Basketball in North Korea: Brunch with Luke Elie

CNN Luke Elie North Korea Basketball Video

Last month I introduced to you Luke Elie. You might have seen him in the news recently because he’s been quite a sensation since his trip to North Korea. He’s been extremely busy with all of the interview requests from big name news outlets like CNN, but I managed to bribe him into meeting me for brunch. Coming from experience, connections and food will go a long way.

When he asked me what I’d like to ask him in regards to his trip to North Korea, I told him that I had no interest in the politics of it. There is plenty of information out there on the politics of North Korea and its current state and I didn’t think that it would be necessary to add another redundant article to that list. What I was curious to hear about was his personal experience and interactions with the North Koreans he met while there.

I also didn’t want our meeting to be a stiff interview but instead wanted it to be just friends getting together to catch up… which will then result in an article. But let’s not linger on that. We met at Itaewon in Seoul, or the foreigners’ district, on a rainy morning and ate at a restaurant that specializes in brunch foods. We sat down and just started to talk. I told Luke what I had been up to since high school, which is when I last saw him, and he told me his story about how he ended up going to North Korea. I felt like it was a fair deal. Continue reading

Escape Art and Propaganda: Part I

In all of the novels that I have read about dystopias, art and literature always suffer a blow in some way. So, having grown up in a post-Cold War society that has taught me to associate its remnants with the dystopias of the literature required for a trimester of high school English, I wondered in what ways art and literature may be restrained in North Korea. Looking for signs of self-expression, I came across the artist Song Byeok, a former propaganda artist who defected from North Korea and continues to produce art in South Korea. In Paul Ferguson’s CNN article on the success of Song’s exhibition this past winter, I learned that, despite being a full member of the communist party of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Song Byeok also suffered from the food shortages and famines of the late twentieth century, which forced him to cross the Tumen River in search of food in China. In need of food, he and his father attempted to cross the river together. Unfortunately, his father drowned in the act. Though a devoted party member who openly praised the North Korean people and culture as superior, Song still faced confinement in a North Korean detention center after authorities caught him searching the river for his father’s body. Not receiving understanding from those who had captured him after the death of his father, Song decided to defect. Continue reading

In the News – China has repatriated North Korean defectors, South Korean official says

Aside

In the News – China has repatriated North Korean defectors, South Korean official says

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — Ignoring international protests, China may have repatriated around 30 North Korean defectors who had been caught while trying to escape their homeland, a South Korean official said Friday.

Park Sun-young, a South Korean lawmaker who had been on hunger strike protesting such repatriations, told CNN she believes the North Koreans have been sent back.  CNN cannot independently confirm the assertion. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. official: No evidence North Korean leader is dead

Aside

In the News – U.S. official: No evidence North Korean leader is dead

A photo released by North Korea's official news agency on Thursday shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center.

A photo released by North Korea's official news agency on Thursday shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center.

(CNN) — The U.S. intelligence community has found no evidence to suggest North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is dead, a senior U.S. official said Friday following posts on China’s version of Twitter that claimed Kim had been assassinated while in Beijing.

U.S. intelligence officials have been looking into such rumors for more than a week, according to the official, who has direct knowledge of the latest U.S. analysis. Continue reading

Kim Jong Il: DEAD

No matter where you were in the world today (December 19, 2011) you probably heard about the death of Kim Jong Il. North Korea’s official statement is that Kim Jong Il died of fatigue on Saturday, December 17th at 8:30 am on a train. For me, I was at work when I first heard about it. I work at an NGO in South Korea that deals specifically with North Korean issues and we keep close tabs on any new shifts within the rogue country, such as keeping an eye on the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) television station, the North’s official source of news. And it’s thanks to this careful observation that we were able to hear about the death of Kim Jong Il, “the Dear Leader.” Continue reading