SEOUL, KOREA — Kim Ilseong University is a national university founded October 1, 1946 in Pyongyang to commemorate the head of the state Kim Ilseong, Located in Daeseong district within Pyeongyang city, the university is also called 'Kim Dae (as in Daehak, university in Korean)', or 'Jonghapdae' (from the full name Kim Ilseong Jonghap Daehak)'. It was the Resolution Number 40 made by Limsi People's Committee in July, 1946 that led to the opening of the college, which was later promoted as a university, in order to "foster the people's leaders who mastered the Revolution Ideology of the leader Kim Ilseong and modern science theories."
In the beginning, Kim Ilseong University had seven divisions and 24 courses and now has changed to three colleges, 15 divisions, and 60 courses. As a top educational institution of the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea, the university requires high grades in 'preliminary exam for university admission' and recommendations from a headmaster, municipal committee, or employer as well as a through pedigree inspection.
The university consists of college buildings with a total area of 400 km2 built within the 1,560 km2 site. Apart from the main building-- which was built over 50 years ago, building no.1 and no.2, there is a gymnasium, science library, nature museum, publishing house, printing factory, practice laboratory, marine laboratory, as well as a dormitory, cafeteria, and hospital.
At the moment, over 100 courses are provided at fifteen divisions that also include 500 laboratories and 10 research centers which house more than 100 laboratories for researchers and doctors. Around 12,000 students are studying in over 600 classes while more than 6,000 employees are working at the university - among the staff, 2,500 people are either a professor or researcher, 70 of whom hold a master or doctorate degree. Female professors take up 20 percent of the total. Students are allotted monthly scholarships to pay for textbooks, uniforms, accommodation, and transportation. The number of female students make up 20 to 30 percent. 70 percent of the students stay in the dormitory and the rest - who are generally from Pyongyang - commute from their home. More than 60,000 people have graduated from the university so far, and the number of graduates average between 1,500 and 2,500 each year.
North Korean universities are run by both their own administrative system and the communist party's government. The chancellor supervises general administration issues within the university, and the university's chief secretary is in charge of the party and social organizations. Deans and heads of an administrative department are directly under the chancellor's control, whereas the executives of the party and social organizations form the 'university council,' the highest decision-making body. Furthermore, the chancellor is assisted by the chief director-- who is also the chief secretary of the party committee of the university and oversees the party and student activities, the administration director, science department director, and accounting director. The science department director controls the research projects and the accounting director looks after the finances for the university. The administration director is superior to a doctorate superintendent, research superintendent, and academic superintendent, while it is the academic superintendent's prerogative to direct the deans and administrative staff.
In effect, the chief secretary of the party committee, i.e., the chief director, manages the overall operation and curriculum of the university in association with the party committee of each division. In addition to the division committee, the junior committee of each grade and such social organizations as the Communist Youth's Labor Association and Women's Union fall under the responsibility of the chief secretary who also makes sure that the ideas and policies of the Korean Labor Party are well integrated into the lectures.
Kim Ilseong University includes 15 divisions and 60 courses, mostly based on humanities and natural science. Humanities is a 4-year program, like other universities in general, but a natural science major requires 5 years of study and, depending on the subject, there are night classes and distance-learning broadcast classes. History and philosophy courses, in particular, concentrate on fostering followers of Kim Ilseong Ideologies - including his revolutionary achievements and Juche Ideology.
Kim Ilseong University differentiates from other universities in North Korea for two reasons:
1) Continuing Education: Students in this division are those who have been working three to five years after graduation and then come back to the university in order to assess their previous work or update their knowledge. Normally, this division is offered as a two-month program, and students spend two terms in a year.
2) College of Computer Science (Vice Dean: Song Hyeonjun): The biggest college in the country, this division teaches around 500 students each year.
There are 10 research centers in the university: 'Juche Ideology Research Center' is the only one related to the humanities department and the rest belongs to natural science for subjects like calculation, biotechnology, catalyst, atomic power, electro-physics, and chemical experiments.
Researchers are classified into research assistant, researcher, senior researcher, level-2 and level-1 researcher. Those with highest level of achievement and authority within a science research field in North Korea are called Wonsa, which is a level higher than Wonsa candidate. The Wonsa title is conferred by the Academic Degree and Award Committee of Chosun Centeral People's Commission to researchers or professors who made a notable achievement in their field. Apart from a few candidates, there are currently 24 Wonsas and five of them belong to Kim Ilseong University - which shows the level and prestige of the university.
Programs and Curricula
Although the university's programs are set for 4.5 years in case of the humanities department and 5.5 years for natural science, the introduction of a new policy means that students who are admitted to the university must take a 1-year preliminary course before studying any major course. Each school year is comprised of two semesters with 9 weeks of annual vacation. University students are required to complete between 24 and 35 subjects - including experiment and practice classes, which take up 30 percent for humanities and 50 percent for natural science students - according to the university policy.
Kim Ilseong University has opened its door to international students since the early 1950s. Foreign students who go to North Korea come from a variety of countries such as Mongolia, Russia, Albania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Germany, Cameroon, India, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Cuba, Finland, Kenya, Cambodia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Chile, Iran, and China, which has sent the most number-- around 400 between 1954 and 1994, of international students so far. Most of the international students go to study the Korean language, but many work for diplomacy or Korean studies after graduation.
In general, students who enter Kim Ilseong University are those that scored the top in the college admission exam executed by the North Korean government. The selection process mandates the student's GPA from their high school, letter of recommendation from a municipal education committee, employer, or principal of their high school, and through identity examination. Pedigree, political organization activities, preliminary exam, and final exam each contribute a quarter of the total score. Kim Ilseong University graduates are now working for the government or other political entities within and outside North Korea, and occasionally, the university awards an honorary degree for national guests.
The chancellor of Kim Ilseong University is treated at the same level as the Prime Minister. In addition, more than half of the directors and over a third of the department chiefs within the North Korean government have graduated from the university. Among the top 100 power elites of the country, 25 people are from Mangyeong Revolution Academy whereas 34 including Kim Jeongil graduated from Kim Ilseong University. The head of the state Kim Jeongil graduated in 1964 after majoring in political-economy while his siblings and wife Kim Seongae studied English literature at the same university, which illustrates the university's standing in North Korea.