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□ North Korea opens its first toll expressway
According to the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, starting January 20, 2018, North Korea will begin collecting tolls on the expressway between Pyongyang and Wonsan—a first time for the country to collect such tolls.

According to the Seoul-Pyongyang News, the Russian embassy explained in its Facebook on January 17 that it would be “the first time for the North Korean drivers to pay 8 euros (equivalent to 10,450 won in the South Korean currency) to take the Pyongyang-Wonsan Tourist Motorway.”

This recently resurfaced motorway first opened in September 1978, connecting Wonsan (Kangwon province) on the east and Pyongyang City on the west.

The recent photos provided by the embassy reveal an electronic payment station collecting the toll at the entrance of the expressway. They also reveal a map showing the Pyongchon Kwangmyong Technology Exchange Station, where drivers can purchase (or recharge) electronic payment cards and Mirae electronic cards issued by Mirae Bank.

In the meantime, more than one foreign diplomat in Pyongyang said that the North Korean authorities had sent a letter to the foreign missions and the representatives of international organizations in Pyongyang on January 15 to inform them of the new policy, Radio Free Asia reported.

Another Western diplomat in Pyongyang, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that the letter included the highway toll policy and detailed regulations, which explained that it would cost about 8 euros (0.02 euro per kilometer) or about USD10 for a total of 194 kilometers round trip between Pyongyang and Wonsan (or 3.88 euro for one way), if one is traveling by ordinary passenger car. However, large-sized buses will be charged a toll of about 27 euros for a roundtrip—Pyongyang to Wonsan and back—or 13.58 euros for a one-way trip.

The new tolls are expected to be applied to not only foreign residents in Pyongyang, such as diplomats and the agents of international organizations, but also the general public.

□ Kim Jong-un visits Pyongyang Teacher Training College
Chairman Kim Jong-un completed a field-guidance visit to the newly-remodeled Pyongyang Teacher Training College (PTTC), Rodong Sinmun reported on January 17.

In February last year, Kim ordered the PTTC staffs to make their college an exemplary education institute displaying high-level ‘scientification’, ‘informatization’, and ‘modernization’ so that the college could be a model used countrywide.

During his visit, Kim said, “Education is a patriotic project requiring a long-term plan for the future of the country. Teachers have an important mission to start a revolution in education and enhance the national prestige as a nation of education, full of talented people.”

“A person develops a different point of view and opinion on reality, depending on what kind of education he or she received during his or her childhood, which is an important stage in the development of his or her intellectual mind,” he asserted. Furthermore, he added, “The [Workers’] Party places a great emphasis on the PTTC, which is the original seed farm training the teachers who are responsible for the education of children.” He added, “That is why the Party is making efforts in rebuilding and modernizing the PTTC, and so all other provincial governments must run local teacher training colleges by emulating the example of the PTTC.”

Moreover, Kim said, “The distinguished workers who will shoulder the future of the country will emerge only among those students who are taught by the teachers with high skills.” He stressed that all faculty members in the country, including those of the PTTC, “must have a keen awareness that they are the masters of the education projects and the main actors in an educational revolution of the new century, and devote their patriotic enthusiasm and clean conscience to the business.”

Furthermore, the North Korean leader instructed the PTTC staffs “to complete the improvement of their education programs, increase the ratio of laboratory experiment in their curriculum, and set the aim of their education projects at raising the students’ creative ability in order to help them acquire a broad knowledge of nature and society, and to increase their intellectual capacity, application ability and independence.”

In addition, he commended the college for having raised the students’ motivation to study as well as their academic ability based on the self-development of an administrative and management system for education and science. This system is said to consist of education information, education and administration guidance and management, and curriculum management.

Finally, he said, the college has superbly designed, with all of its classrooms, including the teaching methodology lab for elementary school teachers, natural science experiment lab for teachers, and the children’s intelligence development technique room, serving as multi-functional classrooms for students to develop practical skills in their major areas of study. According to Chairman Kim, teaching method that “allows students to practice in a virtual environment as well as in the real-life situations is new and distinctive.”

□ Inter-Korean Agreements concerning North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics
South and North Korea held high-level talks on January 9, 2018 at the Peace House (on the South Korean side) in Panmunjom. The South Korean delegation was headed by Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon and the North Korean delegation was led by Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC). The two Koreas adopted a 3-point joint press statement regarding North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The main points were as follows:   

• The North would dispatch a high-level delegation, a National Olympic Committee delegation, athletes, a cheering squad, an art troupe, observers, a Taekwondo demonstration team, and a press corps to the Games. The South would provide the necessary accommodations for them. (Point 1)

• The South and the North would have military talks to ease military tensions and activate contacts, travel, exchanges and cooperation in various fields. (Point 2)
• The South and the North would have high-level talks and talks in individual fields to make an improvement in inter-Korean relations. (Point 3)

On January 15, the two Koreas held a working-level contact for the dispatching of the North Korean art troupe at the Unification House (on the North Korean side) in Panmunjom, and adopted a 5-point joint press statement. The main points were as follows:

• The North would send an art troupe composed of about 140 members of the Samjiyon Orchestra to the South (Point 1), and the troupe would make performances in Gangneung and Seoul. (Point 2)

The two Koreas held a preparatory meeting for the high-level talks at the Peace House in Panmunjom on January 17, and adopted an 11-point joint press statement. The main points were as follows:

• The South and the North would march in together at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games following the Korean peninsula flag, and jointly form a single united Korea team in the women’s ice hockey event. (Point 2)

• The North would dispatch a cheering squad of around 230 members and jointly cheer with the South’s cheering squad. The South and the North would guarantee the activities of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon)’s cheering squad. (Point 3)

• The North would send a Taekwondo demonstration team of about 30 members and the team would make demonstrations in Pyeongchang and Seoul. (Point 4)

• The North would also dispatch a press corps to cover the Games. (Point 5)

• The North’s National Olympic Committee (NKNOC) delegation, athletes, a cheering squad, Taekwondo demonstrators, and a press corps would travel through the land route along the Seoul-Sinuiju railway connection. The North Korean athletes would visit the South on February 1, followed by the NKNOC delegation, cheering squad, Taekwondo demonstrators, and journalists on February 7. (Point 6)

• The North would dispatch an advance team from January 25 to 27 to inspect stadiums and other local facilities. (Point 7)

• The North would dispatch its National Paralympics Committee delegates, athletes, cheering and performing squads, and the press corps to the 2018 Winter Paralympics Games on a scale of 150 people. (Point 8)

• The South and the North would hold a joint cultural event in Mt. Geumgang in the North and a joint training session of the South and the North’s skiers at the Masikryong Ski Resort in the North before the opening of the Olympic Games. The South would send an advance team to inspect the facilities in the two places from January 23 to 25. (Point 9)