I’m back in the USA after a whirlwind of travel. From the Philippines I traveled to Beijing, the jumping off point for Americans traveling North Korea, which was my destination. I was only in Korea for a couple of days, but they were momentous ones. I tried to post a blog when I got back to Beijing from Pyongyang, but apparently China and Google are having a tiff so I couldn’t get into the program. I left China for Peru where we dedicated the first 20 houses, and then back here to Americus.
This was my third trip to the DPRK. With each journey I become more convinced that if people ran the world instead of politicians we might be able to live in peace. The North Koreans have a world view that is vastly different from ours and that difference has resulted in our pretty much being mad at each other for the last 60 years. But the Korean people, like people everywhere, are just like you and me. And at the grass roots level they just want to be friends.
On this trip I traveled with our board chair, LeRoy Troyer, Don Mosley, founder of Jubilee Partners and long-time Habitat and Fuller Center supporter, and Dr. Han Park, professor of political science at the University of Georgia and founder of the Center for the Study of Global Issues (GLOBIS). These visits to North Korea are the result of conversations Don Mosley and Han Park started over two years ago.
Getting to North Korea requires a little effort. As there is no DPRK embassy in the United States, visas, which are pre-approved by Pyongyang, are issued in Beijing. So we traveled here on Saturday, the 7th, picked up our visas and Air Koryo plane tickets on Monday, and traveled to Pyongyang on Tuesday. It was a whirlwind trip—we were only there a couple of days—but one of great significance.
I’ve had the opportunity of meeting with government officials, working people and farmers on my travels there. To a person they have been polite, friendly and interesting. Despite the many things we could probably find to disagree on there is one thought that we all share—it’s time to come together.
But the big event, and the reason for this trip, was to break ground on The Fuller Center’s first housing project in North Korea. We met with officials from our partner agency, the Paektusan Academy of Architecture, our hosts, the Asia Pacific Peace Committee, government officials and local farmers at Osun-Ri in the Sunan District just outside of Pyongyang. We arrived to find the site partially excavated with house sites laid out. There were about 75 people at the site and a long table with a welcoming banner. We took out places behind the table and the program began.
There were a few speeches and then about a dozen of us were given white gloves and a shovel. We lined up along one of the foundation lines and on cue all turned the soil, marking the beginning of what will surely be an incredible journey.
You can read more about this here. Starting next spring we’ll be sending volunteer teams to Osan-Ri, giving Americans and Koreans the opportunity of coming together for a good purpose. Who knows what might come of this. Our goal is to build houses. If, in the process, we can build some trust and help build peace what a blessing that will be.