered in projects about them.

He appears to be making progress.

Over the past few years, North Korean officials have grown more receptive to helping the disabled. Events have become more frequent and get a higher profile in the state-run media, while more cultural exchanges are being allowed abroad. Recent media stories played up a new all-deaf soccer team. The North last month held high-profile events to mark Disabled Persons Day.

The kindergarten project is also coming together.

Grund says officials have approved a location for the facility, several rooms in a now under-used nursery building, and appear keen on opening it in time for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country’s ruling party on Oct. 10.

The kindergarten itself will be wholly paid for and funded by TOGETHER-Hamhung, a German non-profit Disabled Persons Organization.

“Nobody knows how many kids will come,” Grund said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “If necessary, we can assign more rooms for children.”

The plan is to accept children from infancy on up until they are old enough to attend regular deaf schools. Grund hopes access will be based solely on need, but he is not sure whether the government will instead decide who gets to go.

“From our point of view, every deaf child has access,” he said. “Since this country strongly advertises the right of children to be in nurseries and kindergartens, it is probably not so much a matter of choosing, but a matter of information and spreading the word so that the families get to know the new option and dare to bring their deaf child, overcoming the traditional hiding in the family.”


To be deaf in North Korea is to endure a level of isolation that is hard to imagine.

For most of his childhood, Ri Jong Hyok was a shut in.

While his father went out to do construction work, he stayed at home in Pyongyang helping his mother make tofu. He didn’t go to school. He had no friends and, with no one to teach him sign language, essentially no way to communicate with them even if he did.

“I had never seen sign language before I came here,” Ri told the AP through a sign language interpreter during a visit to the country’s largest school for the deaf, in Songchon, outside of Pyongyang, last year.

Ri is lucky to have found the school.

He wants to be a barber, and the school has a classroom where the students practice cutting each other’s hair, with barber’s chairs and pictures of various hairstyles on the walls. With few other trades open to the deaf, the most common jobs are barber or tailor for men, and hairstylist or seamstress for women.

Of the eight schools for older deaf children in North Korea, none are located in Pyongyang, though statistically the deaf population in a city the same size in a developing country would likely be in the tens of thousands.

There are roughly 300,000 deaf people in all of North Korea, according to official estimates.

But while about 10-20 percent of deaf children in developing countries are able to study in deaf schools, according to the World Federation of the Deaf, that rate is just 2 percent in North Korea, said an aid worker who spoke on condition of anonymity because of worries that ongoing projects might be hurt.

North Korean officials dispute that estimate.

Ro Kyong Su, director of the Korean Economic and Cultural Center for the Deaf and Blind, said mainstream public schools or other special-needs facilities currently accommodate most deaf or hearing-impaired students. By his calculations, there are about 6,000 school-age deaf children who need to be in schools that are specifically for the deaf. He said about half already are, and the number is rising.

“The other half will soon be able to go to school. We aren’t looking at a five-year or 10-year plan. It will be much sooner than that,” he said.

Officials involved in projects for the deaf acknowledge an outdated grasp of the size of the deaf community.

A major problem continues to be getting access to and diagnosing pre-school children, many of whom are shut in at home with families who have little awareness of hearing disabilities or the resources that might be available to them.

The government’s figures are also based on an old, somewhat ambiguous survey. Underreporting of disabilities is common, both because of a sense of shame and a fear among parents that, if reported, their children might be sent off to distant institutions, pigeonholed and channeled into an educational or career path with few opportunities. Nevertheless, a new survey is underway, which Ro believes will provide a more reliable picture.


Grund, possibly more than anyone else, has helped influence the change in attitudes toward the deaf here.

As a teenager, he watched a TV report in his native Germany suggesting there were “practically no” deaf people in North Korea. A fourth-generation deaf child in his own family, an incredulous Grund decided to go see for himself. Grund, now 30, has since devoted himself to improving life for deaf North Koreans. He works with the bureaucracy and with the deaf to train them to plan and lead their own projects.

Though funding is always a struggle, he has received support from Catholic and Protestant groups and private donors, mainly in Germany. The biggest individual contribution came from Michael Spavor, of Paektu Cultural Exchange and the organizer of former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s visit last year, who donated $20,000 to the deaf kindergarten project.

Grund’s mantra for empowering the deaf, “nothing about us without us,” often rankles with even the most sympathetic North Korean officials. In the country’s top-down system, hearing bureaucrats who often don’t understand the deaf experience are used to making decisions on their behalf.

Grund says he will continue to cooperate with deaf North Koreans — he currently works closely with about 20, up from just two in 2013 — to help them join mainstream society.

One priority is more schools for occupational training and educational opportunities for the deaf. Another is teaching more deaf children — and interpreters — how to sign. He also wants sign language interpretation made available at workplaces and meetings. But most of all, he wants to see signing on national television broadcasts, if just to raise awareness in the hearing community that the deaf exist and need not be hidden away.

“That has been my oldest dream, from the time I first came here,” he said.

Read the full story here:
German attempts to break down barriers for deaf in N. Korea
Associated Press
Eric Talmadge


Kim Jong Un visits Automation Institute of Kim Chaek University of Technology

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015



Top: Official KCNA photo of the new Automation Institute of Kim Chaek University of Technology Bottom: Google Earth satellite image of the facility in the new Mirae Scientist Street

According to Google Earth imagery, construction on the project started around September 2014.

According to KCNA:

Kim Jong Un Gives Field Guidance to Automation Institute of Kim Chaek University of Technology

Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, gave field guidance to a newly-built building of the Automation Institute of Kim Chaek University of Technology.

He was greeted on the spot by Hwang Pyong So, Kim Jong Gwan, other officials of the relevant field and officers of the KPA units taking part in the construction.

He had promised to make sure that a new building was constructed for the Automation Institute when he was acquainting himself with the work of the institute in April last year.

He chose the site of the institute on the picturesque bank of the River Taedong and guided its layout several times. He not only saw to it that a powerful construction force of the People’s Army was formed for the project but personally settled the issues arising in it.

Enjoying a bird’s-eye view of the institute, he said the institute was successfully built to match the environment around it as required by the layout ratified by the party.

He went round several places of the institute to learn about its construction in detail.

He was pleased that the institute was built in such a way as to visually showcase the party’s policies of attaching importance to science and technology and talents and provide its researchers with ample conditions for their scientific researches and living.

He told officials to fully provide the institute with reading rooms, e-library and video system so that they might help the researchers in their work and study.

Noting that a country can prosper only when a revolution is carried out with a proper view and stand on science and talents, he underscored the need to provide the institute with modern equipment and vehicles necessary for its operation as it was built into a cutting-edge scientific research center. He was so kind as to promise to ensure that this matter would be settled by the party.

He highly praised the soldier builders of KPA units 407 and 101 for fully displaying the revolutionary soldier spirit in the construction of the institute.

He expressed belief that the researchers of the institute would creditably perform their mission and duty as standard-bearers in breaking through the cutting-edge science and technology by carrying forward the tradition in which they have contributed to the cause of the party with their valuable scientific and technological achievements and thus give fuller play to their patriotic enthusiasm and devotion to living up to the expectations of the party, the country and its people.


Sci-Tech Complex on Ssuk Islet, Pyongyang

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

UPDATE 9 (2015-10-28): KCNA reveals new photos of the completed Sci-Tech Complex:


Click image to see larger version.

You can read more here.

UPDATE 8 (2015-8-12): KCNA reports a few more details on the functions/information of the complex:

Preparations for Running Sci-Tech Complex in DPRK
Pyongyang, August 12, 2015 17:23 KST (KCNA) — The Central Information Agency for Science and Technology in the DPRK has pushed ahead with the preparations for running the Sci-Tech Complex, which is now under construction in Pyongyang.

The Agency concentrated its efforts on developing various kinds of service programs on a higher level. The programs include information retrieval system, database management system, print system and translation system.

It is also conducting at the final stage the work to synthesize and systematize a large amount of data.

Meanwhile, more than 1 000 multimedia pieces and scores of diagrams were produced.

UPDATE 7 (2015-7-10): New Google Earth imagery of the construction site reveals additional details of the project:


UPDATE 6 (2015-6-25): Google has uploaded a new image of the Sci-Tech Complex. The image is dated 2015-4-28. You can now see the distinctive “atom” shape the building will achieve:


UPDATE 5 (2015-4-4): The Pyongyang Times has published a new article on the Sci-Tech Complex:

Sci-tech complex construction goes full steam ahead

A sci-tech complex is being built on Ssuk Islet in the Taedong River meandering through the middle of Pyongyang.

The complex is almost equal to the Grand People’s Study House in both total area and height.

The Grand People’s Study House is a Korean-style building with an area of 100 000 square metres. It was completed in 1982 in a year and nine months after its groundbreaking.

It contributed greatly to making the whole society intellectual and developing the country’s science and technology.

The new centre is a palace of learning for all people as well as scientists and technicians. It is intended for making all people well-versed in science and technology. It will also serve as a centre for disseminating cutting-edge science and tech-nology across the country.

Latest architectural technologies are employed intensively to the construction.

A green building, the exterior is designed in the form of a large atomic structure symbolic of the world of science to make viewers feel at a glance that it is an information centre of science and technology.

Several flower-patterned outdoor exhibition grounds, study places, a fountain park and a science and technology tower will be built around the main building.

In the central hall that reaches up to the fourth floor will be installed a model of a carrier rocket of artificial earth satellite.

On every floor will be arranged e-reading rooms for professionals, where they can have access to any information in various fields, as befits a general e-library.

The layout includes sectoral sci-tech exhibition halls, online lecture room, room for the show of science film, local and foreign technological information exchange room for joint research and exchange and hall for presentations of scientific and technological achievements and workshops.

Also arranged in the complex will be children’s dream hall for helping them acquire scientific principles and cultivate a web of fantasy, basic knowledge application hall for schoolchildren and halls showing the history of the development of science and technology in the country.

It will be furnished with facilities to transmit information needed for sci-tech information rooms throughout the country.

A several-kilometre-long embankment will be built around the island to prevent flood water. Road extending more than four kilometres will be laid in the compound and the bridge linking the island to Chungsong Bridge will be rebuilt into a new three-way bridge branching into the island.

A trolley bus line is to be built, forming a loop line from Yokjon Street, via Mirae Scientists Street and Chungsong Bridge, to the island.

Tens of thousands of tall trees and flowering shrubs are planned to be planted on the island to landscape the surroundings of the complex and new species of turf over a large area will add to the beautiful scenery of the island.

It is a gigantic construction project with a huge workload.

Soldier builders engaged in the construction are now stepping up the project as scheduled to create a new Pyongyang spirit and Pyongyang speed in the “all-at-once” spirit of the Korean People’s Army of transforming mountains and rivers not in a decade but in a year.

After finishing the excavation for the foundations, the most difficult task, in the biting cold of midwinter they are pushing ahead with the concrete work for the foundations underground and the first floor.

The construction of a modern 500-capacity tower hotel, bridge leading to the island and the trolley bus line is being pushed in a three-dimensional way.

The builders in charge of the bridge are pushing forward with the project as planned by applying advanced construction methods to the building of cofferdam and excavation for the foundations of piers.

Civil servants cleared the site over several thousand square metres and planted over 3 000 trees and flowering shrubs in 15 species.

UPDATE 4 (2015-3-20): According to Radio Free Asia:

North Korea is building a science and technology facility on an unpopulated island in the capital Pyongyang to store digital information obtained in part by hacking foreign websites to help scientists and other professionals access outside know-how, sources from the country said.

“North Korea is building Science and Technology Hall, a massive information and communication service center for scientists, technicians and teachers who can’t access the internet,” someone who works for an educational institution told RFA’s Korean Service.

“If Science and Technology Hall is completed, they can see digital materials from all parts of the world such as international technical development trends and [information about] military, telecommunications and satellites,” the source said.

The facility, which is being built on Pyongyang’s Ssuk Island, will disseminate information to scientists and technicians via the country’s intranet, he said.

It will be connected to major universities in Pyongyang as well as research centers and laboratories in leading companies through a dedicated line, he said.

Construction has already started on the facility, which will collect and organize both domestic and global data, on Ssuk Island,” the Chosun Shinbo, the journal of the Chongryon (General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan), which represents the position of the North Korean regime, reported in January.

UPDATE 3 (2015-2-27):  Kim Jong-un has made a second visit to Ssuk Islet to guide construction of the “Sci-Tech Complex”.


According to Rodong Sinmun:

The complex should serve as a seat of learning where not only scientists and technicians but also people from all walks of life can have an ample opportunity of learning and a center for disseminating latest science and technology throughout the country, he said, calling for constructing it to be impeccable in terms of architectural beauty and practical use.

He gave an instruction to build a hotel capable of accommodating 500 people which can match well its surrounding environment so that it may provide best convenience to visitors.

He called for pushing ahead with the construction of the complex and preparations for its operation simultaneously.He underscored the need to meticulously organize the work for building a strong latest science and technology database, supplying equipment and apparatuses necessary for e-library service at the highest level, establishing a network between the complex and scientific and technological knowledge dissemination rooms across the country and assigning scientists, experts and service workers.

He underlined the need to successfully undertake the embankment project on Ssuk Islet where the complex is located and effectively arrange environment around it including afforestation and greening.

He praised commanding officers and soldiers of KPA Unit 963 for contriving and introducing an innovative construction method and pushing ahead with the project in a bold way.

He said every sector and unit should render sincere material and moral assistance to the construction of the complex so that it may be pushed forward as a project involving the entire Party, the whole country and all people.

He was so kind as to solve all problems arising in the construction on the spot.

That last sentence I found particularly humorous.

UPDATE 2 (2015-2-1): The “scientific and technological study center” seems to have been re-designed over the last few months. Although construction on the old design had begun, the shape of the facility seems to have changed (was this a consequence of Kim Jong-un’s visit to the facility last year?):





(Image Dates: 2014-7-3, 2014-9-21, 2014-10-26, 2015-1-14)

UPDATE 1 (2015-1-9): According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

The Choson Sinbo, pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, reported on January 10, 2015 that a “Science and Technology Hall” is under construction on the Ssuk Islet on Pyongyang’s Taedong River. The hall is reported to serve as a “multi-functional technological service base which will conserve and maintain digitalized data of science and technological achievements made by mankind, and facilitate information sharing and exchanges through a network system.”

The newspaper stated, “The Republic with the national strategy to achieve economic revitalization through science and technology is emphasizing the need for informatization of educational materials in order to foster professionals in science and technological sector.” In also stressed, “In the Kim Jong Un Era, this project is under promotion to advance to the next level.”

Last June, Kim Jong Un visited the Ssuk Islet to provide field guidance for the “Ssuk Islet development project.” During the visit, Kim proclaimed, “The demand for scientific and technological knowledge sharing is increasing day by day,” and added, “Our Party [Workers’ Party of Korea] has decided to develop Science and Technology Hall in the Ssuk Islet to address the demands of the people.” According to the newspaper, the islet, which is situated at the gateway to Pyongyang, will be equipped with indoor and outdoor exhibition space and will “transform the scenery of the Taedong River.”

Last year, the faculty residence for the Kim Chaek University of Technology was completed (two, 46-story apartment buildings) on the riverside of the Taedong River. This high-rise, which looks afloat on the Taedong River, will be at the center of the currently-under-construction “Mirae [Future] Scientists Street.” This street will house various residential and public service buildings.

In particular, the newspaper claimed, “The economic trials suffered from the end of the 20th century with the blockade and sanctions from our adversaries has impeded the advancement of the information sector. Hence, the informatization of educational resources is one of the fastest measures to ensure the best conditions and environment for education.” It conveyed the Science and Technology Hall development in the Ssuk Islet will contribute to the efforts toward the “informatization of educational resources.”

It further elaborated, “The most pragmatic approach to meet the demand for knowledge dissemination is not to distribute compulsory literatures, teaching materials, and experimental equipment for every field and units which will require tremendous effort in terms of funds, materials and time.” Instead, the article stipulated that the more rational choice would be to “create a state-level system that can provide necessary information in digitalized data and share that information to the people.”

This can be interpreted as one of North Korea’s efforts to revitalize the economy through science and technology.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-6-3):



Imagery on Google Earth indicates the construction work on Ssuk Islet in Pyongyang began between 2014-1-27 (Top) and 2014-4-13 (Bottom)

On June 2, 2014, Rodong Sinmun/KCNA announced that Kim Jong-un visited Ssuk Islet in Pyongyang and “called for turning the islet associated with the feats of President Kim Il Sung into the one for scientific and technological study center.”

As shown in the satellite images above, construction on the new center had begun before Kim Jong-un made his visit.

KCNA goes on to describe aspects of the new center:

Saying that demand for the dissemination of science and technology is increasing as the day goes by, Kim Jong Un noted that the Party determined to build a modern scientific and technological study center on the islet to meet the requirements of the people.

The center to be built on the islet will function not only as a comprehensive data base for scientific and technological achievements made by mankind but also as a multi-purpose scientific and technological service center, which makes it possible to use all data and share and exchange information through a network any time, he noted.

He instructed officials to build the center at the highest level in the aspects of architectural beauty, formative art and architectural contents so that it may appear a building of national treasure and fashionable and world-class one.

Feasting his eyes on both banks of the River Taedong, he said the site was a very good place and the center to be built on the islet would serve as another springboard from which the country would surpass the world’s level. He added he felt pleased to foresee the center.

Noting that the scientific and technological study center to be built on the islet is another gift of the WPK for the people, he specified measures for designing, construction and the supply of building materials, etc.


ROK to resume training of DPRK doctors

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Wednesday it will resume a program to support North Korean medical doctors’ training in Germany.

The move, the first of its kind in seven years, is in line with the Park Geun-hye administration’s push for expanding humanitarian aid for the impoverished neighbor.

The unification ministry plans to provide a North Korea-Germany group with 90 million won (US$83,000) from the inter-Korean cooperation fund. It will be delivered through the (South) Korea Foundation for International Healthcare.

In 2001, the North Korea-Germany Medical Association launched a project to help train the communist nation’s doctors. A number of North Korean doctors were invited to Germany to learn the latest medical techniques for several months at local hospitals.

South Korea offered funds for the program in 2007 and 2008, but cut the assistance amid worsened relations with Pyongyang.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea to support N. Korean doctors’ training in Germany


Rising prestige of Pyongyang General University of Architecture

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The status of the Pyongyang General University of Architecture is on the rise in the Kim Jong Un era. North Korea has been paying particular attention to the university, in order to attribute this effort as the achievements of Kim Jong Un. Since Kim Jong Un’s ascension to power, several large-scale buildings have been constructed and are being propagated as a symbol of the new advancement of his regime.

On November 26, 2014, the Rodong Sinmun (the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea) praised the Pyongyang General University of Architecture, calling it an “outpost for the construction of a powerful civilization,” and covered nearly the entire fourth page with articles relating to the school’s history, education, and research achievements.

According to the Rodong Sinmun, the Pyongyang General University of Architecture is responsible for completing over two hundred architectural design plans, including the housing complex for the scientists working on North Korea’s satellite program. The university is renowned in North Korea for its unprecedented accomplishments in the research and manufacturing of state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, which it argues were possible “thanks to” the First Chairman Kim Jong Un.

Specifically, back in 2013, Kim Jong Un agreed to act as the university’s honorary president. The newspaper emphasized the great strides made under his leadership.

Kim Jong Un visited the university in 2013 and explained, “After contemplating over which university to make field guidance to, I decided to come to the Pyongyang General University of Architecture because of its prominence and importance in building a highly civilized socialist society.”

The Pyongyang General University of Architecture is unique in that it is the only university that has First Chairman Kim as its honorary president, indicating his great interest in the field of architecture.

The university, which was founded in October 1953 as the University of Construction, had its name changed to the University of Architecture and Building Materials in 1970, and then to the Pyongyang University of Architecture and Building Materials in 1997. The university has seen a sharp rise in its status since the start of the Kim Jong Un regime.

The university had its status elevated from a college to a full-fledged university in November 2010, directly after Kim Jong Un formally appeared as the successor to the Kim Jong Il regime. The university, originally named as “The Pyongyang University of Architecture and Building Materials,” received its current name from First Chairman Kim Jong Un in December 2012.

Alongside the change in status of the university, the status of its graduates, including Ma Won Chun, the Director of the National Defense Commission (NDC) Design Department, have also increased accordingly.

Previously, on November 18th, the Rodong Sinmun enumerated the major large-scale architectural projects completed during the first three years of the Kim Jong Un regime and attributed the successes to have resulted from Kim’s love of the people.


PUST holds second graduation ceremony

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


Pictured Above (Google Earth): PUST

On Wednesday 19th November, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) held its second graduation ceremony of 2014, at the campus in the south side of Pyongyang.

100 undergraduate students in science and technology received Bachelor degrees from the co-Presidents of PUST, in the presence of foreigners and diplomats including ambassadors from Europe, Asia and Latin America and UN representatives.

These new graduates are the first year-group of students, who came to PUST in October 2010, when the university began classes in electrical and electronic engineering, computer science; agriculture and life sciences; and finance and management. Some will remain at PUST as graduate students and most others will go to various DPRK state universities for further study. PUST is also active in sending graduate students for both short-term and long-term study abroad, at European and Asian universities, under various partnerships and scholarship schemes.

For more details please see the Press Release (PDF).


Second session of 13th Supreme People’s Assembly

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

UPDATE 3 (2014-9-25): Kim Jong-un did not attend the SPA meeting.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

North Korea’s young leader wasn’t in his customary seat as the country convened its rubber-stamp parliament Thursday, adding to South Korean media speculation that Kim Jong Un may be ill.

Only part of the meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly was shown on state TV, but Mr. Kim wasn’t present and apparently missed the meeting for the first time since he took power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December 2011, according to an official for the South’s Unification Ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.

The usually ubiquitous Mr. Kim, the third member of his family to rule the country, hasn’t been seen in state media since attending a Pyongyang concert on Sept. 3. He was shown limping on television in July and again earlier this month, and South Korean media have speculated that Kim has been ill, although there has been no discussion of the absence in the North’s state-run media.

According to Reuters:

Kim, who is considerably overweight, has not featured in state media broadcasts since appearing at a concert alongside his wife and former state entertainer Ri Sol Ju this month.

In July, he was seen walking with a limp at an event with key officials.

But analysts warned against reading too much into Kim’s absence.

“Kim Jong Il didn’t attend every time, either,” said Chris Green, a North Korea expert at Seoul-based Daily NK website. “Moreover, we know that the SPA primarily performs a demonstrative function, it is not a true decision-making body.”

UPDATE 2 (2104-9-25): KCNA reports on the second session of the 13th SPA. Most of the copy is dedicated to continuing education reforms, however at the end of the article, personnel changes at the National Defense Commission are announced:

It recalled Deputy Choe Ryong Hae from the post of vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post and Deputy Jang Jong Nam from the post of member of the NDC of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post.

It elected Deputy Hwang Pyong So to fill the vacancy as vice-chairman of the NDC of the DPRK and Deputies Hyon Yong Chol and Ri Pyong Chol to fill the vacancy as members of the NDC of the DPRK at the proposal of Marshal Kim Jong Un.

This list of NDC members (as of October 2013 )can be found here.

Reuters notes:

At the meeting, state media said, Choe Ryong Hae had been removed from the post of vice chairman of the National Defence Commission, a body chaired by Kim, and was replaced by Hwang Pyong So.

Hwang is a member of a powerful faction created in the 1970s under former leader Kim Jong Il, the father of the current leader, to boost a personality cult around his family.

Choe had been widely seen as a new right-hand man to Kim Jong Un after he purged his uncle last year, but had since fallen back into the shadows.

“Hwang’s appointment as NDC Vice Chairman shows that he has truly risen to become the regime’s de facto number two official,” said Michael Madden, a North Korean leadership expert and contributor to the 38 North website.

Hwang was appointed “according to the wishes of Marshall Kim Jong Un”, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

Here is the full story:

2nd Session of 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK Held

Pyongyang, September 25 (KCNA) — The 2nd Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK was held at the Mansudae Assembly Hall Thursday.

Present there were deputies to the SPA.

Officials of the party, armed forces and power organs, public organizations, ministries, national institutions and the fields of science, education, literature and art, public health and media attended it as observers.

All the participants observed a moment’s silence in memory of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.

SPA Chairman Choe Thae Bok made an opening address.

The session discussed agenda items on summing up the implementation of “On Enforcing Universal 12-Year Compulsory Education”, the Ordinance of the SPA of the DPRK, and an organizational matter.

Deputy Pak Pong Ju, premier of the Cabinet, made a report on the first agenda item.

The reporter said that the 6th Session of the 12th SPA held in September, Juche 101 (2012) promulgated Ordinance on Enforcing Universal 12-Year Compulsory Education in line with the new requirements of the developing revolution.

According to the report, a work for successfully enforcing the schooling has been dynamically pushed forward as the one involving the whole state, all people and the whole society and signal successes have been made in it.

The work for operating the six-year secondary schools by dividing them into three-year junior secondary schools and three-year senior secondary schools has been wound up in a brief span of time. The first phase programs for the universal 12-year compulsory education were worked out in a matter of one and half years and textbooks of new contents and style were compiled.

Expenditure has been increased in educational field at the state budget, the State Planning Commission, the Ministry of Finance, provincial people’s committees and relevant institutions have ensured funds needed for educational work as planned, thus strengthening the material and technological foundation of schools.

Over the past two years since the promulgation of the ordinance new classrooms have been built or constructed on an expansion basis at schools across the country and many school things produced.

The reporter referred to the tasks facing the field of education.

He underlined the need to build well the ranks of teachers and decisively raise their qualifications and roles.

The general senior secondary schools should teach students with main emphasis on general secondary knowledge and senior secondary technical schools should make preparations in a responsible manner for giving education in basic technology to suit the economic and geographical peculiarities of the relevant areas while giving general education in conformity with the operation of senior secondary technical schools, new type schooling, on a trial basis, he noted.

He also underlined the need to positively push ahead with the work for putting the nation’s universal general secondary education including genius education on a new high stage, reinforce the research forces at educational and scientific research institutions and increase their responsibilities and roles.

He called for improving the conditions and environment for education to be fit for the appearance of a highly civilized socialist country.

Speakers at the session renewed their resolution to decisively improve the quality of education to meet the realistic requirements of the developing education in the age of knowledge-based economy and suit the trend of the world and thus train the younger generation as more dependable revolutionary talents of Juche type equipped with perfect general secondary knowledge, modern basic technological knowledge and creative ability.

The session adopted “On Comprehensively Enforcing Universal 12-Year Compulsory Education and Decisively Improving Its Quality”, the Decision of the SPA of the DPRK.

It discussed the second agenda item.

It recalled Deputy Choe Ryong Hae from the post of vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post and Deputy Jang Jong Nam from the post of member of the NDC of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post.

It elected Deputy Hwang Pyong So to fill the vacancy as vice-chairman of the NDC of the DPRK and Deputies Hyon Yong Chol and Ri Pyong Chol to fill the vacancy as members of the NDC of the DPRK at the proposal of Marshal Kim Jong Un.

UPDATE 1 (2014-9-18): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) reports on the DPRK’s education policy:

North Korea Prioritizes Budget Support for the Modernization of Education in the Age of Knowledge-Based Economy

A September 6, 2014 article in the Rodong Sinmun reported that First Chairman of the National Defence Commission Kim Jong Un has begun to usher in a “revolution in education for the new century” and emphasized the need to construct a “world power of socialist education in the 21st century” at the 13th National Meeting of Educators held on Sept. 5.

At the meeting, Kim Jong Un’s work, entitled, “Let Us Make a Revolution in Education in the New Century to Glorify Our Country as the One of Education and a Power of Talents” was presented to participants.

In his work, Kim Jong Un advocates for this “revolution in education for the new century,” saying, “Education is part of an unending patriotic plan for the wealth and prosperity of the nation and the people.” The work emphasizes, “How we educate our posterity will be the determining factor of the nation’s power and the propagation of the revolution.”

Kim Jong Un also stated, “The goal to be attained by the revolution in education in the new century is to turn the country into a power of socialist education in the 21st century by bringing up all school youth and children as reliable pillars for the building of a thriving nation and educating all the people to be well versed in science and technology.” To achieve this, Kim Jong Un emphasized that the “decisive strengthening” of secondary education is the fundamental link of the education revolution.

He states, “Just as how trees with the strongest roots grow the perfect fruit, secondary education must be strengthened in order to produce talented individuals and raise the overall level of intelligence of workers.”

He continues, “In order to realize the grand goal of the revolution in education for the new century, the strong leadership guidance provided by the Party’s Juche-based education ideology and policy must be implemented according to the demands of the generation and the development of the revolution.”

More specifically, his work mentions the importance of improving the education system: “An important task facing the revolution in education in the new century is to round off the educational system and improve the guidance and management of the educational work in order to successfully train talents of new type required by the era.”

Kim Jong Un also emphasized the need to rear wholesome, well-rounded children from the time they are young while at home, school, and out in society. Furthermore, he stated, “The education in the age of knowledge-based economy should not be the one for letting students learn existing knowledge but it should be developed in the direction of putting its contents on a practical, comprehensive and modern basis so that students may grasp faster new and useful knowledge and more successfully apply them in practice.”

In order to accomplish this, Kim Jong Un said, “All the fields should regard the educational work as part of their work, always pay deep attention to it and help solve the issues arising in the field of education in a responsible manner.”

ORIGINAL POST (2014-9-4): According to KCNA:

DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly to Be Convened

Pyongyang, September 5 (KCNA) — The Second Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be held in Pyongyang on September 25, Juche 103 (2014).

A relevant decision of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly was promulgated on Sept. 4.

Information on the first session of the 13th SPA can be found here.

Information on the election of the 13th SPA can be found here.

Here is what the Daily NK has to say:

It is the norm for the SPA to convene each spring to carry out the core responsibilities of ratifying personnel changes and hearing budgetary reports. Two of the more noteworthy results of the meeting in April this year were then-Director of the KPA General Political Department Choe Ryong Hae being made a deputy in the National Defense Commission, and Ri Su Yong being handed the foreign affairs portfolio. Ri, a seasoned diplomat, is scheduled to speak to the UN General Assembly later this month.

Conversely, second sessions do not occur every year as a matter of course; rather, they are convened when necessary for the accomplishment of Workers’ Party objectives. One such session convened on September 25th, 2012, for instance, resulted in wide-ranging changes to the state education system, most notably the addition of a 12th year of mandatory schooling.

As a result, attention is set to focus on personnel shifts and the possibility of major policy announcements.


Norwegians seeking to set up art school in DPRK

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

According to the Art Newspaper:

The North Korean government has approved plans by two Norwegian artists to open an art academy in the country. Henrik Placht and Morten Traavik travelled to North Korea together for the first time in August to flesh out the proposal and to look for potential sponsors. So far they have received financial support from the Prince Claus Fund.

The academy is due to be called DMZ after the term for the Korean demilitarised zone. It will primarily be an academy for North Korean students, but the plan is to open it up for international exchange programmes, Placht says.

“One of the reasons for us going to North Korea is that we don’t believe in sanctions and the boycott of art,” Placht tells The Art Newspaper. “Next year we are planning an exhibition and workshop in North Korea, in co-operation with the North Korean government, which will feature well-known international artists as well as North Korean artists,” he adds.

The artists already have good contacts in North Korea thanks to Traavik, who has produced several art projects in the country—some in response to North Korea’s dictatorship. In 2012, Traavik organised The Promised Land, a performance in Kirkenes, northern Norway, in which North Koreans holding flags instructed more than 200 Norwegian soldiers to create sequences of images using individual placards.

That same year, Traavik also produced the first Norwegian arts festival in North Korea, “Yes, we love this country”, named after Norway’s national anthem. Meanwhile, earlier this year, he arranged for musicians from the Kum Song Music School to come to Bergen in western Norway to perform a Norwegian children’s play.

Placht also has experience setting up academies in extreme political contexts. In 2002, he founded the International Academy of Art Palestine, where he was a project director until 2009. “I will be able to draw on my experiences in Palestine when it comes to fundraising, curating and co-operating with the government,” Placht says. “But I will also seek to create trust with North Korea so that they will have a natural ownership of the academy.”

More information here.

Read the full story here:
Norwegian artists plan to open art academy in North Korea
Art Newspaper
Hanne Cecilie Gulstad


North Korea increases production of consumer goods according to consumer demands and preferences

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Due to the strengthening of capitalism and competition in North Korean society, it appears that the status of consumers has risen considerably.

In the North Korean economy — which has clung to a supply-oriented, planned economic model — it is extremely rare to see production change in response to consumer demands and preferences.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, published an editorial on August 3, 2014, calling for the “Brisk Opening of the August Third Consumer Goods Production Movement.” This editorial encourages the public by assuring that the consumer products will be made according to the needs and demands of the people.

“A socialist society cannot think about the production of consumer goods that are above the reaches of the people,” the editorial emphasizes, and that “the peoples’ demands and interests are [the Party’s] absolute top priority, and it is the noble duty of the Party to create these desired consumer goods for the people to enjoy.”

Through the use of various media, North Korea has propagandized the “consumer-focused” policy, claiming to have spurred competition and the increase in quality of products and services throughout the nation.

Joguk (Motherland), a media outlet of the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, published an article in their August 2014 issue entitled, “The Standard of Competition Is Determined by the People.” The article emphasizes production tailored to consumer demands, saying that “Product evaluation is something which can be done only by those who demand and directly use the product; it can only be done by the general public.”

The article further states that “Products popular among the general public and used by the masses are evaluated accordingly for their high quality.” It also mentions the cosmetic brands “Eunhasu” and “Pomhyanggi” as examples.

In a July 30, 2014 article, the Choson Sinbo introduced the Potong River Shoe Factory, which is responsible for the production of popular products such as the so-called “kill heel” high-heeled shoes, wedge-heeled shoes, and pointed stilettos. By working together with a department store and periodically reviewing customers’ feedback, the Potong River Shoe Factory can produce shoes to cater to shoppers’ preferences.

This method of setting the focus on consumer evaluation can also be found in North Korea’s education system.

On August 7, 2014, the Rodong Sinmun introduced the “bottom-up evaluation” system at Kim Jong Suk Middle School. This process, touted as one of the successes of educational reform, allows students to evaluate their teachers once per semester. By creating competition among educators, this system is expected to have effects all across the nation.

These types of changes are said to have close relations to the Kim Jong Un regime’s policy focusing on light industry, which also accounts for the improvement of standards of living for the people.

It appears that unlike the heavy chemical industry previously emphasized by the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il regimes, light industry must consider not only production amounts, but the quality of the products as well. This inevitably leads to the emphasis being put on consumer product reviews.

Through consumer reviews, competition arises and productivity is increased, leading to the production of consumer goods with higher added value. Despite being called a “Socialist Competition,” in reality this system may not be so different from capitalism.


Knowledge sharing SEZ conference held

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

In September 2013 the DPRK held its first conference on economic development zones under the just announced State Economic Development Commission. Read all about it here.

On May 2, 2014, KCNA announced a second conference:

Knowledge Sharing on SEZs in DPRK Held

Pyongyang, May 2 (KCNA) — There took place at Yanggakdo International Hotel on Friday knowledge sharing on SEZs in the DPRK hosted by the Korea Economic Development Association [AKA State Economic Development Commission/Association].

It was attended by Ri Chol Sok, vice-chairman of the association, and its other officials and experts and teachers and researchers at scientific and educational institutions and officials concerned.

Also present there were Kyung-Ae Park, professor at University of British Columbia, Canada, prestigious experts on special economic zones from China, India, Canada, Philippines and the U.S. and foreign diplomatic envoys and representatives of international bodies here and foreign embassy officials.

Ri Chol Sok and Kyung-Ae Park made speeches.

The speakers congratulated those participants on the successful holding of the event and mentioned the importance of the exchange of each other’s experience and cooperation in developing special economic zones and managing and operating them.

They said that the event would help to broaden experts’ vision and expand the development work and also contribute to promoting the international exchange and cooperation.

Then followed speeches.

Introduced at the event were the present situation in some economic development zones of the DPRK and their prospect and policies of preferential treatment and the master plan for Wonsan-Kumgangsan area.

The results of researches and opinions were exchanged and the BOT widely applied to investment and cooperation and the experience gained by various countries in doing so were discussed.

The event marked an occasion in contributing to turning economic development zones of the DPRK into world-level economic cooperation zones by introducing the advanced experience gained in special economic zones according to the specific conditions of the country.

Uriminzokkiri posted this video of Kyung-Ae Park and Yun Yong-sok:

Here is a loose translation of the video:

Q) What were your initial thoughts on the SEZ’s?
A) It is important to differentiate the North’s SEZ’s from those of other countries to make them attractive to investors. For tourism SEZ’s, many experts have recommended minimizing environmental degradation to promote sustainability. 신평 관광개발구 (신평 tourism SEZ) is a good example where sustainable development can help attract tourists who wish to relax and enjoy the environment.

Q) You teach Poli Sci at UBC, how did you get interested in SEZ’s?
A) Faculty exchanges among economics and management experts are often more profitable than academic discussions on political science. Naturally, those who participated in the exchange programs were talking about SEZ’s more often than any other topics.

Q) What are your thoughts on the prospects of the North’s SEZ’s ?
A) I was impressed how the entire country is putting an effort into SEZ projects. This is a very positive aspect, but we need to think about making these SEZ’s more attractive than SEZ’s of other countries.

Here is another translation:

Dr. Park: The key issue of establishing economic development zones (EDZs) is how to make ‘our’ zones distinctive from other countries. In the tourism industry, for example, it has been suggested that simply constructing new buildings, hotels, and condominiums does not offer any competitive advantage because others have been doing the same way. Instead, a better way is to ask ourselves what makes our zones unique so that they could attract people and investment. For North Korea, it is indeed the beauty of the wilderness and untouched nature that makes the country remarkable.

While teaching political science in University of British Columbia, I’ve come to realize that the South-North exchange should first take place in the area where both have mutual interests and the outcome can be mutually beneficial. Exchanges among the political scientists will unlikely be productive; so instead, we have been inviting numerous North Korean professors of economics and business, including those from Kim Il-Sung University, Wonsan University of Economics, and Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies. And this year we are extending our invitation for the fourth time.

Yet, compared to the number of North Korean experts coming to Canada, not many scholars have visited the North from our end as part of an exchange program. While we were considering ways to facilitate an academic exchange at a greater level, we were lucky to get in touch with Korea Economic Development Association (KEDA; aka Chosun Economic Development Committee). We had a meeting on special economic zones last October […] and this was a follow-up meeting after the successful outcome of the first one. Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program (KPP) organized the event, and KEDA co-hosted the meeting.

Many experts have suggested that more study is needed to make North Korean economic zones distinctive, unique, and attractive. The critical issue remains as to how to attract foreign capital and investment. Despite many challenges North Korea may confront, we believe that passion and diligence of North Koreans will prove fruitful.