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North Korea's leading university strikes an exchange deal with an Italian institute

North Korea's leading university strikes an exchange deal with an Italian institute

To condemn North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, several countries have imposed strict sanctions on the country. As a result, the inclusion of North Korean researchers in international research projects and collaborations is highly restricted. However, last month (March 2019), a top university from North Korea entered an exchange agreement with an Italian university.

As part of this deal, researchers from Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang and the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), a university in Italy, will be able to visit each other’s institutions. The researchers will be able to collaborate with each other on projects in the field of computational neuroscience. Moreover, North Korean researchers will be able to receive training from their Italian colleagues.

This could be a major development for North Korean physicists since their field’s proximity to nuclear research prevents them from working collaboratively with international researchers. The main objective behind this deal is Kim Il-sung University’s vision of developing a neuroscience department. Their lack of required expertise and guidance to plan the project led them to collaborate with the Italian university.

Now, SISSA expects up to three researchers from North Korea to visit their university every year. Hak-Chol Pak, head of physics at the Korean university stated that the deal was non-political. “We are scientists, motivated only by science,” he said. Computational neuroscientist Alessandro Treves at SISSA, who played a crucial role in negotiating the agreement, believes that the deal is critical for science diplomacy.

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