North and South Korea discuss initiating academic exchange programs

Yesterday's meeting marks another significant development in the recent warming of North-South relations.

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President Moon Jae-in (left) and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un (right) met in September

President Moon Jae-in (left) and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un (right) met in September (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A statement from a South Korean news outlet yesterday (Nov. 18) revealed representatives from both sides of the peninsula discussed initiating bilateral academic exchange programs during a meeting last week.

A five-person North Korean delegation made its way south last week to attend the Asia Pacific Peace and Prosperity Conference, where the possibility of renewing investigations into the Japanese mobilization of Korean laborers during World War II was discussed.

Following the visit, the Vice Chairman of North Korea’s Asia Pacific Peace Committee met with the president of Korea Institute for National Unification, Yeon Chui Kim, to talk about establishing a student exchange.

According to reports, both sides agreed that deepening academic exchange between the countries is necessary. The representatives conceded they would carry the initiative forward and establish concrete plans via the Inter-Korean Liaison office.

The representatives indicated that exchanges ought to be carried out within a range of academic fields, and also deemed it necessary to allow a broader exchange of views on the issue of reunification.

North Korea engages in a number of short and long-term academic exchange programs with countries around the world, including China and Japan, with whom the state has resumed mutual cooperation this year, after a halt in communications following the North Korean missile tests in 2017. Citizens of all countries, excluding the U.S. and South Korea, are currently permitted to study in North Korea.

The South Korean government permitted a representative student body from Seoul National University (SNU) to contact North Korean students back in June. The SNU committee said that around 100 students have expressed desire to take part in exchanges with the North.

Sources have noted yesterday’s meeting was the first to occur between think tank leaders discussing the issue of reunification this year. It marks another significant development in the recent warming of North-South relations.

During the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics this February, athletes from both sides of the peninsula walked as a joint team in the opening ceremony. In September, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and they agreed to close a key DPRK missile testing site, initiating what Moon described as “the era of no war.”