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A belated good morning from Wednesday morning in South Korea. (This post should have gone up Tuesday night Eastern Time. — Ed.) Today we are headed to the DMZ for a tour; sadly not the JSA because it’s closed for further talks after the Trump-Kim summit.
Yesterday we had all day meetings at the Liberty in North Korea headquarters about the summit we’ll be attending later this week between North Korean, South Korean and international students. I’m tagging along on a student-oriented trip and doing my best impersonation of a college student, but I’ve still somehow acquired the nickname “Mom.”
One of the main highlights from yesterday included meeting with the South Korean country director Sokeel Park and getting a briefing about the geopolitical situation here. Sokeel is the co-director of a fascinating documentary about the youth generation in North Korea, and I highly recommend watching it. He’s also a great follow on Twitter for news from the region.
One of Sokeel’s most important points about why Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) works to rescue refugees is lost on many, and I wanted to highlight it here. Two of the greatest agents for change within a country as repressive and closed off as North Korea are money and information. When defectors are able to make it over the border to South Korea, they often stay in contact with their friends and family back home in North Korea. Half of the defectors send home money and more stay in contact with their families. North Koreans are a particularly trusted source of news, and thus, the news and information they send home about the outside world are some of the most effective destabilizing elements that can bring about lasting change within the country. With infusions of cash, not only are families back home more economically flexible to grow the budding market economy, but those without family abroad see how wealthy those outside North Korea must be if they are able to send back such relatively large infusions of cash (the average is $1,000 annually for those who are able to send money home through brokers).
Another highlight of the afternoon was meeting with and having drinks with a famous North Korean propagandist turned South Korean painter, Sun Mu. Sun Mu is the subject of a Netflix documentary that’s worth your time, and an incredibly talented artist with a portfolio available online for viewing. He paints mostly in the style of North Korean propaganda, but from his lens of freedom here in the West. A few samples of his incredible work are below: