Plans for North Korea trip

20:41, Oct 03 2011

When Wintec tutor and former church minister Richard Lawrence talks about his impending trip to North Korea, the fourth in four years, he could as easily be talking about a business trip to the South Island.

Mr Lawrence, a senior academic tutor in Wintec's School of Language, is in no way naive about the repressive communist regime in North Korea, but he thought there was more to be gained by approaching the country with an open mind.

"The way towards a more peaceful world will be through respect rather than through damning criticism."

Mr Lawrence said that as a Kiwi he could travel to North Korea with an ease not afforded to many other nations, and so he wanted to do "his little bit" for the North Koreans, who were going about their everyday lives in much the same way average New Zealanders were.

He was making the seven-day trip as part of a five-week Wintec trip to Asia, with a month of his time spent at Wintec's two partner universities in China where he would teach English to teachers and to students who may come to Hamilton to study in the future.

Mr Lawrence said his three previous visits to North Korea, the one in 2009 with Wintec chief executive Mark Flowers, had been positive experiences, and he had no doubt this trip, beginning on October 10, would be the same.

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His itinerary will include a visit to a university in the capital city, Pyongyang, as well as to a New Zealand friendship farm near the city and to a church that ran a bakery and a noodle factory.

While Wintec was paying for his flights, Mr Lawrence was covering his own costs while in North Korea, because while the institute had an unofficial relationship with a university there, it was too soon for anything formal.

"You never know what the situation might be like in 10 years," Mr Lawrence said.

The North Korean teachers he shared ideas with were enthusiastic and dedicated, as were the students for whom English was a compulsory subject from high school level.

Mr Lawrence said he would be met by a man from the government's cultural relations committee and would be escorted everywhere outside his hotel, not that he minded.

"You're part of a tour group while you're there – even if it is a group of one."

Waikato Times