Wednesday, February 17, 2010

North Korean Elites Learning English

Article in the BBC tells us about North Korean elites taking English classes.

In a sign that it may one day open up to the Western world, North Korea has gradually shifted a lot of its language training away from Chinese and Russian and towards English.
Interesting to note was the introduction which described the University classroom as cold and that the students were wearing their outdoor coats. This sounded very familiar to me as all through winter in public schools kids rarely take off their winter coats. But I can imagine the North not having the heat on due to more critical issues than just saving money.

A really touching part came from one student who said:

"It helps us a lot learning English. I so much want my country to be one of those leading in the economy."
"We're already a leading nation in politics and other stuff. Well, it's no offence but I want to learn English so that the other people get to learn [about] Korea."
She smiled and said "Look at our faces - are we depressed, are we unhappy, are we hungry? No."

One hopes this kind of attitude takes shape out there and helps form peaceful ties between nations.


  1. That BBC article is all propaganda, and those students in the capital are the cream of the dictator's crop. “ABC News Primetime North Korea: Inside the Shadows" with Diane Sawyer actually did a much more thorough investigation into North Korea over 12 days in which the average student actually thought "Shrek" and "Toy Story" were North Korean (you can order this video from and were speaking perfect English 4 years ago back in 2006.

    For a look at how the average person in North Korea lives check out this movie made by the lucky few that have escaped his gulags and his man-made food shortages (most of the fertile land is used to grow drugs to provide hard currency to the regime):

    One of the most frustrating things about living in South Korea is just how little the students here actually know about what is really going on north of the DMZ in the other Korea.

  2. By the way, there are a few more days left to vote for fund providing assistance to North Korean refugees in the United States. Pepsi-cola is donating millions of dollars to fund great ideas, but only the top two vote getters receive the funds ($250,000). Right now, this great idea, in the "Food and Shelter" category, is in fourth place:

    The goals are to
    •Provide job training, and career counseling for refugees.
    •Provide medical and psychological services for North Korean refugees.
    •Provide food for North Korean refugees once resettled in the U.S.
    •Facilitate language acquisition and cultural orientation for refugees.
    •Provide housing for North Korean refugees once resettled in the U.S.

    It only takes a second or two to vote and it's also on facebook.

  3. Thank you is good to know all that.

  4. The Pepsi website to vote for all the categories is: There is even a category for "Arts and Culture." Personally, I'm pretty interested in the "Education" category.

  5. Thanx for posting that info John from Daejeon!


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