Already in the spring the North Korean embassy asked us if a small delegation of experts from the Ministry of Agricultural and Environment could visit Switzerland. This pleased us enormously, as we had worked closely with them between 1996 and 2006 and had invested a great deal in the education of over 100 agronomists through courses and practical training in the country, as well as through internships in Switzerland.
Although the North is still regarded as being «closed» a number of small doors are open, enabling encounters, trips to North Korea, or giving Koreans the opportunity to go abroad. This request from the embassy is another open door that we wanted to use.
We therefore extended an invitation. One day we were informed that the visas were issued and the delegation was coming – in two weeks! As I had already made arrangements to be in Asia at that time, I was somewhat overwhelmed at first. But after a day of phoning friends and former colleagues that had taught in Korea in the past, I managed to organize five days with an extensive training program: From agricultural planning over energy efficient building to sewage and hydropower utilization or direct marketing and factory visits. I am so glad that we were able to establish such a good network of experts and friends in the last 20 years which enabled me to confidently leave this week in other hands.
«You are doing a great job. I am thrilled. We were welcomed everywhere we went, which we do not take for granted. Thank you!»
The delegation’s and the vice ambassador’s feedback and enthusiasm leads to the conclusion that this week touched their hearts.