May 19, 2024

Pictures at an exhibition: We need more cultural exchange with the DPRK

Seeing how people really live is more helpful than vocal condemnations over human rights

Since Britain established diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) in December 2000, the number of substantive exchanges between the two countries has been somewhat limited. A program to supply staff to train English teachers in Pyongyang began just before the formal establishment of relations and has continued in a slightly expanded form ever since. Funded by the Foreign Office, the scheme was ran and monitored by the British Council. To complement it, groups of interpreters, liaison officers and similar staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health and other bodies were brought to Britain for short-term courses to improve their language skills.

Both of these have been highly regarded by those who directly benefit from them. Those who have come to Britain are usually very proud of the fact that they have been selected and tend to have very positive memories of their time here. A member of one group told me that they called themselves “The Eastbourne Boys” after the town where they had studied. Others fondly recalled incidents such as playing football against a team from South Korea or being addressed as “dear” in the shops.

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