North Korea is home to the most horrific level of Christian persecution in the world, which is why some might be stunned to learn that the country hosts a private university that is primarily funded and operated by evangelical Christians.
In fact, The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which has been in operation since 2010, is reportedly the only private collegiate institution in North Korea, according to Reuters.
The university was founded by Dr. James Chin-Kyung Kim, 78, a Korean-American Christian entrepreneur who was invited by the North Korean government to create a university predicated on a similar school he opened in China. Kim raised millions of dollars on his own to fund the project — money that reportedly came from many faithful donors.
READ: Report: Christian Persecution has Risen to ‘Dire’ and ‘Unprecedented’ Levels Globally
The faculty, who are mostly evangelical Christians, volunteer their time or are funded by faith-based charities to teach at the college, instructing pupils — mostly the kids of well-to-do and elite individuals inside the country — in subjects such as capitalism (a topic that, as you can imagine, isn’t all that popular with the North Korean government).
But overall classroom discussion generally doesn’t revolve around politics or religion, which might make the privately funded college’s existence less threatening to the notoriously abusive North Korean regime.
In a 2014 BBC report, students at the school were seen saluting Kim Kong-un and pledging to “defend him” with their lives, with one student telling the outlet at the time that “patriotism is a tradition” and that the students often sing and march to give “thanks” to their “great leader.” That same report indicated that the 500 students at the school are chosen by the North Korean regime.
But despite those elements — arguably cultural elements that are ingrained in the reclusive nation’s day-t0-day practices — the school features many American lecturers and classes are taught in English — both stunning elements, considering North Korea’s isolation.
Furthermore, disdain for the west and, in particular, the U.S., makes it curious that the North Korean government would want to allow a window into that world. Perhaps the need is seen, though, as the BBC reported that the university works to equip students to “help modernise the impoverished country and engage with the international community.”
Either way, the college’s very existence in a nation that Open Doors USA recently said is the most horrible place in the world for Christians to live is quite shocking. But leaders at The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology believe there’s an opportunity to open up a window into the world for students who attend, which is one reason why they recently reached out to Texas A&M University, among other U.S. colleges, in an effort to seek assistance with their instruction.
“There is no school like this in North Korea,” Yu-Taik Chon, the college’s executive vice president, told Texas A&M, explaining that help from the U.S. college could be paramount.
As it turns out, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is asking for assistance from 10 U.S. universities, though the school is reportedly requesting that most of the colleges asked to assist do not release their identities; the school is hoping for help in assembling curriculum on improving nutrition, food security and other related topics of study.
Reports in early 2016 indicated that the university was facing some financial challenges, with speculation centering on whether sanctions against North Korea were contributing to some of the constraints it was facing.
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