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A Korea-born American who heads Pyongyang's only private university is trying to teach students in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea about market economies.
The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, co-founded by Park Chan-mo, is teaching dozens of DPRK citizens about modern market economies, something the state has managed for decades to avoid.
"I want whatever they learn to be used to revive their country's economy," Park said in an interview.
"We emphasize practicality and commercialization of their knowledge," said the 77-year-old computer scientist, who used to be president of a Republic of Korea university.
The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology was started at the turn of the century when relations between the two Koreas were starting to warm after decades of a bitter divide.
It finally opened its doors in October 2010 and now has 300 undergraduate and 70 graduate students in its three departments: electronic and computer engineering, international finance and management and agriculture and life sciences.
The students are handpicked from those who have studied at least two years at the country's top state colleges. So far all the students are men, but it is considering building a dormitory for women.
"International finance and management study is very popular. Maybe it is because the dean (of that department) ... told students in a seminar: 'If you do this, you can make lots of money'," a smiling Park said.
"Students study very hard to learn (about the Western economy). Although they have some weaknesses in basics, they have no problem to catch up because they are good at math."
Everything, including tuition and living costs at dormitories, is free. Students have a monthly $10 cash card to buy snacks at the cafeteria.
Although the DPRK government provides no funding, it did mobilize 1,000 soldiers to construct the campus, which has 17 buildings, above one of which hangs a sign eulogizing the new leader Kim.
The students, Park says, are industrious and eager to learn.
Asked if they found the market economy an alien concept, he said: "Even students from the information technology field already know they should learn about the economy to make money."
(China Daily 08/06/2012 page23)