Friday, July 16, 2010

North Korean defectors establish research institute

The world’s first North Korean research institute set up by a North Korean defector has just opened in Seoul. The World Institute for North Korean Studies, or WINK, which is housed in a small office in Yeoksam-dong, in southern Seoul, had an opening ceremony attended by dozens of well-known North Korea experts.

The attention it has already gained is primarily because founder An Chan-il, a visiting professor at the University of Virginia, is heading the institution. An, a leading scholar in North Korean issues, is regarded as one of the most successful North Korean defectors living in the South. Three of the 10 researchers at the institute are also scholars who defected from the North.

Attention is also being paid to An’s call for a paradigm shift in North Korean studies. “Unlike other research institutes whose focuses are mainly on analyzing issues generating from North Korea, we will provide alternative solutions that North Korea can use,” said An, 56, in an interview before the opening ceremony. “The alternative solutions we will provide will in particular cover the areas of politics, economy and social integration.”

An said that helping North Korean leadership deal with major challenges will help it move toward opening up to the outside world and reform. “Rather than suggesting solutions that are too much for the country to take, or which could alienate it, we think that recommendations on how it can get closer to the rest of the world without threatening the leaders’ grip on power is the most effective approach,” he said.

The name of the institute, WINK, was chosen with that very gesture in mind, he said. “We want to send a wink as a sign of recognition.”

An also wants the institute to become a network for North Korean defectors.

[JoongAng Daily]

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