June 03, 2023

“We are not crazy!”

Most people wonder how moving through the DPRK by bus - with constant supervision - can be any more enjoyable than a lengthy car ride through an unvarying, monochromatic and silent environment. But for our group, driving through the countryside was anything but the sort. At the beginning, everyone - age and generational differences aside - comported themselves in the best, most politically correct way possible. Thank-yous, compliments, careful bows and non-exaggerated remarks characterized both our and our host’s behavior towards one another. We followed the cultural norms, carefully selecting conversation topics, and praised the sites we visited. With this [unspoken] code of conduct between both sides, our group moved agreeably through meals, visits and lengthy bus rides throughout our tour of the DPRK.

I was not expecting my mannerisms to change while on this trip, or to engage in much heavy political discussion. I knew that there were boundaries and I agreed to the standard set for me as a visitor to the Hermit Kingdom – their hermit kingdom. However, on the eve of our visit to Panmunjom, better known as the 38th parallel, after a visit to the most anti-American museum I have ever seen or really, who could have imagined that our next bus ride would become a diplomatic meeting of sorts.