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Rob York is a feature writer for NK News and Ph.D candidate in Korean history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Kim Il Sung University, North Korea’s first institution of higher learning, has a new website.
Located at www.ryongnamsand.edu.kp/univ, the web page contains information on the university’s facilities and individual departments, from its medical college to its foreign languages and literature faculty to electronics and automation. There is a historical overview of the university’s mission, starting with the decision to found the school in 1946, just one year after the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.
There is also a page listed for the university’s “renowned professors,” though at present this includes just three names.
Much of the rest of the website’s offerings will be familiar to watcher’s of state media, with a section on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, which subsections including “theses on socialist education,” “on the Juche idea” and “Kim Jong Il’s patriotism.”
The university is named for national founder Kim Il Sung.
“Kim Il Sung University is associated with the immortal leadership history and achievements of President Kim Il Sung, Chairman Kim Jong Il, leader Kim Jong Un and anti-Japanese heroine Kim Jong Suk,” the website’s description reads.
“From the beginning of the university to the last period of his life, President Kim Il Sung took great care of the university. Though he was very busy with the whole affairs of the country, he visited the university 107 times and gave instructions on over 900 occasions, indicating the ways to improve the work of the university in every period and phase of the developing revolution. With parental affection, he paid deep attention to the life of the teaching staff and students.”
It also includes a link to the Journal of Kim Il Sung University, a natural sciences journal, and links to university achievements in scientific research.
The site may be accessed in English or Chosuno (the North Korean dialect of the Korean language).
Kim Il Sung University alumni include several current and former regime figures, from Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un to the current Chief Director of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland and the North’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, is also credited as an alumnus.
It also includes a pair of high-ranking Chinese officials: current Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee of Zhang Dejiang and former cultural secretary of the Chinese Embassy in both North and South Korea Yuhui Liu.
Prominent North Korea watchers Andrei Lankov and Rüdiger Frank have also attended the university as exchange students.
One North Korea watcher said that the new site appeared part of a general pattern of promoting exchanges.
“In terms of motivation, I think it fits with a process of digital opening that means more email addresses for state entities and suchlike,” said Chris Green of the Daily NK. “If that particular institution is going to be an effective provider of exchanges, for instance, this can only help.
“Of course such attempts at digital engagement have been given the green light at the top. We should be wary of reading too much into it, though.”
Main picture: Kim Il Sung University website screen grab