SEOUL, South Korea — The only foreign-funded private university in North Korea started a new semester on Monday, but without its usual American professors because of Washington’s ban on travel to the country, university officials said.
The travel ban, which took effect Friday, has threatened the operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a school in the North Korean capital that was financed by evangelical Christians abroad.
The university has been relying on 60 to 80 volunteer professors from the outside, about half of them Americans. It can no longer accept American volunteers unless it wins exemptions from the travel ban.
For now, the fall semester started with 20 to 25 non-American foreign volunteers, according to Colin McCulloch, the university’s director of external relations.
The university said in a statement that it was recruiting more non-American volunteers willing to teach there.
Under the travel restrictions, an American passport is no longer valid for travel to North Korea. Among the hardest hit were humanitarian workers who have been operating in the impoverished country.
Washington has said it would consider a one-time, special-validation visa for journalists, humanitarian workers, Red Cross officials and those who travel for “the national interest.” The Pyongyang university said it would apply for such a visa for American volunteers.
The university’s founding chairman, James Kim, and its chancellor, Park Chan-mo, both American passport- holders, visited the campus in August but had to leave last week before the travel ban went into effect, university officials said.
The United States announced the travel ban in July in response to the death of Otto F. Warmbier, an American college student who had been serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor in North Korea after being convicted of trying to steal a political poster. Mr. Warmbier, who was 22, died in June shortly after the North released him. He had been in a coma for more than a year.
The ban came into effect amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s latest nuclear test.
The Pyongyang university was founded in 2010 with the goal of helping North Korea’s future elite learn the skills to modernize and open up the isolated country. It provides students with an education they cannot get elsewhere — computer science, agriculture, international finance and management, all conducted in English by an international faculty. Its Christian teachers are forbidden to preach.
But the university’s rare experiment came into question as two of its volunteers, both of them Korean-Americans, were detained this year by the North Korean authorities on vague charges of committing “hostile acts.”