13.4.05

The DPRK (The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea)

Woah, talk about an eye-opening, mind-blowing experience. Today, one of our professors, Reuben, shared about his experience in North Korea, as a “Canadian ambassador” during Spring Break. The way this country operates is so different from anything, anything I have ever imagined.

So I will share about what he said. I don’t know how informed people are on this topic, but I know I knew very little about it. (for background on North Korea, check out BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1131421.stm) Since the end of the Korean War, North Korea has been a closed country, run by Communist rule. The capital is Pyongyang, the main city that Reuben visited. From his experience, Reuben said that the Korean people have this mentality that they are self-reliable, able to survive by themselves—which is proving not to be true. Their economy is beginning to weaken, and they are very dependent on China for imports, yet they would never admit this.

Yet they would never admit this and everywhere he went, especially the orphanages he visited, when the ambassadors offered to help, the Korean people always responded that they didn’t need help, but that they were fine. Only after much persistence would they begin to ask for medicine and food. And when given a tour, Reuben and the other ambassadors were only shown one or two classrooms, with healthy, well-dressed happy children. At one orphanage, he stole off saying he had to “go the bathroom” and was able to peek through locked doors at other rooms. In one room, he say a group of toddlers just sitting in the room, with no toys, no adults, no one. And they weren’t even playing together: just sitting. Another room, he saw a little girl through the crack in the door and waved. She smiled back and waved, then giggled. The adult in the room heard her and realized what happened and completely slapped the girl in the face.

More details on the daily life of the people: the government controls everything the people do. They say who is allowed to live in Pyongyang and who is not (only the socially elite are allowed). The people are broken into working groups, usually around 5 families. They are then sent to the fields and work, in return they do not receive money, but are given food and supplies from the government. North Korea does have a currency, but it is not commonly used and open markets are very rare. Everything is provided by the government. The people are also not exposed to T.V. very much. Thus their perception of the outside world is almost non-existent. In the city of Pyongyang with a population around 1 million, there are only 150 international residents, and all of these residents live in the same area. They are not allowed to go to certain parts of the city. In fact, almost 2/3 of North Korea is off-limits. No one is allowed to go there; the only thing we know about them is the little bits that spy satellites are able to offer. Thus it is a mystery what the government is really doing in these areas. Part of why the government does not allow foreigners is that they do not want their people exposed to the outside world, and even by seeing foreigners, the people are reminded of other ways of living which is extremely negative.

One of Reuben’s experiences was walking down the street. As soon as some one saw him, they would turn and walk the other way. When he saw a child, he/she would run away. Sometimes the children are taught that foreigners are the “white devil.” Thus, they have a very negative connotation of foreigners. Oh and their newspapers and media are very negative about he U.S. I was able to read through one paper (in English). It is interesting how strongly they portray patriotism and praise of their eternal leader, Kim Il-sung. Although he is now dead, this ruler lives on almost like their god. Religion is outlawed in Korean culture and very negatively looked down upon. yet, the way the people praise this leader is what many Western people would consider worship. Everything is always so positive about North Korea. They refer to south Korea as the “lost brother” whom the U.S. is occupying. One article referred to Bush’s first four years of rule as being one of “war and massacre.” Very strong language against the U.S. and they blame the U.S. for many, many problems.

After an hour of this presentation, I could not believe this different way of life I was being presented with. It seemed like the people of this land were so hopeless, with absolutely no freedom, no idea of anything except for what they are told to do. In the main cities, the people are not anorexic or sick, but slightly malnourished. But in the villages, where people are not allowed to go there is report of the people being highly malnourished, impoverished and struck with disease. And the government lies about it all. There is so much pride in their country. Even when the government distributes out rice which the U.S. sent as humanitarian aide, they tell the general population that the government demanded the supplies from the U.s. How is there hope in such a situation? Somehow there always is. Gain, (http://www.globalaid.net/index.html) is a humanitarian aide company run by a Christian man that has a base in Pyongyang, running an English and graphic design school. Basically the way it works is that the Korean government feels like they are using this organization to get what they want from it, but Gain on the other hand views it as an opportunity to offer humanitarian aid through offering food and supply services and also helping at the orphanages.

Reuben had the chance to meet the owner of Gain and was able to talk to him about how he and why he wanted to establish a company in North Korea. The owner replied that although he does not advertise that his company is Christian (or else they would be kicked out of the country) he personally felt like he wanted to do something for all of the children in the orphanages. How could he not help? He asked himself, when so many of the children are babies of Christian missionaries that have been sent to the guinjabe (sp?)—Korean prison camps. He knew he had to do something, and he says the way his companies succeed is by taking risks. Whatever the country’s government needs, they say they will supply it and find a way to. There is reportedly up to as many as 200,000 Christian missionaries in prison camps in North Korea. They have simply disappeared from the world. What an incredible story of despair and a great need of hope. Pray for the people of North Korea.

3 notes:

Polythene Pam said...

Jenny, that was so good to read. Several of the students at school were from South Korea - a couple of my best friends were - but even they knew hardly anything about North Korea. We did a prayer session about countries who are very oppressive to Christians and the South Koreans shared about the Christian situation in North Korea. It makes me so sad. It also makes me riled up. I wish there was something we could do. I wish we would pay more attention to the rest of the world. Ug, dang Western minds! Anyway, thanks for posting that. Yet another great way to spread awareness and hopefully in the end looove. And we all know it's all about Love.
Mwah. I love you so much Drenny. I'm so excited for you to come visit my little Alpen village for a week!

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Jerry Gene said...

Nice post! Can’t wait for the next one. Keep stuff like this coming.

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