There was bad news for cheese lovers in North Korea this week, including Kim Jong-un – a supposed Emmental aficionado, when a French college refused to take on three experts from the People’s Republic.
Two officials from North Korea visited the National Dairy Industry College (ENIL), based in Mamirolle, Franche-Comté last month in the hope of sending experts to the college to receive specialist instruction in the the art of making French fromage.
French social media went into meltdown on Tuesday when it was reported that the school had accepted North Korea's bid to promote "cheese diplomacy".
But on Tuesday the director of ENIL Véronique Drouet moved quickly to deny the deal, telling AFP that it simply wasn’t feasible to train the Koreans and their request had been politely but firmly declined.
“I think they thought they had found a school that would suit them and they thought there would be no question the partnership would work,” said Drouet.
But “there is no basis to go further with North Korea because such a partnership does not fit into our priorities and strategy,” she added.
Drouet said ENIL, which trains 600 students in cheese production, does have several international partnerships but they are mostly in relation to links already set up via the regional authorities of Franche-Comté.
“We don’t have a vocation to train foreign students, we are a little school on a human scale. We can’t just expand to all four corners of the world. We have to prioritize our existing partners,” she said.
“I didn’t see the interest in it because it seemed difficult to me to send my students to do an internship in North Korea,” she added. “But it’s always good to know that we are well known,” she joked.
The snub will be a disappointment to North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un, who is believed to have become a huge fan of Switzerland’s Emmental cheese, a taste that was developed during the time that he studied there.
Some high-profile North Koreaens have been allowed to study in France. In December last year The Local reported how Kim Jong-un's nephew Kim Han-sol, who is doing a degree at the renowned Sciences Po university, had to be placed under police guard after his uncle and several of his allies were executed.