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Oct 16, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Representatives from universities in Germany and North Korea came together last month in Pyongyang to sign a new protocol on exchange and co-operation. Here’s a closer look at the agreement, as recently reported by the Yonhap News Agency.

A First of Its Kind

Germany's Berlin Free University and North Korea’s prestigious Kim Il Sung University have made a formal commitment to exchange and co-operation in the field of humanities and sociology. As Kim Il Sung University typically limits co-operation relationships to the old socialist countries, this is a rare development.

Berlin Free University's Institute of Korean Studies and Kim Il Sung University’s German department also signed a memo of understanding (MOU) to conduct joint research. The first project? To work together on research on Seowon, an educational institute where scholars gathered to learn during the Joseon Dynasty.  For the first time, German researchers will have access to documents from this time.

Pushing the Boundaries of Knowledge

Berlin Free University’s Institute of Korean Studies head Lee Eun-jeong in her speech during the ceremony, “The Free University of Berlin has long been making educational exchanges with Kim Il Sung University, which brought us to establish an official relationship to co-operate at this stage. We can now conduct more research in the fields that have not been much studied in North Korea.”

Lee also suggested that more collaborations would be possible in the future, specifically pointing to the potential for ties between South Korean higher education institutes and Kim Il Sung University.

“It was possible for the Free University of Berlin to establish an exchange and co-operation relationship with Kim Il Sung University because we've been developing ties for a long time. It is important not to be hasty but start with small exchanges in particular fields," she said.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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