University of B.C. undergraduate student Altay Otun is preparing for a first-hand glimpse inside North Korea.
Otun has joined a delegation of students and professors participating in the North South Dialogue Project. In June, they will tour North Korea, South Korea and China.
Sponsored by the P’yongyang Project, a non-profit initiative launched in 2009, the two-week trip includes visits to universities, meetings with students and academics, and sightseeing.
Along the way, participants will be encouraged to discuss peace-building on the deeply divided Korean Peninsula. Their findings will be summarized in a memo sent to think tanks and host universities.
“We act as diplomats and we listen to what they have to say about the Korean crisis and the future of the Korean Peninsula,” Otun told the Straight by phone.
“We want to know what young people have to say because, as we can see in the Middle East and North Africa, young people really make a difference in a country’s political system,” he said, referring to recent uprisings in states like Egypt and Tunisia.
The North South Dialogue Project will include 16 participants—eight from western countries and eight from China. Otun said this reflects the international significance of the Korean dispute.
Project organizers caution participants they will face restrictions on their movement and what they can photograph once in North Korea.
Otun said he is prepared to follow strict rules during the guided visit.
“I know that I’m going to be shown what they’re going to want me to see,” he said. “And that’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of the situation.”