Pyongyang, September 25 (KCNA) -- Won Moon Joo, a student of New York University, was interviewed by foreign and domestic media persons in Pyongyang Friday.
He mentioned at the interview:
My name is Won Moon Joo and I am 21 years old, currently studying business in New York University. I was born in Seoul, south Korea on April 9th, 1994 and moved to the United States with my parents in March, 2001 when I was 7 years old, and currently live in New Jersey, the U.S. I went to elementary, middle, and high school in the United States and on September 2012 enrolled in New York University. I studied there till January 2015, and applied for a leave of absence until August 2015, starting from February 15th to March 27th, I traveled throughout the U.S., and using Google search, read articles that stated that people could enter the DPRK through China, and to prepare for entering through this method, I left the U.S. on March 28th and arrived in Seoul, south Korea. During my stay of 22 days, using internet I became determined to enter the DPRK through Dandong, Liaoning Province, China. I left Inchon, south Korea on April 20th, arrived at Dandong, China on April 21st, to illegally enter the DPRK through the DPRK-Chinese border, where I was arrested on April 22nd.
My motive and purpose of entering the DPRK illegally was to satisfy my curiosity by seeing and experiencing for myself the reality of the DPRK despite the negative things I heard while living in the U.S. through the media and internet.
Although I was a criminal, the DPRK treated me in the most humanitarian way, and granted my wish of personally experiencing life in the DPRK.
I requested the gathering here today because it is my desire and duty to express my feelings and opinions as an ordinary college student who was generously granted the unprecedented measure of being allowed to personally see the reality of the DPRK, in hopes that it could reveal the distorted perception of the DPRK present throughout the U.S.
Of course, I am not an expert on Korean history, nor on the situation on the Korean Peninsula. However, I attempted to view and recognize the information presented to me with an objective point of view. As a result the following opinions and analysis are my own judgment from what I felt and perceived during my experience.
First of all, the DPRK is a man-centered society where everything is for the benefit of the people.
While living in the U.S., the things I heard about this country from mass media and public opinion were that north Korea is an "egregious state armed for war with nuclear weapons" and that the "dictator leaders" of the DRRK live a life of luxury while cruelly oppressing the people to maintain power but my experience proved just how wrong this view was.
With an open mind, I traveled through Pyongyang and various places in the DPRK and discovered a fact that I had not heard of the DPRK while living in the U.S. The most grand and beautiful buildings are for ordinary citizens such as theaters, stadiums, library and all the names of these buildings include the word "people's." Monumental locations that form the foundations of cultural and recreational life of the people, including the Grand People's Study House, Munsu Water Park, Rungna Dolphinarium, Kaeson Youth Amusement Park are in service for the well-being of the ordinary people. For example, the Grand People's Study House, a large scale public library for the masses, is not for any specific group of people, but for all citizens including farmers or laborers. People could read all kinds of books, study various subjects such as music, foreign languages, and so on, all for free under the care of the government. Also, I was able to visit Kim Il Sung University where students were engaged in their studies and enrolled for free with scholarships given by the nation, and I saw the modern electronic lab, filled with computers that can access intranet and internet, as well as a nice swimming pool which students and professors were free to use during their free time.
I was especially surprised when I visited the Pyongyang Children's Palace, because any young gifted children could learn singing, dancing and instruments with no worries of tuition or fees and fulfill their hopes under the warm care of the government. At the modern Munsu Water Park I was able to see many families and people relaxing and having a good time and at Moran Hill, a natural park located in Pyongyang for the convenience of the people, I saw people dancing and singing under a pavilion, and I came to realize why foreigners call Pyongyang a city in the park.
On July 27th and August 15th I was able to see group mass dancing among students and workers, as well as a fireworks show, and these holidays made a great impression on me, because of the huge number of citizens that gathered and the festive mood of the people.
Through these experiences, I came to realize that everything is served for the convenience of the people and this fact surprised me, as someone who heard only negative things about the DPRK, and I questioned how such a people-centered system came to be, and I tried to find the answer by myself.
The answer I found was that the Juche idea created and developed by the people's fatherly leaders was applied in all spheres of life in the unique socialist state of the DPRK.
All the buildings, schools, museums share a common trait that they were constructed under the initiative and guidance of President Kim Il Sung, General Kim Jong Il and Marshal Kim Jong Un to promote the welfare of the people.
The most influential events were my visits to the Pyongyang Orphanage and the Okryu Children's Hospital. At the orphanage, I found out through the stories of the director that Marshal Kim Jong Un made several visits during the recent construction process to give painstaking and fatherly care so that the children did not have a single discomfort, even adding rubber mats to the shower room to make sure the kids didn't slip. Provided with unlimited fresh food, medicine, beautiful bedrooms, playrooms and swimming pools, these children expressed to me that they had nothing to envy, even though they may have lost their parents, as they greeted me and happily sang songs about their Marshal Kim Jong Un. As I saw their joyful lives, I could begin to understand why the entire nation of the DPRK unanimously revere and follow their leaders like their fathers and I wrote in the visitors' memobook, "After today's visit I begin to understand why the children call their Great Marshal Kim Jong Un their father. Such a man who takes care of all the children in the land, including those who have lost their parents, cannot be without compassion and greatness. I will remember this day forever."
I saw the loving care given by Marshal Kim Jong Un at the Okryu Children's Hospital, where state of the art care is given to the youth, from new born babies to 16 year old children who live not only in Pyongyang but rural areas throughout the country, at no cost.
During my visit to Mansu Hill where the bronze statues of President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il are located, I was fortunate enough to see a wedding take place. There I found out it is customary for wedding couples to offer bows as a sign of respect and happiness. During my visits to Kim Il Sung Square, Arch of Triumph, Tower of the Juche Idea, and Pyongyang subway filled with murals, I was about to see the people's reverence for their leaders who lighted the path for the people.
I was able to learn about President Kim Il Sung's humble and patriotic beginnings in the straw thatched house at his native home, Mangyongdae, and how he persevered through great difficulties to liberate the people and led the people to their standing today. By reading his memoirs, "With the Century," I was able to understand the origins of the Juche idea and its embodiment in the DPRK society today.
At the International Friendship Museum, I was not only surprised by the huge number of gifts, over tens of thousands, sent to the leaders of the DPRK from politicians, leaders, presidents of almost every country in the world, but also discovered the high admiration that Korea is held by many different people throughout the world who hold close relationships with the DPRK leaders. Those presents show the acknowledgement of the people throughout the world to the DPRK leaders who created the man-centered political philosophy and established the Juche-oriented socialist state.
I was fortunate enough to be present during the election day of the DPRK, July 19th, where local assemblymen were elected to represent the people. It may be a shock, but people do not vote for one candidate versus another. The election process was not a competition between candidates, but a process where the people showed their support and candidates promised to serve the society. The day was like a holiday with the people celebrating with singing and dancing.
During my stay I noticed that people seemed much more satisfied and relaxed with their lives, as a result of the stable political system, economy, and culture because the rights of people's lives are guaranteed. I mean everyone is given home, food, monthly allowance and medical care. Because the nation is always centered on the welfare of the people and money plays less of a role, people do not live and work in competition for a personal salary, but rather for the good of the nation and society. Simply speaking, because the people are the most important being in the society, the saying, "One for all, All for one," shows the collective spirit that results in the benefit of the individual and whole.
As someone who lived and grew up in a capitalist society for all of my life, I find it difficult to explain everything I felt in the socialist society of the DPRK in words, but I can say that it was perhaps the most surprising and warming experience of my life. Frankly speaking, I saw none of the human rights issues of the tyranny of the DPRK government that I had previously thought existed in the DPRK.
While living in the U.S., I heard many things about the violation of human rights and the negative perception of the DPRK through different sources. During high school, I was a part of the "Liberty in North Korea" club which is an organization that helps so called north Korea refugees in China who crossed the DPRK-Chinese border to find a new life. In 2011, 3 members of "Liberty in North Korea" organization came to my high school and gave a short presentation about themselves and showed a documentary about refugees escaping north Korea and trying to establish a new life elsewhere. Also during college, I received as a birthday present a non fiction novel made up of stories of people who escaped north Korea through China and the life described there was a sort of forced living with no hope. Also on March 2015, through internet, I read a story of a foreign tourist who had bought marijuana in a north Korean market.
Of course, the DPRK is not the wealthiest of nations and each day it preserves against all odds and endures through many hardships. However, I believe that the people live freely and their minds liberated as a result of the current political system. The leaders and the people of the DPRK form a large harmonious family and they live and work optimistically for the future.
During my visit to Kim Il Sung University and the Grand People's Study House, I talked in English with students who were learning English and their welcoming atmosphere to me, a U.S. university student from south Korea, was a warming experience with no coldness or aversion, and as they stated a person who has a peaceful purpose is no enemy. During my encounters with many DPRK citizens, everyone was enthusiastic and optimistic about their work and the mood of the society was full of collaboration.
Often times in the West, the DPRK is described as isolated and closed, and the people are blinded by the government of the outside world. However, I found out during my stay this was not true. At the Pyongyang International Cinema House I watched an Indian film, called Tezz, which took place in modern day London, showing everyday life in the West. I also watched countless other foreign films from Russia, China, India and other nations through the TV broadcast and DVDs. Also, at Kim Il Sung University, I saw with my own eyes computers with internet access available to students and professors. At the Grand People's Study House I saw Mark Twain's famous Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other foreign novels and textbooks which were available for ordinary people to read.
I am no politician or historian. I am just an ordinary Korean college student who believes in peace and fairness.
I was given the opportunity of visiting the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and the Sinchon Museum, and saw various evidence that showed that the Korean war was not provoked by the DPRK, but by the U.S. and also proof of the war atrocities committed by the U.S. Among the many horrific accounts, proven by photos, eye witnesses, and documents, such as cruel tortures using nails or saws, the most significant account was one where children and their parents were separated from one another and set on fire with gasoline in a shed. I was able to meet one of the three survivors of this case and visited the very building where this crime took place. I placed bouquet of flowers on the burial mound of children who perished that day, and wondered why I had never heard of such accounts during history classes or other sources. After I finished walking around the museum, I wrote in the visitors' memobook "War is a terrible thing among mankind. My hopes are that it will not happen again in the Korean Peninsula and a peaceful solution is found. However, the past wrongs must be addressed by the wrongdoers. That day will come soon."
In the current tense situation in the Korean Peninsula, I could understand the animosity the Korean people harbored for the crimes the U.S. had committed, especially more so since the U.S. refuses to acknowledge these crimes. Hiding these facts only worsens the relationship between the U.S. and the DPRK, and proves to be an obstacle in making peace.
The fighting during the Korean war has stopped with the armistice agreement, but the north and south Korean people remain enemies technically still at war and as a result, the people of the same nation do not know the truth of one another. It saddens me more so, after my stay here, that brother fights brother, which is tragedy of the Korean people that the nation remains divided and I believe we must forget the past in order to look to the future towards the brighter days of reunification.
While staying in the DPRK, I felt first-hand that whether from the north or south, the Korean people share the same language and culture and as a people of the same blood our many similarities by far overcomes our few differences. I believe that we can end the 70 years of division through our mutual longing for reunification.
I hope that my words and story will be conveyed to others around the world, particularly the U.S. and south Korea, so that compassionate people and the media throughout the world extend an empathetic mind towards the DPRK. I ask the U.S. and south Korean governments to suspend their hostile attitude towards the DPRK and to change their policies regarding the recognition of the DPRK.
As a student who loves justice and truth, I hope that the proposals of peace and reunification such as the Program for the Founding of the Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo as set forth by President Kim Il Sung, the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration are recognized as permanent reminders of previous attempts in cooperation and new initiatives adopted so that the next generation may live as a whole and reunified Korean people. I may only be 21 years old, but I will devote myself to this cause.
I am not someone who received any orders or expects any pardon, but rather desire to spread the truth to others in the world, and if I can influence people to seek understanding of the DPRK on their own, I would consider it a success.
To conclude, I would like to respectfully express gratitude to Marshal Kim Jong Un for granting me the privilege of visiting various places around the DPRK and would like to thank the people of the DPRK for their kind hospitality.