Monday, August 24, 2009

DPRK North Korea

At the end of last November, I traveled across the DMZ by bus into North Korea. Ours was the last public tour of Kaesong (Gaesong 개성); that evening the border closed, and hasn't since reopened to tourists.

I was interviewed by TV and print media both before & after my trip. One interview was with a student reporter, Park Boram, a pre-journalism intern for the Ministry of Unification. Here's the summary transcript:

1) What is purpose of your sightseeing to North Korea?
North Korea is a very uncommon travel destination. As a specialist in place marketing, I’m very interested in unique destinations that are fun, educational or confer conversational capital. A tour to Kaesong seemed challenging and a bit scary (not least because I went by myself on a Korean language tour, and my Korean language skills are still very limited). The trip was also an uncommon chance to learn and appreciate something special.

I visited East Germany in 1981, a day trip to East Berlin. It was highly eye-opening to be in a society so radically different than my own. I had a few memorable conversations, and spent most of the day in museums, but left recognizing that humans are much the same even though their political systems might be radically different. (Demonizing whole communities is nonsense).

I have had some experience training groups from North Korea: they came to Sweden and I taught them about market economics & Swedish ideology. My strongest impressions were not involving politics, but rather basic human interaction. For example, when out with a group at night in Stockholm, my wife & I asked an older male professor “Who does the cooking at your house?” ("And who does the shopping and cleanup?" "What favorite dishes can you cook?") These topics generated laughter and joking among the North Korean colleagues. Such discussions may be a basis for humor & gentle ribbing, but also for human communication.

2) What is the picture of there? I mean, is there same to report which is from broadcastings or books? Or is there seems to be hard to live there?

Hyundai Asan has made a truly amazing effort. The corporate effort has bridged an area where the South Korean government could do little. It is a great tribute to private initiative that such a thing has been possible. I would expect this to lead to improved rapprochement. Certainly any North Koreans seeing or working in the Kaesong Industrial Complex would be impressed with the modern infrastructure, which so strongly contrasts with nearby villages & hamlets (normal villages reminded me of visits to Nepal; tougher & more rustic than settlements south of the DMZ).

3) Where is the most impression place? Or what is special food in North Korea?

A tour is a great way to feel pushed to learn more history (I’m still learning the basics of Korean history). For example, I knew that Kaesong was a former capital (918-1392 Koryo Dynasty), but I was surprised to learn the name was formerly Songdo (sounding similar to the place name for South Korea's huge New Songdo City development near Incheon).

I had a strong sense that the government in Pyongyang is taking care of cultural treasures as the joint heritage of all Korean people. We enjoyed visiting Sonjuk Bridge, Pakyon Falls and the ancient Songkyunkwan University buildings. Considering North Korea's economic condition, seeing these treasures was a sadly ironic contrast to the poor stewardship of the Seoul government with the tragic destruction of Sungnyemun (1st national treasure of Korea; Feb. 2008 Namdaemun fire in Seoul).

My group had a delicious 13-course meal served in traditional polished brass bowls, with alcoholic drink starter (Kaesong Koryo Insam Liquor). The waitresses wore "Songdo Gisaeng" Hanbok. The kimchi used coriander, and had a special tangy taste. Also an arrowroot jelly was yummy, peppery samgyetang, unseasoned kim (nori / seaplant), sukchu namul with ginger, and yakbap (sticky "medicine rice" with ginnan, chestnut, etc.)... I guess very few others in that city ate as well as we did.

4) This question is so privacy and individual, but I expect to know your opinion. What do you think of unification between North and South Korea? And why do you think so?

Highly-partisan positions within South Korean politics (GDP / Democratic Party antagonism) have made progress difficult, as unification policies are treated as a political football. Differing parties and politicians repudiate each other at the cost of Inter-Korean reconciliation. Partisan politics have led to the Sunshine Policy being promoted or opposed in narrow partisan politics, instead of in terms of nation-building. The partition of Korea has huge costs. In my personal opinion, unification is a great, perhaps primary, national goal worthy of major, serious, sustained effort.

5) And last question, do you have some opinions to Korean government or Koreans relation to North Korea?

During the time we visitors were at ancient Songkyunkwan University for sightseeing & nearby shopping, I had the chance to watch our guides. Though they were from North and South, and were dressed very differently, I could clearly see rapport: they nudged each other and joked and laughed together. From my perspective as an outsider, seeing them speaking Korean together as colleagues clarified the tragedy of a divided land. I wish more Koreans deeply recognized this tragedy. We might imagine a time when 72 million Korean people cherish their heritage; when buses and trains carry all Koreans throughout the Korean peninsula or perhaps onward to China, Russia or Europe. That scenario promises more dynamic culture, cheaper imports and the freeing-up of huge resources and vast areas of land now dedicated to military defense. This trip to Kaesong opened my imagination. It was a peak experience!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peace Month Fast Approaching

Peace Month begins tomorrow: No food or drink, dawn to dusk, for 30 days. Suddenly every bite of anything tastes special, and I'm more aware each time I open my mouth. I expect to survive the challenge, but it won't be easy... How will I contribute to peace in the midst of it?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Politics or Not ... Scouting

Should everything be politicized? Kids birthday parties? Medical care? Is celebrating Christmas anti-Semitic?

I was a member of the Boy Scouts of America. I can heartily recommend Scouting for skills & leadership development; we had great fun & learned a lot.

More than 100 million Americans have been part of the Scouting movement; the vast majority with excellent experiences. Each & every day, Scouting skills save lives. Thanks to Scouting, many people better understand nature and the wider world.

But some people now see Scouting as the Great Satan - for sexual intolerance.

Scouting sought to be an organization for young men, but otherwise asexual. Health, hygiene & first aid are taught, but sexual matters were deliberately avoided; family & health professionals were recommended for advice. Perhaps such a solution could not continue in an all-inclusive issue-based society. Why weren't girls welcome? And what if volunteer adult leaders abused their trust as chaperones?

The National Office, Boy Scouts of America was pressured to take unambiguous positions in the national struggle for tolerance & gender equality. Bigotry was certainly involved in the decision to refuse membership to avowed homosexuals. Parent worries about pedophilia became part of the debate. The majority of Scouts are pre-teens, sexuality not yet a major part of their lives. But sexual & gender battles developed around them, fought bitterly by others through to the Supreme Court of the USA. Hurray perhaps for legalism, politics & propriety. The boys are the losers...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blind Obama

Obama needs more help. Change is far too little, much too late. Huge funds were given to robber capitalists & overseas warfare.
Let's develop a clearly better path.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fox, Murdoch & Mordor

No not Muldar... the Dark Side.

The below firms & organizations reportedly advertise heavily on Fox News. Check details. In my opinion, Fox deliberately generates hate & hogwash; Fox is not mainstream. Has "the rabid Fox" earned your support? - support these firms. If Fox disgusts you, these sponsor / funder organizations should be told, then abandoned to rot in their own mess:
AARP Insurance
Accu Chek Aviva (Roche)
ADT Security
Ally Bank (
American Express
Avodart (GlaxoSmithKline)
Best Buy
Black & Decker
Brita Filter
Campbell Soup
Conservatives for Patients Rights
Ditech (
General Motors
Golden Corral restaurants
Healthy Choice (ConAgra Foods)
HSBC Life Insurance
Kraft Foods
Lending Tree
LensCrafters, Inc.
Liberty Mutual Insurance
L.L. Bean
Men's Warehouse
Metastock (Equis / Thomson Reuters)
Nexium (AstraZeneca)
Office Depot
Pep Boys Auto
Proctor & Gamble
Prudential Insurance
Radio Shack
Red Lobster
Sargento Foods
Splenda (Johnson & Johnson)
State Farm Insurance
Super8 Motels (
Superior Gold Group
Time Warner Cable Inc.
United Healthcare Insurance
United Parcel Service of America, Inc. – UPS
United States Postal Service
Wachovia Finance
Wall Street Journal
Weitz & Luxenberg P.C.
Yahoo! Inc.

Treasonous Shocks by Fox. Bad business.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Charity to Banks

I'm still sorely bothered by the U.S. Government's bailout of ailing banks. The federal government authorities should not have interfered with the market. Better the banks crashed, and rot diminished. Now the same shitbirds who caused banking difficulties are still siphoning-off huge pay & benefits.

Many bankers may have lost their jobs. Some would perhaps need to seek the charity of their communities, but most bankers have accumulated substantial personal reserves of wealth.

It is the average taxpayer who was played for a sucker. And the game continues.