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!
Our partner engineer in Pyongyang, is working to make a simple utilization of the Stirling engine possible for North Korean homes.
Now it is our task to provide North Korea with expertise on the „Stirling“. We are planning a workshop in Pyongyang. I will travel to Pyongyang in the spring for the preparation and discussion of the project progress and for a first hand impression of the Stirling engines developed by the Non-Conventional Energy Development Center.
I also hope to send another container with extra material to be used for training purposes.
The past twenty years of collaboration between Agape international and the Democratic Republic of North Korea can be divided into two parts of ten years. We reported about the first ten years in our last edition of Our heart’s concern. In this edition we will focus on the second 10-year period.
In 2005 the North Korean government asked us to close our project office in Pyongyang. Therefore Agape international had to decide how the work in North Korea would go on. Without Swiss experts in the country, agricultural counselling was very limited. In 1996, thanks to a new contact with the Non-Conventional Energy Development Center (NCEDC) in Pyongyang, an area of activity apart from the food production was launched: energy supply. In the mid-1990s North Korea, as a country without its own oil fields but with coal mining plants, most of which were obsolete and some of which were flooded, was looking for alternative energies.
Wind as a Source of Energy
The first project was developing small windmills with the goal of using local material and knowledge combined with modern European technology. The first prototypes of windmills powered 300 to 2000 watt helped test technical challenges one on one. These small windmills can cover the needs of a household by producing electricity for light, TV and communication. In 2008, in the southern part of the country, the first 300-watt windmill was installed in the LPG Cooperative Samhun. For the first time it provided a family’s home far away from the village with electric power. In 2009 a 2000-watt windmill of the type Kukate was mounted and since 2010, on the island of Duru in the Taedong River in Pyongyang, the Kukate wings with rotor blades of polyester instead of metal have been turning by wind. Both windmills are providing electric power for about 20 homes.
Producing and Saving Energy
From 2010 on, the focus of the second project in collaboration with NCEDC has been saving energy. In North Korea as in Switzerland, there is a huge energy-saving potential in existing buildings in towns as well as in the countryside. The two seminars that were organised and lead by Werner H., PhD, on energy-saving constructions were very successful. There were more than 150 participants. After this three Korean experts published the first North Korean specialised book on this subject.
In Ryokpho, the vegetable cooperative about 15 kilometres south-east of Pyongyang, accessible in an hour’s bicycle ride by the employees of the NCEDC, two pilot scheme buildings were renovated and newly built for saving energy, according to energy-efficient standards by using the acquired expertise. Both buildings now serve experts from the whole country for further training.
Most of these activities were financed through private persons. Sometimes different organisations, namely the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), the German Agro Action (GAA), as well as GAiN Germany (baby food) help contribute to better nourishment, fruit growing and berry crop training.
What fascinates us about our job in this East Asian country is the open-mindedness of the people. Our Asian contacts, specialists and trainees are people like us, with ideas, emotions, wishes, duties and needs.
Some projects last longer than planned, but the result is more beautiful:
The farm house built according to minergy principles has been finished.
At the end of June we could inaugurate the new building of the Ryokpho vegetable cooperative: “Firstly our project partners showed us the different stages of construction during winter time with some photos. It is always thrilling to look through the camera the Korean way. There are always snapshots making us smile. During a brake we bought some deliciousness in a Pyongyang grocer‘s shop (apples, pastries, meat, beer, etc.) in order to contribute to the inauguration festivity. After a half-hour car drive to the farmers‘ village the solemnisation took place. We were told all the details – the pride for the finished work was obvious. In the living room of the farm tomato slices were arranged with care, the schnapps glasses were filled. It was beautiful to clink glasses for this success.
In our latest edition we reported about the successful renovation of an old building owned by the same cooperative. The administration building got a new insulation and new windows. During last winter the staff could feel the difference. They have reported that the stocked seed potatoes could no longer freeze. Also the attached greenhouse was working well. They had cultivated cabbage, salad, and garlic in it.
These buildings shall be models for different partners for introducing new building standards. We hope that the Non-conventional Energy Development Center (NCEDC) will be successful in helping to realise many other projects of this kind.”