Education Minister Permpoon Chidchob continues to face backlash more than three weeks after publicly expressing admiration for North Korea’s education system. The controversial remarks were made during a meeting with North Korean Ambassador Kim Je Bong on Jan 19, where Permpoon praised North Korea for its strict discipline on young people, as well as its patriotism and loyalty to its leader.
Despite the initial purpose of extending congratulations to Pol. Lt. Gen. Ekapong on his recent appointment, the meeting evolved into an unexpected platform for the exchange of ideas on educational policies between Thailand and North Korea.
Permpoon, undeterred by the controversy, revealed a keen interest in learning from North Korea’s methods of instilling discipline in their youth. He openly acknowledged North Korea’s success in fostering patriotism and respect for leadership among children and adolescents. Interestingly, the emphasis on creating an environment where students “study well and are happy” seemingly aligns with Thailand’s educational policies, according to Pol. Lt. Gen. Ekapong.
On social media, Permpoon was quoted as saying, “I hope for an opportunity to visit North Korea to study the culture, and other exchanges that would be beneficial to education.”
While Thailand’s current educational framework focuses on producing disciplined individuals who are not only academically proficient but also socially responsible, the minister’s praise for North Korea’s commitment to discipline raises eyebrows. He expressed a desire for collaboration and support in implementing similar practices beneficial to Thai students, eagerly anticipating guidance on cultivating discipline and gaining insights from North Korea’s experiences.
In a reciprocal yet somewhat dubious sentiment, Kim Je Bong, the North Korean Ambassador, conveyed delight at Pol. Lt. Gen. Ekapong’s assumption of office. He diplomatically appreciated the beauty of Thai culture and arts, subtly emphasizing the impact of cultural exchange on fostering stronger relations between the two nations. Kim Je Bong expressed North Korea’s dedication to enhancing ties, recognizing education as a pivotal aspect of this development.
Further fueling skepticism, the North Korean Ambassador shared his country’s aspiration to facilitate student exchange programs between universities in Thailand and North Korea. This initiative aims to encourage cross-cultural learning and promote mutual understanding, though doubts linger regarding the feasibility and intentions behind such proposals. Additionally, there is a proposal to exchange educational equipment and invest in educational resources, showcasing North Korea’s commitment to fostering collaboration in the somewhat questionable field of education.
As Thailand cautiously seeks inspiration from North Korea’s disciplined approach to education, this diplomatic interaction raises eyebrows on the practicality and applicability of such methods. The commitment to educational exchange and the mutual desire for cultural enrichment, while not immune to skepticism, lay the foundation for a relationship that might just defy expectations in the world of academia.