Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — A Malaysian university is facing public criticism for awarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un an honorary doctorate in economics.
Privately run HELP University held a “simple ceremony” at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur in early October, at which time the North Korean ambassador accepted the honor on Kim’s behalf.
The event received little attention in Malaysia but was reported by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency.
It drew criticism on social networks in Malaysia this week after the U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine expressed surprise about the decision in an article. Many Malaysians criticized the decision on the university’s Facebook page.
University president Paul Chan released a statement saying the decision was about “building a bridge to reach the people” by using “a soft constructive approach” to engage with North Korea, said reports.
“To help (North Korea) in the way we do it is a road untraveled, but we hope our first small crucial step will contribute to peace and prosperity for all,” he wrote.
North Korean state media quoted the university president as saying that Kim “makes untiring efforts for the education of the country and the well-being of its people.”
While North Korea has not released economic data in decades, it is known to suffer chronic food and power shortages. South Korea’s central bank estimates the North Korean gross national income at US$1,250 per person, compared to US$23,400 per person in South Korea, according to reports.
HELP University was established in 1986 and is well-known in Malaysia for business and psychology studies. The initials stand for Higher Education Learning Philosophy.
Chan’s office said he was unavailable for further comments Thursday and that other university representatives could not speak about the criticism of the decision.Image/mark.space.4goo.net