Tag Archives: behind the scenes

Off the stage!

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!

Project Director North Korea

A View over the River

The plan to monitor the transport of relief supplies ended at the Yalu, the border river between China and North Korea. We assume that the container with the proven baby food has reached its goal, the area around Yonsa.

Unfortunately, we cannot witness the distribution: After quite some back and forth, we were not given an entry visa. The precise reasons probably have little to do with the current situation and are not clear to me. Therefore, I am somewhat disappointed. I would have liked to explain the correct use of the nutrition on-site: something the recipients always appreciated. I would have liked to tell you about it as well. Now it is up to GAiN Germany to hold negotiations determining if further relief good transports are worthwhile and possible in the future.

I am already in Beijing when I find out that I would not be granted entry. To make the most of the extra time I still travel east to the border: From a reconstructed watch tower close to the Chinese border city of Dandong you have a wonderful view into North Korea: Fields with untiring workers plan ting corn, a couple of oxen or cows pulling a plow, a chugging tractor and a couple of villages in the distance.

Despite the harsh rhetoric in the media, despite the missile tests, it is downright peaceful here, everybody is busy doing their work. In contrast, the Chinese fields spread out behind my back. Close to the city they are covered in plastic or completely covered by green houses. I bless both sides of the river in my mind, I wish the people peace and well-being, that their work would feed them and they would enjoy it.

On a short boat trip on the river I witness Chinese tourists and their reaction to the North Koreans we see on our way: Some of them wave and smile at them, others call out a provocative “Hello” and less friendly words to the opposite bank. I feel like I am in the zoo: Observing North Koreans. I notice that most Chinese hardly know anything about their neighbors. They glance over the border curiously – but seem to have no interest in more.


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 (www.procom-deaf.ch) 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.


My Brothers and Sisters in the North

This is the title of a film about the people of North Korea. I was able
to view this film in the course of a Korea event in the Ethnographic
Museum at the University of Zurich.

This impressive film portrays different people from the northern part of the Korean peninsula. Every person that film director Sung-Hyung Cho portrays on her journey through the country was
defined beforehand by officials.

Because of the film director’s unbiased approach, her respect and genuine interest in the farmers, soldiers, and seamstresses, the
conversations are heartfelt, similar to my own experiences. A quote from the cover: «Experience a joyful people whose love to ‚their leader’ appears peculiar more than once and who has not given
up their hopes and desires for a unified Korea.»

If I have roused your curiosity, you can buy the DVD on http://www.buch.ch for CHF 23. Avalable in german/korean with
german subtitles.

I very much appreciated meeting the film director personally when she took questions after the film and said: «The most difficult part was to see what was really there. Not the images of my mind and not the images that the North Koreans wanted us to see. I wanted to discover how much daily life there was in this totalitarian system. I
wanted to know how much system and state ideology was present in ,normal everyday life. I wanted to speak as open and honestly with the individuals as possible without endangering or embarrassing them. By doing this I learned not to equate the government with the people. I discovered that North Koreans are people like you and me.»

I am very happy that Sung-Hyung Cho is planning to portray Robert Grund’s work with the deaf in her next film!

Fundraising for North Korea