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First joint university set to open in Pyongyang next year

The Democratic of People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) plan to open their first joint university in Pyongyang next year aimed at educating DPRK people to become business professionals, an ROK official said yesterday.

The planned opening of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in April 2007 comes amid increased economic exchanges between the DPRK and the ROK.

The university, which will offer postgraduate courses, is aimed at producing professionals needed for the ROK's projects in the DPRK and also, those that would help the DPRK "stand on its own feet economically," said an official at the Seoul-based Northeast Asia Foundation for Education and Culture, which is managing the project.

Some 50 professors, mostly from the ROK, will teach 200 DPRK students when it opens, the official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to reporters.

The curriculum will focus on economics, business administration and international trade, as well as information technology and biotechnology.

The project was approved by both governments in 2001 and construction is under way in the DPRK capital, the official said. Funds for the university are coming from the ROK, but the DPRK is providing the land and labour for construction.

Relations between the two countries have improved significantly in recent years, especially after an unprecedented meeting between their leaders in 2000.

Meanwhile, the ROK and the DPRK will hold working-level talks next week to prepare for a test-run of two sets of inter-Korean railways built across the world's most heavily fortified border, a ROK official said yesterday.

"We will make preparations necessary to test-run a train within March," Vice-Unification Minister Shin Un-sang told reporters, regarding the two-day talks set to open on Monday in the DPRK border city of Kaesong.

His remarks come after former ROK President Kim Dae-jung said he hoped to travel on the inter-Korean railway when he visits DPRK leader Kim Jong-il in June.

The former ROK leader won the 2000 Nobel peace prize for his "sunshine" policy of engaging the DPRK after holding a landmark summit with the DPRK's Kim that year, a breakthrough that touched off a range of cross-border projects and reconciliation.

As part of the summit agreements, the DPRK and the ROK have reconnected two sets of rail and road links severed before the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The two sides had agreed to test-run the railways and open adjacent roads in October, but this has been delayed.

Deadlines for bilateral projects have frequently been missed because of political tensions and other problems.

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