Kim Chan Ku, a Veteran Businessman With North Korea, Tells His…

first_img RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR News Entire border patrol unit in North Hamgyong Province placed into quarantine following “paratyphoid” outbreak News Facebook Twitter There are signs that North Korea is running into serious difficulties with its corn harvest SHARE AvatarKim Chan Ku, Researcher in the Institute for Far Eastern Studies center_img North Korea tries to accelerate building of walls and fences along border with China News [imText1]What is the result of the blood, sweat, and tears that I devoted to North Korea for 16 years?When I first visited North Korea, it was a country very difficult to gain access to. I made numerous visits and I wish to reminisce on those past 16 years. Although I don’t think I have the talent for writing, I am going to try to put it down on paper.Warnings From the ConsulateOn July 7th, 1988, the South Korean government made a special declaration encouraging fellow countrymen abroad to visit North Korea. On January 19th, 1989, with other South Koreans, I waited to receive my entry visa at the North Korean embassy in Beijing. There we had the chance to briefly meet with the North Korean ambassador.An officer from the embassy said, “We sincerely welcome you fellow countrymen from America. Before you depart for Pyongyang tomorrow, a few matters need to be understood clearly. An official will tell you about them.” Then the consul began to explain.“First of all, newspapers on which photographs of Kim Il Sung the Great Leader and Kim Jong Il the Dear Leader are printed must not be folded, thrown into garbage cans, or crammed into pockets. Secondly, index fingers must not be used to point to the statues and pictures of the Great Leader, or the Dear Leader, although you may point to them with your open hand, palm face-up. Thirdly, you cannot go anywhere or take pictures without a tour guide’s permission. For instance, you are not allowed to ask a passing citizen to be a part of a picture, let alone strike up a conversation with them. I wish you all a good trip to your fatherland by strictly conforming to these instructions.”Sixteen Year Business With the North All Came to NothingThat is how I came to be involved with Pyongyang. I felt as if I had been specially chosen to do business with the North because I could speak Korean, and was of the same race. Even if I felt I was being manipulated by the North Korean authorities from time to time, I could not give up my business because money was not my sole motivation. I worked really hard. I felt at home when I was in Pyongyang, and was anxious to help the North Korean people. While my business was in operation, time and again I was disappointed by the North Koreans. However, I did not stop trying to inform them of the outer world and showing them my sincerity. As longs as I put in the effort, I expected my business to run smoothly.North Korean authorities never kept their promises to me, although now I think the promises were destined not to be kept from the very beginning. My business never made much progress because of relationes between the North and South, and I often felt tired and frustrated while trying to stick to my business plans. Finally, I felt that it was time to withdraw. I had done what I could to share my wealth and technology with North Koreans. Now that it was gone, what more could I offer? I had wanted North Koreans to prosper, and had almost felt that it was my duty to rescue them from poverty. I only regret that I could not do more for them. You Cannot Apply Logical Reasoning to Understand North KoreaI could not understand why North Korean authorities were displeased and dissatisfied with my business, even though I invested all of my money in the North. I had taught them the technology and skills, and how to earn money from the outside world.It was a painful experience, and it still hurts me to think about. North Korea is impossible to understand with logical reasoning and common sense, and the society is difficult to understand without experiencing it first-hand. I did not think the way that the North Korean authorities did, and I often did not understand much of what they meant. Nonetheless, I was constantly pained that they did not see my sincerity in wanting to help the North.In this series I will try to refrain from calling the North names, as I did not do business with the North for personal gain. But it want to relate my 16 years of unsuccessful business with the North so that I can expose its shortcomings to the international community. In fact, it was not easy for me to take part in the North Korean business as I faced numerous hardships as a child during the Korean War. Not Giving Up, Just Temporarily HaltingI became doubtful whether it had been the right decision to engage in business with North Korea when I saw the photographs of the South Korean fishermen abducted by the North. But we do not live in the past. I want to let bygones be bygones. These are just my memories, and I still haven’t given up on my business, just temporarily halted it. I am not resentful of my failures. Rather,I feel pity for the North Koreans, who share the same blood as me. Although they did not see the honesty of my work, I devoted almost everything I had to them. Now I must change the way that I help them, since I do not want to put my life in danger. I wish to thank my younger brother and his wife for taking great care of my mother. According to the Korean tradition, it is my duty as the oldest son to look after my parents, but I could not fulfill this duty because I invested so much time and energy in helping the North Korean people.When I decided to start my business with the North, I realized that changes in South-North relations were necessary. And I believe that the North itself is still fundamentally the same, and that the attitudes and sentiments towards South Korean tourism have not changed. I wish to share my North Korean experience with those South Korean authorities concerned with tourism. I suppose it will be helpful in pinpointing what the South should do to help the North progess. Kim Chan Ku, a Veteran Businessman With North Korea, Tells His Story News By Kim Chan Ku, Researcher in the Institute for Far Eastern Studies – 2005.11.18 5:38pm last_img read more