In the News – 2010
Elliott School Students Catch Rare Glimpse of Life in North Korea
While many Elliott School students leave Foggy Bottom during the summer months for work, internships, and study in their hometowns or destinations around the world, Elliott School junior Debbie Kye and graduate student James Tetlow traveled to North Korea to witness what life is actually like in the guarded nation.
Debbie and James traveled to the country with the P'yongyang Project, an initiative that aims to increase engagement and dialogue between Americans and North Koreans. Each spent five days in North Korea, arriving and departing through China, James in June and Debbie in August.
Both students said that many North Koreans were cautious to speak to participants of the program and other foreigners. Debbie, who is minoring in Korean and has extended family in North Korea, found it a little easier to connect. She said that North Koreans were friendlier with her and often referred to her as a "comrade."
She also said that offering cigarettes to North Koreans sometimes opened dialogue. Once, it also enabled her to exit a closed gate of her hotel after curfew to take photos.
James said that government propaganda was widely noticeable in the nation and that a statue of North Korean leader Kim il Sung was the first thing he saw when he got off the plane in P'yongyang.
"Traveling to North Korea gave me a very good sense of how militarized the society is and how much of a time capsule North Korea is in," said James. "Even though the country is advanced with nuclear weapons, you don't realize that they're using very old technology."
James noted how well planned and green the city of P'yongyang, and Debbie added that Kaesong, a city in the south of North Korea, was significantly less developed.
The students presented their experiences at an event sponsored by the Elliott School's Sigur Center for Asian Studies on October 19, 2010.