Lafayette students to study abroad in North Korea

Students at Lafayette College will be sending 10-20 students to the country.

Lafayette College in Pennsylvania announced they will be sending a study abroad program to South Korea, China and North Korea.

The United States Department of State currently has a travel warning issued for North Korea, which is their highest level of caution.

The East-Asian study abroad program, created by Allison Alexy, assistant professor of anthropology at Lafayette, was inspired by Alexy's trip to North Korea last summer. Alexy and Lafayette assistant professor of political science Seo-Hyun Park will lead the new program.

Alexy said she was interested in the amount of interaction she saw between North Korea and China. She was surprised the nation was not as isolated as one would expect. There was a large amount of goods, aid and people travelling across the border in plain sight.

"It's not as simple as a kind of nation as a black hole," Alexy said.

Lafayette College was cautiously supportive of the program. In order to make sure the 10 to 20 students who go will be safe, they created plans for emergency situations. The students will also be required to attend five workshops before they leave.

"That's going to be partially about the politics and history and cultures of the country that we're visiting, so students have more of a base of knowledge that they can draw from when we're actually in the country," Alexy said.

While in Korea, the students will be visiting museums, possibly attending the Arirang festival and interacting with North Korean students.

"It's not about paying homage to North Korea or the North Korean government or leadership, it's about forging personal connections that I think are the kind of things that really do change the world," Alexy said.

According to Alexy, many other universities have shown an interest in similar programs.

"It's so influential and so much more of a mystery than other cultures in Asia so there is a lot of interest," she said.

Barbara Lindeman, the director of Study Abroad at MU, said MU would not offer a study abroad to North Korea.

"The University of Missouri does not support study abroad to countries for which the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning, which is their highest level of caution." Lindeman said in an email.

MU Korean professor Seungknow You teaches a class in Korea Unification, which, according to Myzou, discusses North Korean ideology, political systems, economic systems, military and negotiating behavior. He believes North Korea is safe for students to visit.

"I think it will be safe," You said. "Not because North Korea regime is behaving nicely, but because they have to welcome American students, so they can achieve their goals, which would be effective and direct communication with U.S."

You said this type of trip would be a rare and valuable experience for American students.

While in North Korea, the students and faculty would follow all of the local laws.

"We're probably not going to have the freedom-like if you go to Paris or something, you can just go off and explore the city and wander around and that kind of stuff," Alexy said. "That's not going to happen in North Korea."

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