29 August 2013

A STROLL WITH JOSEPH FERRIS III (For International Day Against Nuclear Tests)

     “In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims…” ~Pope Benedict XVI
Joseph Ferris with some North Korean kids
(Image Credit: Joseph Ferris)
A nuclear weapon making, world war threatening, missile parading, stubborn country; this is the picture the international media has painted in our minds about North Korea, but how true is this image? This is the question we will answer on today’s episode of the stroll.
Welcome to the STROLL, my name is Ebenezar. Today, I’d be shinning the spotlight on a country that has been in the news for some time now because of her nuclear policy and the international sanctions that have followed her. Contrary to what you see on TV, I’m not trying to castigate North Korea rather I’m going to give you an exclusive tour of this country through the eyes of a person who knows North Korea more than many of us.
My guest Mr. Joseph is a master mariner, photographer, North Korean guide with Young Pioneer tours, and creator of the popular blog 'American in North Korea'. Having visited North Korea countless times; he’s fully equipped with a robust knowledge of the North Korean people and culture, and it’s that knowledge he’d share with us on this stroll. This is not a journalism speculation, media hype, or a politically motivated press report. This is, a stroll in North Korea. See for yourself:

Ebenezar: Thank you Mr. Joseph for having this stroll with me
Joseph: You’re welcome; I hope I’d be able to help…
A military parade in North Korea
(Image Credit: Reuters)
Ebenezar: The international Media has painted North Korea as a very 'stiff' country that makes missiles and restricts internet access. Are the people of North Korea this way?
Joseph: Like everywhere else in the world, in the DPRK you will encounter friendly and humorous people, as well as cranky and rude people, but in general the everyday people you encounter are shy and polite.  To me traveling to the DPRK is like time travel.  The government preaches to their citizens to foster wholesome family values, and overwhelmingly this message sticks.  There is an innocence to the people, and to me it’s like being in a simpler age, before mass media and all the pressures of fast paced modern society that the rest of the world deals with.

Ebenezar: Does North Korea accept visitors? Like tourists and sightseers...

Joseph: Marshall Kim Jong-un has recently instituted a new policy to encourage tourism, so tourists are certainly welcome to visit.  Of course as everybody knows, visitors to the DPRK will be escorted by North Korean guides.  They are not as harsh as the western media loves to portray them as, at least if you come to their country with the right intentions: to learn their culture, experience their hospitality, and have fun.  When you play by these rules visitors typically have a splendid experience. But visit with ulterior motives—that is; undercover journalism, or to prove your view points about the country—and, the guides will quickly identify your true motives and limit your access.

Dennis Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters during their visit to North Korea
(AP Photo/ Kim Kwang Hyon) 

Ebenezar: Whao!  Okay, that’s good to know… I know you're not a nuclear expert. But what is your personal opinion about nuclear tests and the use of nuclear energy?
Joseph: Though in the future there is great possibility for clean, safe, Nuclear energy, current technology has yet to reach that idea; Fukushima clearly illustrates the dangers.  When traveling in the DPRK, especially after visiting China, I am struck by how environmentally sound it is.  Although like most countries DPRK is not without pollution, I was impressed by its clear skies, pristine beaches, wonderful seafood, and the energy and resources devoted to planting trees and reforestation.  As the DPRK moves to develop Nuclear energy it would be a shame if a Fukushima-like accident were to damage their other achievements.

Ebenezar: After seeing what happened at Chernobyl, Fukushima, and other places we've had nuclear accidents in the world. Don't you think humanity should just dump the use of nuclear power?

Joseph: Though I’m not an expert, it has become common knowledge that nuclear weapons provide poorer countries with leverage when dealing with the developed world, in effect taking the threat of military invasion off the table.  However, this of course necessitates the development and maintenance of a nuclear arsenal with all the crippling costs and environmental dangers.  The alternative is engagement, true diplomacy that will not cease regardless of ideological differences.

President Kim inspecting a military base
For my part I believe tourism is a soft approach to diplomacy.  The Americans who travel to North Korea don’t bring with them the American way of life, they just bring friendly faces from the States, and in North Korea that’s both novel and welcome.

Ebenezar: How are public holidays celebrated in North Korea? Are festivals there open to the rest of the world?

Joseph: North Koreans love public holidays. Liberation Day, Victory Day, and the leader's birthdays often include massive military parades and rallies. When possible, North Koreans take advantage of holidays, taking time off from work to gather in parks with their families, enjoy picnics, song and dance, and various folk competitions such as; tug of war.

North Korean kids performing during a festival
(Image Credit: Joseph Ferris)
Ebenezar: hehehe… that’s warm, unlike what we see on TV. Okay, if you notice in the news recently we've been hearing about many lives that have been lost due to regular re-occurrence of cap siding boats. As a mariner, what do you think is causing these painful re-occurrences?

Joseph: I have a hard time believing that incidents of maritime shipping disasters are on the increase.  International standards of training and watch keeping are at a high level, and are required worldwide throughout the maritime community.  Of course accidents still happen, and as ships continue to get larger, their occurrences tend to make compelling front page stories.

Ebenezar: yeah, it’s sad. I hope things get better soon. Thank you so much for this exclusive tour Mr. Joseph…

Joseph: it was a pleasure Ebenezar, glad I could help.

For more about Mr. Joseph(@JosephferrisIII) and to visit his American in North Korea blog, click here

The Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear disasters should always serve as a lesson to the world and most especially every person advocating for the increase in the use of nuclear energy. There are other cleaner, greener, sources we can harness; let’s stop this nuclear addiction.

I’d also like to advise President Kim to renew relations with the rest of the world, get rid of all missiles and war heads, and reconcile with President Park of South Korea. Let the words of Pope Benedict make meaning to you Mr. Kim; “In a nuclear war there are no victors, only victims…” Nuclear war will mark the end of humanity; you can’t play with fire and expect not to get burnt.

Till my next stroll; Jesus loves you.

Ebenezar Wikina(@poeticjazz)
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1 comment:

  1. Now, I most certainly will have to visit North Korea someday. I have always seen Kim as a spoilt brat seeking the end of the world in a Hitler way.

    Thanks Sir Wikina.