Is North Korea targeting staff members who work at the only private college inside the reclusive country?
As Faithwire recently reported, The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology — which has been in operation since 2010 — is heavily funded by Christian groups in the West. And now, it appears officials inside the East Asian country have detained at least two individuals affiliated with the institution.
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Kim Hak Son, the manager of a farm run by Pyongyang University of Science and Technology’s agriculture department, was arrested on Saturday on charges of “hostile criminal acts” against North Korea.
Additionally, his colleague Kim Sang-duk was also attested on similar charges; Sang-duk is a professor at the college, NBC News reported.
The reasons surrounding the detainments are cloudy at best and there is no indication as to whether the two cases are connected, though the latest drama has unfolded as tensions between North Korea and the U.S. are ramping up. With the arrests of Son and Sang-duk, North Korea is now holding four Americans behind bars.
As Faithwire has reported, it’s no secret that North Korea is home to the most horrific level of Christian persecution in the world. It’s this fact that makes the situation surrounding the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology that much more intriguing, especially considering that the private university is primarily funded and operated by evangelical Christians.
The White House has openly reacted to the news of Son’s weekend arrest, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling reporters that the detainment is “concerning” and that officials are working to get more information, Deseret News reported.
“We’re well aware of it and we’re going to work through the embassy of Sweden … through our State Department, to seek the release of the individuals there,” Spicer said.
Some have speculated that the arrests are an attempt by North Korea to gain bargaining chips in the country’s ongoing war of words with the U.S., and John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, further speculated on the matter in an interview with NBC News.
“It’s hard not to relate it to what’s going on in U.S.-North relations right now and we are at a peak,” Delury said. “If there is some political motivation, it’s that the detentions could be a pretext for President [Donald] Trump to send a high-level envoy to Pyongyang to get them out.”
Earlier this year, Faithwire profiled Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, noting that it 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.
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. It’s unclear if the school is currently being targeted by the regime. Read more about it here.
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