In the U.S., there's the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Though since 1980s, it has also been promoting the social and human studies, in the earlier years the main focus was on scientific and technological research.
Similarly, there is an institution for scientific studies in North Korea where the selected top prodigies are educated. There in Li-kwa University(University of Natural Science), located in Eunjung District of Pyoungyang City, attached to the National Academy of Science(NAS), students are being trained as professional scientific researchers, entirely supported by the government (including food, clothes and even underwear.)
This institution was founded on January 27th, 1967, at the instance of Kang Young-chang, the then director of NAS and member of the Korean Worker's Party's Central Committee, that "it is necessary to train scientific prodigies." It was an unconventional measures to take, since in socialist Eastern Europe and China of those days, it was widely accepted that there was no such thing as prodigy, according to the theories of environmentally acquired inheritance(Lysenkoism-Lysenko is the biologist from the Soviet Union who rejected Mendelian theory of heredity in favor of theories of the heritability of acquired characteristics.) It can be said that this had led NK to place more emphasis on science, marking the turnaround for their development of science and technology.
The institution had started with four departments--mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology--belonging to the faculty of Natural Science in Kim Il-sung University. Until the October of 1985, it remained a special institute, its professors being direct subordinate of the party's Central Committee, and its finances provided by Central Party's Ministry of Finance and Economy. Though it was attached to the Council of Ministries' Academy of Science after then, it still is the best educational institution for scientific and technological research in NK.
In general, makeup of your ancestry and social status is put before your ability when entering universities in NK. However, Li-kwa University has been selecting students by their ability, excluding discharged soldiers and people with work experience that normally take up 5% of other universities, and only accepting students straight from high school(called Jik-tong-saeng.) It has been this way ever since 1984, according to the command of the Party's Central Committee's personnel department, that the students must be selected strictly for their ability. Therefore, it is being referred to as the University of Prodigies(of the bright minds,) being recognized to have graduated bright young intellectuals (such as Kim Seo-in and O Young-jae) and to have produced excellent scientific achievements.
The admissions process is in two phases. First, in January, they send out two professors for each province to have the applicants ranking within 30th of all the county take preliminary exam. The subjects exclude foreign language, and top five students are selected primarily by the scores on mathematics and physics. Those students take the second-round exam in July to August when the regular entrance exam takes place nationally as well. They are to take separate test on mathematics and physics set by Li-kwa University, in addition to the regular subjects taken by everyone. The process is unique in that a student with 10 points out of 10 on either math or physics exam separately written, is to be specially selected even if he or she scored relatively low on the regular subjects. In most cases, an early graduate with outstanding talent can only be admitted to Li-kwa University.
Thus selected prodigies of each field, number about 200 to 300 a year. Currently, they have 2,000 students from 6 departments--math, physics, chemistry, electronic automation, computer, and biology--and if you add all the faculty and the employees of affiliated research institutes on top of that, there are 3,000 altogether.
Most professors have master's or doctorate degree from the same university. Currently, 40~50% of them have studied abroad in China or East European countries, and taking the ones with trainings of 6 to 12 months abroad into account, most of them teach theories of modern science. Li-kwa University is known to have turned out masters and doctors in their 20s. They are being recognized as well by their actual ability, dominating the institutes of natural science of each field.
The scientific research departments of NK's National Defense organizations or special organizations are especially dominated by the graduates of Li-kwa University. Textbooks either are written by the professors or are the original books in other languages. Since 2005, they have been quickly adopting global standards with lectures in English on major courses, seminars with open discussion and presentations on the results of the research, which is highly innovative in their educational reality.
They have the longest academic program in NK, which lasts for 7 years. Their graduates are the only ones, along with the graduates of Kim Il-sung University, to be certified as specialists (while other universities give out certificates for engineers.) They are also the only university to have what we call the Industry-University-Institute collaborating, research-oriented program, as the seniors spend 1-1.5 years to work on their graduate dissertation right in the field of NSA institute.
It is generally prohibited for a normal North Korean student to read foreign books, yet Li-kwa students alone are allowed to read books on natural science from any capitalized countries so that the graduates are known to be able to understand the average of over three written languages.
Failed in just one class, you will be flunked, failed twice, you will automatically be flunked out of school. It is extremely competitive since there are 10 students per class in average, and 1-3 students out of 10 would be held back or flunked out. Questions on the test are mainly essay questions rather than multiple choices. Also, they are the only university to put aside more than 30% of the course for experiments.
Therefore, the major scientific institutes welcome their graduates, while because of the bad economy, the phenomenon of avoiding natural science and engineering seems to be also present in the North.
Even so, compared to other universities, they are recently gaining more popularity, for each area of the North is now focusing more on science, giving their graduates opportunities to enter into special organizations at all levels such as the Central Party, State Security Department, Ministry of People's Security, or Ministry of the People's Armed Forces. They can also work as professors in all other universities as soon as they graduate. In particular, it is confirmed that they are the center of strategic technologies dealing with missiles, nuclear weapons, or cyber intrusions.
As an example, there are reports through domestic international scientific journals, that they seem to have succeeded developing over 30 new technologies in the field of genetic engineering, such as embryo transfer, polyembryony and gender control of a goat and are applying them. The center of these latest technological results are the graduates of Li-kwa University.
Recently, a South Korean company promoted that they developed a fingerprint lock, which recognizes fingerprints and opens only for the allowed. The North have developed the fingerprint lock four years before us in 1994, submitted it to the 22nd International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products in Geneva, and received a gold medal. They have also developed a medical program that can diagnose a patient by recognizing the image of his face, and analyzing it through the method of oriental medication. Development of such program was led by the first graduates of Li-kwa University's Computer Science department, which was the pioneer of computer science among all NK universities.
The core technology of the launched rocket which they claim to be a satellite, is the technology of orbital tracking and control. GPS technology, which is one of it, is proved to have been successfully developed by software developers of Li-kwa University cooperated by China. This is yet another reason that their future performances in the research institutes of all field at all levels are worth attention.
Seoul Station Theoville, 62-7 Mallidong1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, 100-371, Korea
Body Corporate North Korea Strategy Information Service(NKSIS)
Publisher: Yun-keol, Lee Editor: Jun-woon, Lee
Tel: 02-585-9149, Fax: 02-586-9149, E-mail: email@example.com
Copyright ⓒ 2011 North Korea Strategy Information Service(NKSIS). nksis.com. All rights reserved
Reproduction, copying, or redistribution of the materials on NKSIS are strictly prohibited. Any unauthorized use constitutes a willful copyright infringement subject to punishment.