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S. Korean chief says joint university in North aims to open this year

All Headlines 22:55 September 17, 2009

SHENYANG, China, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean co-chief of a newly built joint university in North Korea said Thursday that the school aims to open within this year, despite its shortage of educational equipment and faculty.

"North Korea is stumping for opening this university," Kim Jin-kyung, co-president of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, said, returning from a three-day trip to the North Korean capital.

A ceremony was held a day earlier to celebrate the completion of the university built with donations from the South to help train young North Koreans with advanced technology. But it is still uncertain when the school will open, as South Korea was withholding shipments of computers and other educational equipment amid the North's nuclear weapons drive.

"There are many difficulties, but we are aiming to open the school within this year," Kim said. He is also president of the Yanbian University of Science and Technology, run with South Korean non-governmental funding, in the Korean autonomous prefecture of Yanbian, northeastern China.

The school seeks to first accept 150 students in the fields of information and communications engineering; agricultural biotechnology and food engineering; and industrial management, he said.

All lectures will be in English, and students will be required to meet the paper-based TOEFL score of 550, Kim said. North Korea has already recruited prospective students among "carefully chosen elites" who studied at top North Korean schools like Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology, he added.

"North Korea asked us to get the school to have competent faculty members," he said. "We expect the South Korean government to lend support in the larger context of inter-Korean reconciliation."

Park Chan-mo, a science and technology advisor to President Lee Myung-bak who attended the completion ceremony with Kim, said Seoul is supportive.

"The fact that (the government) gave permission to the North Korea trip shows it has a will to lend support," Park said.

The school will be reportedly co-headed by North Korea's vice education minister, Jon Kuk-man. North Korean media reported the South Korean delegation's departure earlier Thursday.

hkim@yna.co.kr
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