Building educational links with North Korea

The Initiative to Build Educational Links with North Korea

North Korea (or the DPRK - Democratic People’s Republic of Korea - as it is officially known) is the world’s most isolated and reclusive country.  It is perhaps the country that is resisting the vortex of globalisation more stridently than any other.

Since 2005, I have been following an ambitious dream.  I believe that the world would be a more peaceful and stable place if some members of the next generation of North Korea’s leadership could be educated on full scholarships in United World Colleges.  After all, the UWCs were established during the Cold War to achieve precisely this aim of bringing together future leaders from all parts of the world and educating them into a deep understanding of one another’s cultures and beliefs.

To follow the dream, I have been leading an initiative to build goodwill between young people in North Korea and youths of similar ages from around the world.  This has involved seven trips to North Korea since 2005, six of which have been with students from Li Po Chun United World College in Hong Kong.

My first trip was in March 2005. I accompanied 10 students to North Korea in what was the first visit to North Korea by foreign students - ever.  Images of the 1st trip can be seen HERE.

My second trip was in August 2005 when I travelled to North Korea with my youngest son, Andrew, to build on the contacts already established. This also provided the opportunity to attend the opening night of the Mass Games in the presence of the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il.  Images of the 2nd trip can be seen HERE.

My third trip was in March 2006 when I travelled with 14 students. The students gained a deep insight into life in the world's least known, most isolated and most misunderstood country, and also served as wonderful ambassadors of goodwill for the United World College movement.  Images of the 3rd trip can be seen HERE.

My 4th trip was in late May to early June 2007 when I travelled with 13 students and one other teacher.  This was perhaps the most productive visit yet and established a firm foundation for future development of friendship and goodwill.  Details of this 4th trip can be seen HERE.

The 5th trip took place in August 2008 with 16 students and one other teacher.  Unlike the earlier trips which were each of 4 days duration, this trip lasted almost a full week and included performances of the mass gymnastics (also called ‘mass games’).  There was further significant progress on the long pathway towards building goodwill and understanding.  Details of this 5th trip can be seen HERE.

The 6th trip occurred in August 2009 when I took 20 students (the largest group to date) for a one week trip that included Pyongyang, Panmumjom and the DMZ, Nampo and Mount Myohyang.  The group also saw a performance of mass gymnastics.  On this trip, a formal proposal was presented to the DPRK Ministry of Education to establish links with the intention of bringing DPRK students on full scholarships to study in UWCs.  A detailed day-by-day trip diary can be seen HERE, and galleries showing 735 photos of the trip can be accessed from HERE.

The 7th trip occurred in August 2010 when I took the largest group yet - 21 students - for a one wek trip that included Pyongyang, Mount Paektu, Mount Myohyang, Panmunjom and the DMZ, and Sinchon.  The group also saw a performance of the ‘Arirang’ mass gymnastics.  Further work was done to follow-up the building of a relationship with the Ministry of Education through two school visits and the presentation of a formal submission (through UNICEF).  Galleries showing 735 photos of the trip can be seen HERE.

The 94 students who travelled on the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th visits to North Korea received generous support from Mr Bill Benter, the Kowloon North Rotary Club, and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.  I wish to express my profound appreciation for their support, without which the initiative would not be possible.

You can read more about the DPRK initiative in an article on the UWC website HERE.




North Korea Uncovered
North Korean Vehicles




Eric Lafforgue’s Images
A vast collection of photos of North Korea
North Korea Leadership Watch

Click the cover to download a full report of the 2010 trip (7.6MB)



UPDATE 1: After I moved to Houston in August 2011, responsibility for the North Korea Initiative at LPCUWC was taken over by the Head of Languages, Mr Ronny Mintjens.  He led a successful tour of students to North Korea in August 2011, and he has kindly agreed to make the report of that trip viewable HERE.

UPDATE 2: Before I left Hong Kong I interviewed the first North Korean student to apply to attend a UWC.  The student was accepted for entry and attended the United World College in Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina) from 2011 to 2013, when he successfully completed his IB (International Baccalaureate)  examinations.  Details can be seen HERE and HERE.

CIA World Factbook
North Korea