For most of us it is normal to speak and listen, understand, and give a reply. We describe what we see and experience. We get information from the radio, TV, newspaper, or Internet. But as soon as one of our senses is impaired communication becomes challenging!
There are special schools in every province of North Korea but deaf or blind persons were not visible in public. Thanks to the commitment of people like Robert, things that are normal for us are becoming reality in North Korea: Communication for the deaf and blind with each other and with hearing and seeing persons. Read the following report by Robert who is deaf himself:
«Did you know that it was either forbidden or undesired to use sign language in schools for the deaf in Germany and Switzerland as late as the end of the 20th century? Due to a lack of infrastructure the deaf could not meet nor communicate with each other for centuries. This led to strong differences in the sign languages.
Today things are very different: Through the recognition of sign language and its presence in television, the improvement in public transportation, and the possibility of communication via videophone and webcam sign language is beginning to unify so that we can understand each other.
There are eight dialects of sign language in North Korea because there is a school for the deaf in each of the eight provinces. The schools were built in 1959 following the instruction of then president Kim Il Sung. The use of sign language in the schools for the deaf has been normal for a long time. All students that attended a school for the deaf can communicate in Korean sign language.
Since North Koreans hardly travelled beyond the borders of their provinces and did not communicate with each other, eight dialects evolved. Sign language developed differently in the different provinces (different shapes made by a hand, or a different direction of movement of the sign): The word “same” is signed differently in Pyongyang than in Hamhung. The possibility of communication with each other is the first prerequisite to unify sign language. In the past few months quite a lot has happened in this area.
Since the foundation of the Association of the Deaf the deaf can use their official status as a national organization to invite deaf persons from the provinces to Pyongyang for a gathering with the deaf.
Both the schools for the blind as well as four of the eight schools for the deaf recently received an Intranet connection.
As supporters of Agape international you helped this endeavor considerably: Thank you for your donations for the Center for the Deaf and Blind in Pyongyang!
These schools are now connected to the server center of the Center for Deaf and Blind and can communicate with each other via Intranet. This is a huge step!
The next project is to insert sign language interpreters in the North Korean television newscast. So far we have no practical experience on how to do this. I would like to organize a study trip to Europe in 2017 so that interested people can learn how to do this. I am sure I will succeed with your support!»
Project Director of Together Hamhung