April 16, 2024

A minority in a minority: College students in 1980s North Korea

Most university students came to Pyongyang for the Korean language, but got limited interaction

Students formed a rather small part of the expat community in Pyongyang back in 1984. As I mentioned previously, most students from the socialist bloc came to North Korea for a year for language studies. Some students eventually enrolled at Kim Il Sung University as regular students, to graduate there, but this was mainly done by the Chinese.

In 1984-85 there were 31 students from different countries studying Korean at Kim Il Sung University. Apart from them, there were 22 Chinese teachers – they were there to improve their language skills. But these teachers steered well clear of us. Of these students, there were seven Soviets, eight East Germans, four Czechoslovakians, two Pakistanis, and four Cambodians (either supporters of Norodom Sihanouk or Pol Pot).

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