All Ears!

When a deaf or a hard of hearing child is born in a family parents need more information and help for years.

Some decades ago the deaf in Switzerland were not allowed by law to communicate in sign language. Today this is quite unthinkable. Research has proved that a bilingual education with the sign language as a second language is important and precious for the deaf and mute children for their education and everyday life. Right from the beginning a child has any possibility at hand in order to discover, improve and use the hearing and speaking skills. In North Korea the help for the deaf has been making progress, as the president of the registered association TOGETHER, an educational centre for deaf, blind and non-handicapped children in Hamhung told us and with which we have been collaborating in Pyongyang (s. February 2014 edition of our heart’s concern). Under his aegis two books about sign language were accomplished and will be printed soon. We are looking forward to presenting them in one of our next editions. Despite this progress the help for the deaf in North Korea has to overcome some more obstacles. This is energy-sapping and takes time, but we do not give up. A challenge is the lack of public information about the deaf. Being deaf and sign language mostly are no topic. The average citizen has not yet been in contact with the deaf and has no idea what a sign language is.

The first international day of the deaf on September 26, 2014 in the Taedonggang cultural centre of Pyongyang under the patronage of the World Federation of the Deaf and the motto ‘Strengthening the Human Diversity’ is a beginning. During the morning the deaf were visiting an exposition about Korean history. This was not unusual but thanks to the translation into the sign language the event was a memorable highlight for the thirty young people. In the afternoon with sports events and games they were experiencing fun, emotions, action and competition feeling. A volleyball team of deaf players met the team of the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled (KFPD).

As the president of the Korean Sign Language Interpreters Association said: ‘The work of the National Association of the Deaf and of the Korean Sign Language Interpreters Association are inseparable, as if we are one family.’


Dear readers,

A meal without kimchi is almost impossible in North Korea. A family needs up to 100 kg of Chinese cabbage per person so that the stock lasts until spring time. The cabbage is harvested in autumn before the first frost – by the beginning of November there is the main season. In the kitchen mostly the women make kimchi, but the men mostly carry the cabbage from the kitchen to the pots and then to the cellar.

The cabbage halves are drenched in salty water for two days, then spread with a red pepper sauce and, according to different (clandestine) family recipes, enriched by additional ingredients such as crabs, fish sauce, oysters, garlic and, according to the region, also by apples or pears. Then the marinated cabbage halves are pressed with power into the pot in order to avoid air bubbles. The lactic acid fermentation conserves the cabbage just like the sauerkraut.

The pot with kimchi is stocked in the cellar because it does not froze completely there. It is important that the fermentation gases can escape and that the cabbage be covered with liquid. Instead of Chinese cabbage white beets, radishes or different vegetables can also be conserved this way.

My favourite kimchi is the radish kimchi. Our cook adds big (raw) slices of fish smelling then slightly like rollmops.

Harvesting in Autumn

September and October are the months of harvest in Korea. As to the weather they are the golden months as it is often clear and warm before growing colder.

First the shiny green rice fields in summer are growing brownish, then the maize fields turn golden yellow, later on the green of the woods is vanishing. Especially up north one can see the whole colour range from green through yellow to red. Everywhere people are working hard. In the rice fields the water is drained off so that the soil can dry. Then the whole village is gathering, everyone with a sickle in order to cut off the ripe rice branches by bunches. Then they are bound in sheaves and let upright for a few days so that the corn might ripen completely. According to the corporation the threshing machine is driven to the fields or the sheaves are loaded on a trailer as high as possible and towed away by oxen or tractors to the farm.

The maize harvest, too is mostly manual work. First the golden cobs are harvested, put into a shoulder cloth and, when full, emptied into the ox cart. Also the maize is dried often on the roof of the farm or in the threshing square. Under the roof along the facade a bunch of red peppers is hung, another ingredient for the basic food kimchi.

Becoming Fond of the North Koreans

Two Swiss People were on the September 2014 North Korean trip and are telling about their impressions.

When we started for the trip to North Korea, we were looking forward but were somehow anxious thinking about what was awaiting us. In July before we gathered to an information meeting with our guide Daniel. We learnt some details about the interesting history and culture of the country. Mid-September we left Switzerland. Flying from Beijing by Air Koryo we reached the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang.

We were nine of us. During the whole week we were accompanied by two guides and a driver. During the first two days we were in Pyongyang and saw many places of interest, went to the cinema and even visited a church. We also took the underground with its wonderful station halls.

Some of the highlights were visiting agricultural cooperatives tourists normally may not see. We were, e. g., in Kubin where they started making cheese, producing goat dairy products, and educating people for this trade 15 years ago. We were offered delicious cheese and yogurt for degusting. Another excursion took us to the Samri fruit farm which was developed and managed by Daniel for years. There we could taste big Braeburn apples. As Koreans are not offered such a big variety of fruit and vegetables as we are in Switzerland Koreans especially like apples as a welcome change.

A long bus trip took us across the mountain area to the beautiful sandy beach of the city of Wonsan. The landscape is very attractive: mountains, rocks, and after all many gold coloured rice fields laying in the sun. As a group it was important to spend time together at the hotels or by playing billiards. We could discuss about everything we had seen and also pray about it. We saw so much. We especially remember that all the Koreans we met were very friendly, welcoming us heartily. They are a humble-minded people. This is certainly because of their history and they like their country. The people look very unspoilt as there is no publicity of any international make.

It came to our mind that people when speaking about Korea always mean the northern and southern nation. Very interesting, isn’t it? The North Koreans are men such as we are with the same feelings and needs but with less opportunities than we have. Is it so much worse? We do not know. Nor do we understand something about their minds and their happiness. But, as we have just mentioned, we felt much friendliness which is a good example for us. We were more impressed about that than about anything else.

At the beginning of our trip Daniel told us to discuss with God everything we would see and be experiencing, asking him what his opinion was. During this trip we became fond of this people and are still feeling love for them, being eager to learn about what is going on in this country.