Tour d’horizon in Korea

Only for a few days but nonetheless: I could once again visit our project partners in Pyongyang.

Stirling
Mr. Yang explains the progress of the project: The technical books “Stirlingengines” and “Stirlingmachines” have been translated, a copy of the “ST05 Viebach” has been manufactured and they are working on their in-house development of the Beta-Stirling for domestic production. At the end, I leave with a catalogue of questions for the Stirling specialists in Europe!

Eye Clinic
One morning I visit the Ryu Gyong-Eye Clinic with 102 beds that treats about 300 outpatients per day. Three years ago, Mr. Yang underwent glaucoma surgery performed by Dr. Kim who was still working at the Red Cross Hospital at the time and today is the director of the clinic. Mr. Yang is thankful that the operation was successful, “otherwise I would be blind today.” He has his eye pressure measured in the outpatient clinic where the referred patients from the regional hospitals are examined. The director explains that they have received new instruments but have no experience with them yet. Additional on-site training would be helpful. A wide-open door!

Visiting Doctor
I was very excited about going to the Red Cross Hospital and seeing our visiting doctor again.

The rheumatology ward has 50 beds and 25 doctors. Our doctor has finished translating the reference book and it will soon be printed. The microscope and ultrasound are being used – I encourage his supervisor to have him train others in using them. He would like further material and is open to inland-workshops. More open doors.

Glances
After a tour through the new Sci-Tech Center (similar to the science center we know and with many visitors) my colleagues had to run some errands. Having a car at my disposal was very useful and once again I get a glance of life in the quarters: streets with many sales booths, alive and bustling.

Off the stage!

Reading the daily press on North Korea is not contributing to our joy – therefore I will write of other things: Once again I was able to visit North Korea and experienced wonderful encounters and relaxed collaborators. We are intentionally building relationships to North Koreans. If we are not able to invite them to Switzerland, we go and visit them. On the scale of global politics, we seem to be of little importance – but who knows? This time Pyongyang was clearly more colorful, some new high-rise buildings have implemented higher energy requirements: green roofs, insulated walls, multiple glazing; some of the warm water is being heated by solar energy and geothermal energy is being used. I am glad to see that our efforts in this area are being put into practice. At least in this area our and therefore your commitment is becoming visible!

Project Director North Korea

A View over the River

The plan to monitor the transport of relief supplies ended at the Yalu, the border river between China and North Korea. We assume that the container with the proven baby food has reached its goal, the area around Yonsa.

Unfortunately, we cannot witness the distribution: After quite some back and forth, we were not given an entry visa. The precise reasons probably have little to do with the current situation and are not clear to me. Therefore, I am somewhat disappointed. I would have liked to explain the correct use of the nutrition on-site: something the recipients always appreciated. I would have liked to tell you about it as well. Now it is up to GAiN Germany to hold negotiations determining if further relief good transports are worthwhile and possible in the future.

I am already in Beijing when I find out that I would not be granted entry. To make the most of the extra time I still travel east to the border: From a reconstructed watch tower close to the Chinese border city of Dandong you have a wonderful view into North Korea: Fields with untiring workers plan ting corn, a couple of oxen or cows pulling a plow, a chugging tractor and a couple of villages in the distance.

Despite the harsh rhetoric in the media, despite the missile tests, it is downright peaceful here, everybody is busy doing their work. In contrast, the Chinese fields spread out behind my back. Close to the city they are covered in plastic or completely covered by green houses. I bless both sides of the river in my mind, I wish the people peace and well-being, that their work would feed them and they would enjoy it.

On a short boat trip on the river I witness Chinese tourists and their reaction to the North Koreans we see on our way: Some of them wave and smile at them, others call out a provocative “Hello” and less friendly words to the opposite bank. I feel like I am in the zoo: Observing North Koreans. I notice that most Chinese hardly know anything about their neighbors. They glance over the border curiously – but seem to have no interest in more.

VISIBLE AND VALUED IN THE FUTURE?

Whoever is deaf, blind, or different in any way is hardly visible in Korea. Parents are ashamed of and do not know how to deal with a child that is different.

I do not know why the schools for the deaf are built in very remote areas, except for the ones in Pyongyang and Hamhung. But it does not have to remain this way, does it?

What we have reached so far is so encouraging that we dare to dream further: On the small map below you will see two places marked in red. One is the capital of the province North-Hamgyong: Chongjin. With over 325,000 inhabitants there is still no school for the deaf here yet. Their school is in a village further north, which according to my calculations takes at least a whole day by car to reach and is therefore too far away for most families.

About 0.02 to 0.1 percent of the human population is either born deaf or becomes deaf before their 18th birthday. In poor countries the number tends to be higher. This leads to the conclusion that there are probably more than 300 deaf persons in the city of Chongjin alone, which are enough children for a whole school! Nobody can answer Robert Grund’s enquiry why this city does not have such a School.

We have therefore joined forces to find out how to promote a school there, even though it is the task of the state to provide such a school. We are convinced that it is important to make the officials aware of this fact – and if possible to take the first steps in this direction.

One possibility is to first open a special kindergarten and a center for the deaf. For example, with a wood shop as it was successfully done in Pyongyang. It is obvious that a school will have to follow
up the kindergarten and we hope that the state will provide one. We are excited about opening the first kindergarten in Chongjin!