Kim Jong Un has a new title to add to his growing stash after a Malaysian university apparently gave him an honorary economics doctorate. The university responsible is a private school known by the acronym HELP (Higher Education Learning Philosophy).
The university’s president, Paul Chan, explained the decision, calling it a way of “building a bridge to reach the people” of North Korea. While the university’s website doesn’t say what the degree was, North Korean media announced it was in economics.
However, as The New York Times reports, economics may not be the best honorary doctorate to give the North Korean leader, whose country is home to one of the world’s poorest and most dysfunctional economies.
HELP’s decision to honor Kim Jong Un with a doctorate unsurprisingly resulted in criticism from several countries, including Malaysia’s own citizens. However, Chan and the university defended the decision, notes The Guardian. Chan called the decision a “soft constructive approach, explaining:
“To me, the conferment of an honorary doctorate to his excellency Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is building a bridge to reach the people.”
Kim was awarded the doctorate during “a simple ceremony” in the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month, according to Chan. The North Korean ambassador accepted the certificate on behalf of his leader as his country’s media covered the event.
One of a North Korean diplomat’s main duties in past years was persuading foreign cities and university to give the country’s leaders honorary degrees and citizenship. The elder Kims received honors from schools and cities in countries such as Russia and Peru.
The younger Kim inherited the country’s leadership when his father died in December 2011. He introduced some changes in collective farms and factories to increase productivity, but his decision to revive the economy and strengthen North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs already set off a series of economically damaging sanctions from the United Nations.
The lack of support for Kim Jong Un’s new title didn’t sway Chan, who commented, “Everyone will rush in to offer assistance and investment. I am just a bit ahead of them.”