Category Archives: professional training

Tour d’horizon in Korea

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

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.

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.


We have been supporting the organization TOGETHER for several years. Robert Grund, deaf since birth, is giving a voice to the concerns of  the deaf.

Although there are special schools in  every North Korean province, deaf and blind persons are not visible in public. Many persuasive efforts are necessary to enable communication between the deaf
and the blind among each other and with the hearing and seeing.

Special kindergartens and schools for deaf children are part of the efforts, as well as assistance for communication between parents and their children. Thanks to your donations, Agape international has repeatedly been able to offer financial assistance: We printed
sign language booklets and purchased technical equipment to access intranet.

Robert Grund, Project Director of Together Hamhung, has further plans: „It would be a milestone to insert a sign language interpreter during the broadcast of national television news. So far there is no practical experience in this area. I want to offer a study trip to Europe in 2017 so that interested parties can gain practical experience how this is done.“

A visit to the Swiss Foundation procom ( would be interesting within the study trip. Procom promotes communication possibilities of hearing-impaired people among each other, as well as between the hearing-impaired and hearing persons. It offers sign language interpretation services and organizes a telephone service for the hearing-impaired.

We want to enable meetings between deaf Swiss and Korean persons.


ora et labora

Agape international has been inviting North Korean specialists  Switzerland for further education for many years already. Much more than one hundred persons have been able to see a new world, further their professional and personal experience, and applied what they have learned in their home.

When we meet with former interns, we reminisce, send our greetings and take note of the fact that the time spent abroad has left precious traces despite not being easy.

A lot of preparation and great persistence is needed before a North
Korean can land in Switzerland. And throughout all the years we have had amazing experiences of seeming impossibilities turning into possibilities. How often did we throw our hands in the air because some bureau required yet another paper, another certification – documents that sometimes did not even exist in the required shape or form!

Sometimes it was the North Koreans than wanted a guarantee
that a visa had actually been granted; sometimes the Swiss retracted
after their initial benevolence and wondered if … if we couldn’t hand in a certification guaranteeing that … For almost every travel project we needed someone who was willing to go the extra mile to make something possible that was not customary. It goes without saying that we never paid bribes, although we do feel as God always sent “angels” in the right moment.

Once an embassy official went to the embassy and issued visas on a
holiday enabling a travel group to catch their flight. Or there was the time when an offcial gave us helpful tips on how to prolong a short work visa for a couple of days so that a North Korean could finish his training.

Do we need these moments to remember that we are not in control?

Backing up Deaf Children

Deaf young people from a school that supports their need
Deaf young people from a school that supports their need

A longtime friend of ours with experience in North Korea and engaged in working with Korean handicapped would like to have a booklet printed for deaf children.

The deaf in North Korea are often mute as well – not because they have no voice, but because they are not taken seriously, because they have not had any occasion to learn how to use their voices. Their ‘voices’ are their hands. I was not aware until recently that the sign languages are so manifold and differ from each other like spoken languages. There are even many dialects.

Model of a page of an English version
‘My First Book of Sign Language’ – Model of a page of an English version

Most of the deaf children have parents who can hear. All over the world it is like that. Therefore, ‘My First Book of Sign Language’ will help the hearing parents to learn a common language with their children as soon as possible: the sign language.

This way the child can learn the Korean language. The parents ‘spell’ new words with their fingers by using the ‘finger alphabet’, and they show the children the sign for each word, i.e. a hand sign. So the deaf children do not stay behind in their development towards the hearing children and are prepared for schooling as early as possible.

The booklet will be assembled by young deaf and illustrated by deaf artists. It will be distributed by the Educational Ministry and the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled (KFPD) to the families and will help the parents and the children to understand each other better. The idea is based on a 32-page booklet, illustrated by Joan Holub. On each page, there will be a letter in the finger alphabet. Moreover, signs will be illustrated for things and activities beginning by the letter shown.

Warm slippers: In 2011, young deaf people were learning the art of felting under the instruction of a Swiss expert
Warm slippers: In 2011, young deaf people were learning the art of felting under the instruction of a Swiss expert

Also collaborators of the Educational Ministry, the People’s Committee and of the KFPD will be part of the work group for this spelling and sign language booklet, thus showing the participating groups how important the early teaching of the sign language is. Deaf are ignored in many countries. The handicap of the deaf is the most ignored handicap because it is not visible.

Solely in the capital of Pyongyang there are about 5,000 to 10,000 deaf children, between 0 and 9 years old (estimated according to the international average of 1 to 2 per cent of deaf among the population of developing countries)!

The German organisation TOGETHER – Educational Centre for Deaf, Blind and Nondisabled Children Hamhung e.V. (registered association) is the supporter and mentor of this project. Its president is deaf himself. We have been in contact for a rather long time. A few years ago we were teaching felting to deaf people.  

We move hearts

We would like to help finance as much as possible from the printing costs of about 15,000. Do you help us?