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Foreign English teachers in Pyongyang

Posted April. 26, 2017 07:17,   

Updated April. 26, 2017 07:20


"Take cash. You won't be able to use ATMs or credit cards there." "Do not speak about religion whatsoever." "No lights will be on and electricity will be spottily available, meaning you should take with you at least one flash light and as many batteries as possible."

These are the guidelines that were offered by a professor at the Pyongyang Science and Technology University in 2011, a year after the university's opening. However, such guidelines are hard to swallow even though the university is said to funded by evangelical Christians and that it is a prestigious one that lectures only in English.

These rules appear at a book "Without you, there is no us" written by Korean-American author Suki Kim. Kim published this book in an undercover journalism format based on her experience as an English professor in Pyongyang for six months. Six years have passed since she left the school, but tangible and intangible restrictions appear to be still existing there. Kim recalls that she felt extremely anxious while living in Pyongyang saying it was like living in a fishbowl. Her book also talks about a foreign professor who said he wrote a will before heading for Pyongyang.

With the U.S. currently practicing a maximum pressure on North Korea mobilizing aircraft carrier and nuclear-powered submarine, observers say that North Korea could take hostage some 80 professors at the Pyongyang Science and Technology University. Tony Kim, former Yongbyon Science and Technology University professor who previously taught at the Pyongyang university, is already arrested. Korean and foreign professors are fostering professionals in the telecommunications, agricultural life, financial management sectors, based on fraternity and religious faith despite difficult and unfamiliar environment. If these professors are used as shields, North Korea will have no room for excuse against criticisms that it is repaying kindness with ingratitude.

In Kim's book, a female Korean-Kiwi professor tries to teach how to eat food with forks and knives but in vain. Students refused to learn Western eating habits saying all they need is to learn English. This professor exploded in anger saying it means that they want just English and is demanding us not to assimilate into the North Korean society. In North Korea, the leadership as well as elite students think the world rotates with them at the center. If North Korea is persistent as such, it will never pull itself out of self-invited isolation.