North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been controversially given an honorary doctorate in economics.
A Malaysian university, Higher Education Learning Philosophy, conferred the leader with the award because Kim "makes untiring efforts for the education of the country and the well-being of its people".
North Korea is among the poorest countries in the world and suffers chronic food and power shortages. The reclusive nation has not released economic reports for decades.
The privately run university held a "simple ceremony" to mark the conferment in early October at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The North Korean ambassador to Malaysia accepted the honor on Kim's behalf.
A public outcry was evident on social networks in Malaysia this week after the United States-based Foreign Policy magazine posted a blog article expressing surprise about the decision.
The university's president, Paul Chan, said in a statement released this week that the decision was about "building a bridge to reach the people" by using "a soft constructive approach" to engage with North Korea.
"To help (North Korea) in the way we do it is a road untravelled, but we hope our first small crucial step will contribute to peace and prosperity for all," Mr Chan wrote.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang says it considers economic development to be a top priority, but on an equal level with its nuclear weapons program, which has brought on years of international sanctions and isolation.
Many Malaysians criticised the move on the university's Facebook page.
One disbelieving man Nick Lim said it was an "insult to the academia". Daniel Wong said he was "ashamed to have graduated from this institution".