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July 21, 2005

Reclusive North Koreans Tackling English Test

The news these days on North Korea tends to focus on nuclear threats and economic deprivation. But it seems that a growing number of its citizens are realizing the importance of English, according to the New Kerala website. North Koreans first encountered English at school in the 1960s, as part of a "knowing the enemy" programme that taught them phrases such as "capitalist running dog." But a fivefold increase in the last years in the number of North Koreans sitting the TOEFL test (almost 5,000 in July 2003-June 2004) indicates a somewhat more accommodating attitude. But only those living abroad can actually take the test, as it is administered in the US, with which the country has no diplomatic relations. Since 2000, state television has broadcast a weekly 10-minute English language learning segment. Soldiers are reportedly taught basic English and Japanese phrases, though the emphasis seems to be on phrases such as "Raise your hands." and "Don't move or I will shoot."
Reclusive North Koreans tackling English test
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