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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 June, 2004, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Goethe Institute opens in N Korea
Pyongyang is dominated by communist symbols
Germany's cultural Goethe Institute has opened a branch in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang - the first of its kind in the secretive communist state.

Under the deal, Pyongyang is required to guarantee free access for its citizens to uncensored German-language books, videos, CDs and newspapers.

Goethe Institute president Jutta Limbach hailed the move as "a major success in cultural politics".

Until now, Western media and literature have been banned in North Korea.

Correspondents, however, say it is open to question how many ordinary North Koreans will be able to benefit from the new centre in a city dominated by a privileged elite.

'Free flow of information'

Senior officials from the state-backed Goethe Institute as well as some German lawmakers were present at the opening of the Goethe Information Centre in Pyongyang - a 150-square-metre library in the heart of the North Korean capital.

Culture and education can achieve many things which politics alone cannot
Jutta Limbach
Goethe Institute presiden
The centre - which opened after three years of negotiations - is expected to provide North Koreans not only with books and media but also with the latest computer equipment.

Ms Limbach said Wednesday's opening would help "promote the free flow of information" among different countries in the world.

"Culture and education can achieve many things which politics alone cannot," Ms Limbach said.

The Goethe Institute - which promotes German culture and language abroad - has a network of 127 institutes in 77 countries, as well as 56 reading libraries and more than 50 Goethe centres and cultural societies worldwide.

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