Japanese Language on Decline in DPRK

Well, if you thought the Japanese were unpopular in South Korea, you should see the propoganda in the North. Still, there are strong ties between North Korea and Japanese of Korean descent. The Chongryun in North Korea send lots of hard currency, investment, and students through Wonsan. This support, however, seems to be on the decline. The Japanese government has restriced the number of North Korean ships that can dock in their ports (Under insurance requirements….a way of imposing an economic embargo without calling it so). Also, becuase of the unknown fate of the Japanese citizens in North Korea, the popularity of the pro-North Korean is at an all time low.

According to the Japanese press, here are some interesting statistics on foreign language learning in the DPRK:

At the elite Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, the number of Japanese majors has fallen to a quarter of what it was a decade ago as the outlook for the two countries normalizing diplomatic ties becomes murkier, according to language professors at the institution.

“There were about 200 students of Japanese in the mid-1990s, after talks on normalizing diplomatic relations began,” a young professor at the foreign studies university said. “Now, there are only about 50 students for the entire four years.”

The most popular language for North Korean students now is English, with about 1,000 of the 2,000 students at Pyongyang University majoring in it. Chinese has become the second-most popular language, as trade ties between China and North Korea grow. Russian, the leading language to study in the days of the Soviet Union, when it had extensive political and economic ties with the North, comes in third place, and Japanese is the fourth-largest group.

“For business, English and Chinese are obviously the most important languages now. This is a phenomenon that reflects the change of the times,” said Noriyuki Suzuki, a senior analyst at Radiopress in Tokyo, a Foreign Ministry-backed foundation that monitors the North Korean media.


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