In a recent post I noted Cal Thomas’ practice of reading The New York Times and the Bible every morning so that he knows what both sides are doing. In a rare departure, The Times reported on October 26 what the other side is doing. Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) began training its first North Korean students. The unusual feature of PUST is stated by its founder, Dr. Kim Chin-kyung, a Korean-American born in Seoul. On the school’s website he wrote, “While the skills to be taught are technical in nature, the spirit underlying this historic venture is unabashedly Christian.”
How this came about is almost as startling. As a 15 year old laying wounded on a Korean War battlefield in 1950, Kim promised God that if he survived, he “would return the love to his enemies,” i.e., the Chinese and North Koreans. That promise was partially fulfilled when Kim founded a technical university in China in 1992. While in North Korea in 1998, he was arrested and charged with spying for the C.I.A. The North Koreans released him after he convinced them, as he put it, that he “was not the kind of person who would spy on them.” Two years later, the same man who had ordered his earlier arrest asked him to establish a similar university in North Korea. Now the promise is complete.
PUST is the first North Korean university funded privately, largely from American and South Korean evangelicals who want North Korea returned to an earlier, better condition. Dr. Kim reminds us, “A century ago, the northern half of the Korean peninsula was steeped in Christian and modern influences, so much so that Pyongyang, its center, was known throughout Western Christendom as ‘the Jerusalem of the East.’ God in his Providence has granted us a second opportunity to teach modern subjects to new generations of young North Koreans to encourage them to become, once again, eager to learn and borrow from the outside world.”
There are more interesting details about PUST on Matthew Hoskinson’s blog, “Debtor to Grace” (October 26 post), which can be accessed with the link on my blogroll to the right. Hoskinson is a Korean-American who served my church until recently when he accepted the call to pastor First Baptist Church of New York City.
Dr. Kim concludes his “President’s Welcome” by writing, “I invite you to join me in this truly historic venture with your prayers and support.” It’s not clear yet how well PUST will succeed, given the North Korean leaders’ motives of self-preservation and control. Can we at least accept Dr. Kim’s invitation and pray that God will use this venture to turn North Koreans to Himself?