‘Agence France Presse’ has alerted the world that ‘a group of North Korean professors are in Canada to take a crash course in economics’ at the University of British Columbia. They are six in number to study international business, international economics, and finance and trade, ‘Yonhap’, South Korea’s news agency reported.
Has the sky fallen on capitalist Canada? Hardly.
In the US, for the last 10 years, Maxwell School at Syracuse University in upper New York state has conducted what the School has publicised as ‘US North Korea trust building through academic collaboration with Kim Chaek University of Technology’. The programme emphasis information technology, academic collaboration, and engages in what it calls ‘scientific diplomacy’. Inspired by former US ambassador to Seoul Donald Gregg, this exchange with North Korea has flown under the radar. You can bet Gregg who also had a long career in the CIA, is not a rogue elephant in pushing this programme but has the tacit approval by Washington, in spite of the current ‘in your face’ policy towards the DPRK.
UBC is doing no more than many, many Canadian and American universities have done, say, in opening the doors wide to a post Mao China in the 1970’s, 80’s, and beyond.
Given the sad track record of dealing with North Korea, the UBC, as well as the Maxwell School, is taking baby steps in ‘confidence building measures’ with the DPRK.
More to the point, the connexion between UBC and North Korea may very well be an outcome of ‘Project Pyongyang’, a grassroots movement of two students to build mutual trust and promote mutual respect between North Korea and the global community.
For the moment, the six North Korean professors of economics and finances are going through an intensive immersion in English as the opening of the Fall 2011 semester nears.