North Korea recently lifted its ban on students returning to China for study abroad programs, Daily NK has learned.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un handed down the order “several days ago” to the country’s education ministry, according to a Daily NK source in the country.

“The foreign ministry is now working with an education ministry official managing the students at the Chinese embassy,” the source said.

Kim reportedly stated on Apr. 10 that the students should be sent back to the schools in China they had been attending because they are “the backbone of our party’s efforts to cultivate talent.”

Both the education ministry and the foreign affairs ministry have opened up channels of communication with the Chinese to prepare students for their return to China, including medical exams.

North Korean officials plan to conduct a nationwide testing of exchange students for COVID-19 on Apr. 16 and the students will gather on the morning on Apr. 17 for “Central Committee Training.”

North Korea requires all of its citizens who go abroad to complete “Central Committee Training.” The training program provides guidance about how participants should answer questions regarding North Korea posed by foreigners, how much foreign currency they are allowed to bring back home, along with other information pertinent to living abroad.

North Korean authorities are expected to return the passports and visas confiscated from the students during the afternoon of Apr. 17.

Students who show no signs of COVID-19 will be sent back into China through Sinuiju after gathering in an undisclosed place in Pyongyang on the morning of Apr. 19.

The students must carry a document confirming they are not infected with COVID-19, but “Chinese authorities have told the North Koreans that they will require all students to stay in quarantine for a week after their arrival,” one source said.

The students are reportedly happy to hear about their imminent return to China, Daily NK sources further reported.

“The students want to return to China because they know that they can study there more freely and high-level positions await them on their return,” the source said.

Meanwhile, parents of the students are reportedly unhappy because they are concerned that their loved ones could be infected by COVID-19 in China. Yet, they are keeping their concerns to themselves because opposing the order would be viewed as “rejecting the concern and favor” of the state,” another source said.

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Ha Yoon Ah is Daily NK's editor-in-chief. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.