North Korea will not reissue working visas to two American Christian professors at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the Washington D.C. based Voice of America reported on Tuesday.
Robert and Sandra-Lee Moynihan – who taught business and economics at PUST from August to November last year – were supposed to teach in Pyongyang again from March this year, but were told that North Korea would not provide them with visas for a second tenure at the school.
The two professors, both of whom are practising Christians, contacted the school’s principle and other officials at the technical school to find out why the visas had been denied, but were denied an explanation, VOA said.
Ms. Moynihan told VOA that because the North Korean students seemed afraid of raising questions at the beginning of her term, she encouraged the students to question more in class. She said that she believed her and her husband were blacklisted because of their efforts to develop students’ critical thinking capacities.
But in a country that views Christianity with deep suspicion and arrested American citizen Kenneth Bae in-part for missionary activities, the Moynihan’s faith may have also contributed to North Korea’s decision to reject further visas.
The couple recently spoke in Oklahoma about their “North Korea missional outreach” activities at PUST and Ms. Moynihan is a member of the International Cowboy Church Alliance Network (ICCAN), a group that serves churches and ministries “culturally connected with interest in the western culture”.
Although the vast majority of foreign teachers at PUST are Christians, they are strictly required by their North Korean hosts to keep religion and missionary activities out of their work.
“We are thankful that we are approved to go and teach at PUST, in Pyongyang, North Korea. We thank the Lord for this opportunity! There is a foundation of a church on the campus and we pray…,” Ms. Moynihan said on her ICCAN page, prior to leaving for North Korea last summer.
Pyongyang does not officially view PUST as a “foundation of a church,” despite it being funded largely by donations from Christian communities in South Korea and the U.S.
PUST is North Korea’s first privately funded university and opened in 2010. The stated goal of PUST, which teaches in English, is to contribute to North Korean economic development by producing professionals and leaders in various technical disciplines.
Additional reporting: Chad O’Carroll in London
Main picture: Wikmedia Commons