On Friday, April 1, Stanford University hosted twelve North Korean officials making an unprecedented economic tour of the United States. Organized by Professor Susan Shirk of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, the two-week tour of American businesses and academic institutions was an opportunity for the visitors to see firsthand what improved relations with the United States might mean in terms of economic cooperation.
The North Koreans included senior and mid-level officials responsible for economic, trade, financial and foreign affairs. Their visit took place despite the lack of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the continuing U.S. and UN sanctions against the country for its development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Welcoming the visitors to a luncheon in Encina Hall, David Straub, associate director of the Korea Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC), briefed them on the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University (FSI) and its research centers, including Shorenstein APARC and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). Straub also introduced representatives from FSI and the School of Medicine who have been involved in policy, academic, and humanitarian engagement projects with the DPRK.
Mr. Henry S. Rowen, co-director of the Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE), then outlined the history and organization of Stanford University and its leading role in the development of Silicon Valley. Mr. John Sandelin, senior associate emeritus of the Stanford Office of Technology Licensing, described the university's policies on sharing university-generated intellectual property with the private sector. Following the presentations, American guests at the luncheon, including CISAC's Dr. William J. Perry and Dr. Siegfried S. Hecker, had informal discussions with their North Korean tablemates about the possibilities of, and obstacles to, economic collaboration between the two countries.
The North Koreans' visit to Stanford concluded with a stop at the Hoover Tower observation deck for a panoramic view of the Stanford campus, where they were able to see how Stanford graduates had developed Silicon Valley literally around the campus. DPRK delegation members expressed appreciation for the hospitality they were shown at Stanford and underlined their hopes for economic exchanges with the United States.
The most recent previous visit to Stanford by a DPRK delegation took place in January 2008, when CISAC Professor John W. Lewis, Shorenstein APARC director Gi-Wook Shin, and the School of Medicine's Dr. Sharon Perry hosted five public health officials for discussions about collaboration on tuberculosis control. Out of that visit evolved Stanford's DPRK Tuberculosis Project, which, in association with the DPRK Ministry of Public Health and NGO partners, is developing the country's first laboratory with the capacity to diagnose drug-resistant tuberculosis.