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Army backtracks Funding ends for North Korean officer training

North Korean army officers must now pay their own way for Swiss training

(Keystone)

The Swiss defence ministry has decided to stop paying for North Korean army officers to attend a Geneva training centre following a public outcry at the practice.

Since 2011, Swiss taxpayers have shelled out CHF160,000 ($173,000) to put eight North Korean military personnel through courses at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP). A defence ministry spokesperson has confirmed reports on Swiss public television (RTS) that the subsidy has now ended.

Army personnel from the totalitarian state can still attend GCSP courses, but now at their own expense, the ministry has decided.

The controversial funding was brought to the public’s attention last year when a reporter from the Blick tabloid newspaper filmed Swiss army officers leading two North Korean counterparts on a shooting practice exercise. One North Korean accidentally let off his firearm during the secret filming.

Several Swiss politicians immediately criticised the practice as a waste of taxpayers’ money. The defence ministry defended the use of its budget as a way of helping “somewhat closed” countries to interact with the rest of the world. The military training could “contribute to the opening up of these countries”, the ministry added last year.

The army training scheme is not the only connection between Switzerland and the totalitarian state to have raised eyebrows in recent months.

Last month, the Bern Holiday Fair exhibition held in Switzerland’s capital invited a delegation from the North Korean tourist board to help promote tourism in the secretive state.

NGOs such as Transparency International criticised the exhibition for giving North Korea a platform for promoting itself despite the country facing a number of human rights abuse allegations.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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