[KS] Pyongyang Univ of Science & Tech (PUST) on BBC1 TV, Mon 3 Feb, 2030 ...

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Fri Feb 7 03:40:37 EST 2014

Aidan, a brief comment on your notes quoted below:

There is very useful German term most here maybe familiar with: 
*Gleichschaltung* (forcible coordination)
The term has mostly been used for the Nazi regime, but I would really 
"urge" everyone to please consider using that term for any sort of 
dictatorship, may that be considered one on the political right or on 
the left. The power mechanics that this term explains applies from my 
observation to all totalitarian regimes.  It is a very useful term that 
explains a lot of "observations" otherwise (as in your explanations 
below) attached to singled-out institutions, structures, or even 
people. Under conditions of Gleichschaltung non of those matter! And 
what we have North Korea is a perfect example of Gleichschaltung, a 
school book example of it. Those single-institutional or even personal 
"actions" are embedded and overwritten by Gleichschaltung. (It 
absolutely does not matter who runs the show. And the 
clownesque-dramatesque TV performance of its president shows that--you 
do not have to be an expert in human nature to see that: "Oh yeah, I 
was 42 days in prison for espionage, but now I am free, can you believe 
that, I am so darn free, they even allow me to run around the campus 
within 150 meters, they just shoot me if I try to leave the hamster 
wheel." Wasn't that what he was saying?)

A very good and well written explanation of Gleichschaltung can be 
found in the below book (I think you can even read these six pages via 
'Google Books') -- many of the details there will remind you, I think, 
of North Korea (by no means ONLY of North Korea though). 
  Alan E. Steinweis, _Art, Ideology, and Economics in Nazi Germany: The 
Reich Chambers of Music, Theater, and the Visual Arts_ (Chapel Hill: 
University of North Carolina Press, 1993), pp. 32–37.
--> http://books.google.com/books?isbn=0807846074

To your question: I found absolute everything depressing in this 
documentary, starting with the repetitive and stupefying phrases of 
that BBC reporter, talking while on the plane, soon to land in a 
brutalizing, mysterious land behind the iron curtain: Transylvania. I 
will make a video installation from a thousand of those 
On-the-Plane-Intros to North Korea and show it at the next 50 
international art biennales (but even for that purpose it would be 
stultifying and outdated I fear). It is depressive because everyone 
plays with everyone. Even seeing these students IS depressing--and in 
what other country is it depressing to see young, eager people, with 
the life ahead of them? 


On Fri, 7 Feb 2014 02:20:42 -0500 (EST), Afostercarter at aol.com wrote:
> Sorry for a small typo in my last post. A corrected version is below.
> Gianluca raises some important questions here. Two thoughts:
> 1. Military. What exactly is the evidence for the KPA's alleged role 
> in PUST?
> If they built it, that would be no surprise; they build many things.
> If generals send their sons there, no surprise either; indeed the
> Panorama programme said as much.
> But if they in any sense run it, that is another question. Or to be precise,
> is it being claimed that the DPRK counterparts with whom PUST must
> liaise are military, rather than Party or the education ministry?
> Does PUST itself have any statement on this?
> 2. Syllabus. I would put it a bit differently. On the sciences side, I do
> wonder what exactly PUST is adding, given that the DPRK's own
> universities are heavily science and technology-oriented already.
> What surely is distinctive, as seen in the programme, is the business
> major. As I understand, this is North Korea's first MBA. And as we saw,
> you can't begin to teach in those areas without raising and confronting
>  matters well beyond the scope of official DPRK discourse.
> Finally, we know of old that under totalitarianism people live a double
> life, and are very skilled at it - including of course showing no 
> trace of it.
> I would be amazed if any PUST student was unaware of who is running
> their school and why. But it was rather juvenile, and a bit irresponsible,
> for Panorama to keep prodding in the hope of getting somebody to
> go off-message on camera. Of course they wouldn't do that.
> I remain a net optimist regarding PUST.
> Cheers
> Aidan FC
> Aidan Foster-Carter
> Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds 
> University, UK
> E: afostercarter at aol.com     afostercarter at yahoo.com   W: www.aidanfc.net   
> Skype:  Aidan.Foster.Carter                          Twitter:  @fcaidan  
> ________________________
> In a message dated 06/02/2014 22:35:08 GMT Standard Time, 
> Afostercarter at aol.com writes:
>> So already a fruitful debate begins. I hope it continues.
>> I was curious as to what in particular had depressed Frank.
>> The BBC programme? Or PUST itself? Or both?
>> Others' responses so far vary on this point.
>> For my part, I'm not entirely depressed about either.
>> It seems to me a net gain, and amazing, that PUST exists at all.
>> As for the programme, it could have been worse (Sweeney!)
>> - though also much better. Why on earth did no one ask
>> why the students are all male?
>> And while I'm being a big softie, imho Caroline is a bit
>> hard on the late great sad MJ: also a victim. But she
>> has the DPRK's British fan-club on her side:
>> ... the people of the DPRK are better off without the degenerate
>> whooping  and screeching sounds of Michael Jackson!
>> Cheers
>> Aidan FC
> ___________________
> In a message dated 06/02/2014 22:35:36 GMT Standard Time, 
> spezzagianluca at gmail.com writes:
>> yes Nicholas,
>> actually no need to believe it. it's a fact the KPA is involved in 
>> PUST. they built it from scratch, they run most of the facilities if 
>> not all of them, they do the maintenance, they send some of their 
>> children there (others go to a couple of special military 
>> institutions in PY, pretty much as well equipped as PUST), and given 
>> that every single bit of educational material is scrupulously 
>> checked before it reaches the classrom, we know this is also done by 
>> part of the military. 
>> I agree with Caroline that some of the questions in the doc were a 
>> bit dumb (seriously, michael jackson ...of all people?) but then 
>> again that is BBC panorama. They do have the urgency to proclaim 
>> they found some 'incredible story' behind everything, like the 
>> students going to the 'juche building' to receive classes in 
>> politics, ideology and history. that has been happening since 1948 
>> in NK, in every school, not much news there. Also such practice is 
>> one of the pillars on which Dr. James Kim built his agreement with 
>> the NK government (just as he did in China for YUST): zero 
>> interference with politics/absolute lip service to the ruling 
>> government, and it could not be otherwise or the school would have 
>> never seen the light.  
>> However, this works for non-sensitive subjects, such as computer 
>> science, agriculture or chemistry, it is clear that students remain 
>> behind on many important topics: economy, private finance, 
>> individual rights, history, media, and this all makes their 
>> education less valuable (some say useless) outside of North Korea. 
>> The real question for me is how long can PUST continue to teach in 
>> such a sealed-off environment and is it really worth it in terms of 
>> 'positive change for the future of North Korea and its integration 
>> with the rest of the world'? 
>> We'll probably see very skilled agronomists and statisticians in NK 
>> in the next years , who still won't know how life really goes on 
>> outside of their country. What's the point?
>> Last, one question i would have liked to ask (but I know it can't be 
>> asked, even  off the record) is: do students at PUST know about how 
>> the university came about, who funds it and who founded it and what 
>> is the story behind the Christian foundation that owns and runs PUST 
>> and YUST)? 
>> I know the answer is 'no' (and this has been confirmed by all the 
>> PUST-related people i have interviewed), because it would be very 
>> hard to explain the that their government allowed a religious 
>> foundation, with HQs in US and SK to run one of the top schools in 
>> the country.
>> Cheers
>> G. Spezza - NK News
>> On 06/02/14 15:35, levi nicolas wrote:
>>> I'm probably feeling more depressed than Frank Hoffman.
>>> I also do believe that the KPA is involved in the management of the PUST. 
>>> De : Caroline Norma <cazzpeta at hotmail.com>
>>> À : Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com> 
>>> Envoyé le : Jeudi 6 février 2014 14h24
>>> Objet : Re: [KS] Pyongyang Univ of Science & Tech (PUST) on BBC1 
>>> TV, Mon 3 Feb, 2030 ...
>>> Yes, a truly awful documentary, but the scene where the student 
>>> points out the factory owner would have to give up ownership, and 
>>> that was the 'problem' with the task assigned, was at least one 
>>> bright moment. And how appropriate that the presenter asked the 
>>> class whether they knew who Michael Jackson was--the biggest symbol 
>>> of decadent, paedophilic, drugged up western social decline anyone 
>>> could think of. It was almost a relief they had no idea.
>>> Many thanks for forwarding the link.
>>> Caroline Norma
>>>> Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2014 10:21:55 -0800
>>>> From: hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
>>>> To: koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com
>>>> Subject: Re: [KS] Pyongyang Univ of Science & Tech (PUST) on BBC1 
>>> TV, Mon 3 Feb, 2030 ...
>>>> Dear Aidan -- sure, can amplify and magnify, quantify and objectify, 
>>>> but it shall just be another stultifying experience. That is not needed.
>>>> Frank
>>>> On Wed, 5 Feb 2014 09:47:50 -0500 (EST), Afostercarter at aol.com wrote:
>>>> > Frank, this has to be your shortest post ever.
>>>> > Care to amplify?
>>>> > 
>>>> > Best
>>>> > Aidan
>>>> > 
>>>> > __________________
>>>> > 
>>>> > In a message dated 05/02/2014 12:34:30 GMT Standard Time, 
>>>> > hoffmann at koreanstudies.com writes:
>>>> >> 
>>>> >> How depressing.
>>>> >> 
>>>> >> Regards,
>>>> >> Frank
>>>> >> 
>>>> >> 

Frank Hoffmann

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