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Oct 24, 2013 07:55 AM EDT

Malaysian University Faces Criticism for Confering Honorary Degree on North Korea's Kim Jong Un

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 HELP University, a privately run Malaysian institution is facing heavy public criticism for conferring an honorary doctorate in economics on North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. The degree was awarded on Oct.3 at the DPR Korean (North Korean) embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The North Korean ambassador to Malaysia accepted the honor on Kim's behalf.

Kim Jong Un is the first foreign leader to receive the honorary degree from the university. Dr Paul Chan, the university president said that the North Korean leader, who became the head of State following the death of his father in December 2011, 'has accepted' the conferment of the doctorate.

"The conferment of an Honorary Doctorate to His Excellency President Kim Jong Un is building a bridge to reach the people," said Paul Chan, president of HELP University in the official statement. "It is good that he has accepted it."

The event that garnered little attention in the beginning was blown up later on after a U.S.-based magazine, Foreign Policy, expressed surprise about the decision in a blog titled "Why One Obscure Malaysian University Gave Kim Jong Un An Honorary Doctorate."

Many Malaysians expressed their discontent over the bestowment of the honorary degree. Nick Lim said it was an 'insult to the academia,' while Daniel Wong wrote that he was 'ashamed to have graduated from this institution,' a wire service reports.

Chan said that education can be used as a medium to extend support to the people of North Korea. It can help the isolated nation to progress and provide a better quality of life to its citizens.

"We should use education to help the people of DPR Korea have a better life and a higher standard of living. Above all, let's help them integrate faster into the global network of open societies," Chan said in an official statement. "I hope that using this 'soft constructive' approach we can help them and North Asia and the world to be a better place for mankind."

"I anticipate that it is a matter of time, within the next six years or so, that DPR Korea will engage the world in many constructive ways. I feel no one at this moment has the courage to do this though their hearts tell them to do so."

"To help DPR Korea in the way we do it is a road untraveled, but we hope our first small crucial step will contribute to peace and prosperity for all."

For several years now North Korea is suffering from chronic food and power shortages. According to National Post, last year, the country experienced the worst electricity shortage in years. And the leader was seen focusing more on lavish building projects to celebrate the centenary of its founder's birth.

"Embassies and others with generators are using them most of the time to compensate both for poor quality and cuts, and I can tell you that power problems are a main issue of discussion," an unnamed Pyongyang-based diplomat told the Post. "We certainly assess that there is more darkness on the streets and in the residential blocks in the evening than before/during the mourning period [for Kim Jong-il]."

On Aug.15, the United Nations estimated that about 2.4 million North Koreans were in need of regular food assistance and almost a third of children under the age of 5 suffered from chronic malnutrition.

"The lives of many people are at stake, including children who are vulnerable to lasting suffering if they do not receive aid," UN said in a statement. "The secretary-general calls on prospective donors to respond to this serious situation.

Ban said that humanitarian assistance should not be linked to political or security aspects.

North Korea is facing tough sanctions from the U.N., U.S. and other countries over frequent nuclear and ballistic missile tests since 2006.

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