Reuters: Private University in North Korea Seeks Texas A&M Academic Help

Universities and their innovations thrive with collaboration. “The leaders of the only private university in North Korea asked Texas A&M University, known for its agricultural economics and public health programs, for help on Monday in teaching subjects such as how to grow food in a land of chronic shortages,” reports Jon Herskovitz for Reuters. The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, run by evangelical Christians, notes that the request is academic, with humanitarian goals centered on nutrition and food security, and not political. The North Korean university approached other universities, too, but Texas A&M alone allowed public notification. North Korea’s system for distributing and rationing food has not recovered from a severe famine almost two decades ago and food shortages since. North Korea, a country under sanctions for its nuclear weapons program, has more than 25 million people. More than 35 percent of the population is under-nourished, among the highest rates in the world – YaleGlobal

Reuters: Private University in North Korea Seeks Texas A&M Academic Help

North Korea has among the highest rates of hunger in world; Pyongyang University of Science and Technology turns to Texas A&M for advice on food security
Jon Herskovitz
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The leaders of the only private university in North Korea asked Texas A&M University, known for its agricultural economics and public health programs, for help on Monday in teaching subjects such as how to grow food in a land of chronic shortages.

The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) was founded by evangelical Christians and opened in 2010, with students generally the children of the country’s elite. A PUST delegation visiting the school said the help is not about politics but about using academics for humanitarian ideals.

“There is no school like this in North Korea,” Yu-Taik Chon, executive vice president of the university in the North Korean capital, told Texas A&M officials, adding PUST can open a door to the outside world for the future leaders of the reclusive state.

North Korea’s centrally planned rationing system never recovered from a famine in the 1990s. From April to June last year the state handed out just 360 grams (12.7 oz) of rations per person per day, the lowest amount for five years, a World Food Program report said.

The volunteer faculty of PUST, many of whom are evangelical Christians, has a curriculum that includes subjects once considered taboo in North Korea, such as capitalism. The college is an unlikely fit in a country that has been condemned by the U.S. State Department for cracking down on freedom of religion.

But at times, North Korea has allowed help, especially when someone else picks up the tab for an expensive project the country’s leadership has felt was not undermining the state.

The staff at PUST avoids talking about politics and religion in the classroom, delegation members said.
The delegation is seeking help from about 10 U.S. universities on topics such as food security and improving nutrition. The United States is a leading proponent of sanctions on North Korea for its military provocations and nuclear arms program.

PUST faculty members in the delegation said the other U.S. schools that have been approached have asked to keep their names private.

Texas A&M has projects in several global hot spots, including Afghanistan and central Africa.

See the World Food Programme Hunger Map for 2015.

© 2017 Reuters. All Rights Reserved.

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