Bit busy today, so here are just a couple of links I found interesting:

- I suppose if you want to “break down barriers” to and “counteract… one-sided coverage” of North Korea, this is the program for you:

Amid the ongoing tensions between North Korea and the international community, a educational scheme created by two young men from the US is engaging directly with citizens and students inside the country. Organisers of the Pyongyang Project say their programme is breaking down barriers to the secretive state that government bodies cannot.

The Pyongyang Project was the brainchild of Matthew Reichel and Nick Young, who were inspired to counteract what they describe as the “one-sided” coverage of North Korea in the international media.

“The US and North Korea don’t have established relations, and talks are indirect at best. And what we believe is that there is a need for a grassroots level of engagement that we haven’t seen yet between citizens,” says Mr Reichel, a 23-year-old Brown University graduate. “We feel that education is the best ice-breaker.”

The pair scheduled meetings with North Korean government officials at consulates in the US and China – and got the go ahead to run a scheme which takes university students and professors from the US, UK, Canada and other nations inside North Korea in a bid to reach out to the nation behind the headlines.

You can visit the website of the program here. As you can imagine, I’m not particularly interested in building “build[ing] trust, promot[ing] mutual respect, and lay[ing] the foundation for peace and prosperity” between North Korea and the international community, but different strokes for different folks, I guess (HT to my brother).

- Has Mongolia’s ship come in? Foreign Policy’s Ron Gluckman seems to think so:

For the first time in as long as anyone can seem to remember, there have been traffic jams in Ulan Bator — a place previously known mainly either as the answer to a trivia question (Which capital city has the coldest average temperature?) or as a historical curiosity: Asia’s Timbuktu, the fabled homeland of Genghis Khan. Until recently, the Mongolian capital had more horses than cars.

No longer. Mongolia is in the middle of an epic gold rush — think San Francisco in 1849 — but it’s copper and coal that have enticed businessmen, investment bankers, and miners from London, Dallas, and Toronto by the planeload. Today, Ulan Bator is abuzz with talk of options and percentages, yields and initial public offerings. Not since the 13th century, when Genghis Khan consolidated the nomadic tribes of these remote steppes and established an empire that eventually spanned from Eastern Europe to Vietnam, has Mongolia seen so much action. The country’s stock exchange (though still the world’s smallest) rose 125 percent last year, and the IMF forecasts double-digit GDP growth rates for years to come. Others aren’t nearly so pessimistic: Renaissance Capital — an investment bank that specializes in emerging markets, one of many that have recently set up shop in Mongolia — notes that overall economic output could quadruple by 2013.

Be absolutely sure to check out the accompanying photo essay by Timothy Fadek.

- Also in Foreign Policy magazine, Richard McGregor explodes five myths about the Chinese Communist Party.