KIM HYOK-CHOL INTERVIEW, THE NORTH KOREA AMBASSADOR IN MADRID.

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The situation in North Korea is very delicate, because the political system doesn’t have anything in common with the rest of the world, and there are a lot of horrible stories related by prisoners that could escape, but in which measurement these stories are true?

The embassy of the regime of North Korea was installed no long time ago, in a luxurious but minimalist chalet more friendly and not so hermetic and sinister than the own country, situated in Aravaca, Madrid, very near to the dwelling of our former president Zapatero.

Kim Hyok-Chol is the first ambassador of North Korea who installs in Spain, with his wife and his two daughters, and both daughters follow the European education system, in addition to being learning Spanish nowadays.

It seems to me very interesting the interview to this high-up owing to the few we know about the North Korea nation because of the high privacy of this country.

Thanks to this interview I have been able to understand, since other perspective, the view of the own North Korea people about their leader and government Kim Jong-un, and how they justify the acts, defending that they have a completely different kind of life to the rest of the world.

So many interviews have been done to the ambassador with the same intention as mine to understand the situation in North Korea, and my first question was if he feels incommodious with that many questions about confidential information. For my surprise he answer very peaceful, because if he thinks that any question was not suitable he only ignored it and answered something different or with a general answer.

Gathering some information about their culture, economy and politics I found out that a lot of information is confidential, and only a very limited data is finally published.

Deeping in a little more I found out that even the own age of the president Kim Jong-un is a mystery, and when I asked to the ambassador Hyok-Chill, he surprised me ignoring the question answering with another question about why is there a huge interest in knowing the birthday when it exist so many other important things about the leader, Grand Marshal or Brilliant Comrade –as they usually call their followers- as his intention to improve the international relations, as well as the economy and conditions of his country. The confidence is a very important part of the regime of North Korea, because they are very different in so many aspects and it couldn’t be compared with other countries in politic, economy or social ways. Also Kim Jong-un have been working to improve with the conflict with South Korea, trying to reach accordance to the national unification without changing the cultural and political ideology of each region, in spite of knowing that the North Korea regime is better.

The nuclear conflict between United States and North Korea is a very recent new which the ambassador has only limited to say that they don’t want those nuclear armaments and that they only use it for defence to the threats and to prevent a war. He insures that it is a trust problem, because United States hasn’t fulfilled their promises and he doubt that in the next talks United States holds such hard solutions to change the Korea vision.

About the relation between Spain and North Korea he said that is really good, and that’s why the first embassy has been established in Madrid in October of 2013. Since the year 2000 they were carrying out diplomatic relations. Spain participated in their humanitarian aid program, offering the Cruz Roja aid and International Cruz Roja. Further, before the opening of the embassy, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kung Sok-ung, visited Madrid and he established some meetings with the Foreign Secretary and CEOs.

Talking about the imports from North Korea to Spain he highlights the steel products, seafood, meets, software tools, cosmetics, among others.

When I asked him to talk about his country I found out interesting that he commented that is a very beautiful place, with scenery and nature worth visiting, besides it is not very expensive to go on holidays. The tourism is also one of the objectives that it aims to improve in an international way.

This point in particular surprised me a lot because I understood and found out that it is not impossible to get access to North Korea.

Mr Kim Hyok-Chol is a pacific man, that defend his fatherland as well as we defend our, with their problems and good things too. His presence is honoured because we know that North Korea is the closest country and less known, and now we have a little part in our country.

I didn’t want to make uncomfortable questions to the ambassador, because I think that he has been in that situation so many times in many other different interviews before mine since his stay in Spain.

Nonetheless, do you think that North Korea could open his border gates easily?

Do you think there will be an improvement in the relations with this new embassy?

The time would be the one that will answer these questions someday.

By: Esther Mula Forte

“Kiss and Hug”, an interview with Meika Sugimoto

By Thiago Uhli   June 2, 2015

Meika Sugimoto, 32, is a woman who I met while living in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in Canada, two years ago. A woman with the spirit of a young girl who loves to discover new places and meet new people, and also a person who cares about her friends. After spending one year in Canada studying English, then some months travelling around, she went to Sao Paulo to visit some of her friends and I last year, after visiting some cities around Brazil which I have never been to, for example Amazonia. Furthermore, she also travelled to Mexico and the USA. Nowadays, she works as a manager in a pastry shop until the end of the Japanese summer, typical in Japan and also in my country. Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. Our cultures have so many things in common.

Interviewing her was a pleasure because once I met her in Canada, I thought how different and interesting was meeting someone from Japan (in my case, first Japanese friend). For me, that was interesting, especially, because we were in a different place, then similarities and differences between two cultures. I mean different because both of us were there to learn a common language, English. I wanted to know from her if she had the same thought about the first impact of being in somewhere far away from home as I had, “I couldn’t get what the natives said coz their English were too fluently to get, but we could understand each other and getting better little by little”, she said. We share the same thoughts. Then she added her opinion about learning English, if it was worth or not living in a foreign country “if we hadn’t learned English, we wouldn’t have learned any other culture. English is just a tool to communicate.”.

Odawara, her city of birth, is a city located in western Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Even she would rather to live in Brazil as she said “I’d love to live in Brasil, seriously!” when I asked her if she would like to move away From Japan to any other country that she had already visited, mainly because Brazilian people are warm. So I asked her if she would like to teach something that she learned while living abroad, then she saidKiss and hug. We Japanese don’t do that. That’s sad. I think that’s the great way to show our feelings.”. She also added some differences that she noted in Japan and in citizens “there were so many people of all races but most of Japanese look the same. Skin color, hair, face…”

Ms. Sugimoto had a great time living in Canada and in the others countries that she traveled to. There is a fact, once we know somewhere else, we don´t want to stop and stay in one place, we want to know the world if it is possible, and that I learned from her “I´m planning to see Julia there. If you were still there, it would be super fun.” That´s what she commented with me when I said I was studying in Madrid. Then she added when we talked about life goal, “being happy visiting all over the world.” In Sao Paulo I could say that I admire her because of her experience, her will, and her goals not only in long term. One more thing that I learned during our talks, settlings goals for all the parts of your life, whether in your job, studies, trainings or hobbies.

A face for Eternity

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MADRID – Ranked as one of the best photographer of his generation, Réhahn is living now in Hanoï. His work consists on taking portraits of Asian people. These portraits are often made to share those people’s emotions through their facial expressions. He kindly agreed on giving us his point of view on the Vietnam’s society.

It all begins when his wife and him decided to foster a child. When they arrived to Hanoï, they met a nine years old girl, with her older sister, with whom she was inseparable. With just their mother, taking small jobs all day long to take care of the two girls – since their father died a few years ago – Réhahn explained that he « felt immediately a real connection with the girls, despite the barrier of the language. Him and his wife felt useful knowing the hard situation they where living in ».

When Réhahn had to leave Vietnam, he realized that him and his wife had made strong bonds with the girls, and promised to come back to visit them. As promised, they came back a few times to see the girls, and one day they started realizing that they were missing something in France, and that it was time to make a change. Vietnam’s warmth was what made them decide to begin a new life in Hanoï.

« I saw my arrival to this country as a rebirth since I’m obsessed with freedom »

Réhahn built his own house with his wife near Hanoi. Former printer back in France, he decided to go in another direction by making its passion his job. It was during a trip in the North of Vietnam, that his passion as a photographer became his real job. He took more than 2 000 photos, most of them were portraits of local inhabitants.

When he came back from this trip, a journalist recommended him to make a book of its photos. Since the publishing of his book, he started to appear in a lot of TV shows. This book started its career since it was very acclaimed by the public:  « I felt the infatuation of Vietnamese for a book made by a French about their country ».

« Photography is a meeting between the photographer and the model. The one does not exist without the other one. »

He describes its photography as a mix of street photography and shooting. He tries to make the models feel comfortable by discussing with them, so that they are more at ease, so that it becomes more natural. He also adds that he « love(s) to shoot when they are embarrassed, since (he) considers that it is often the moment when they look the best ».

Réhahn has a particular way of thanking his models. He offers them presents which will be useful for them in the daily life. He bought a new boat to the old lady who is on the cover of its book for example. He paid a bike to the big sister of Anh Phuc, a girl that he met in a village in the center of the country.

« With those magnificent blue eyes, inherited from his great French grand father, it was one of the most beautiful meetings of this year. » according to the photographer.

Being a photographer can sometimes be a challenge. Réhahn learned through his experience that you can’t never expect anything in return when you do something.

When he photographed the girl praying in front of an elephant, afterward he sold to Times, to Figaro, to National Geographic as well as to Daily Mail, people often asked what was the story behind this meeting and he unfortunately had nothing to say. He thus found the girl a few years later to offer her his book and to meet her family which invited him very kindly to drink tea at their home.

« I am very touched by the positive energies which surrounds me since I arrived to Vietnam. »

Réhahn couldn’t have imagined a better way to transform his passion into work.
He still wants to continue traveling, in particular in Vietnam. He feels, today, a « public-spirited of the world. »

« I already have the impression to have carried out a dream, that is to be free. »

Now What he dreads, is not to have enough time to answer to his followers on Facebook because he adores being close to people who appreciate his work.

Rehan is the best representation of what it takes to begin a new life in an Asian country and what is like to put into photos what this planet, that we occupy offers to us and the breathtaking discoveries that need to be known by the world.

Michael Diego

Asia

Living in China

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The family Sieber moved from Brazil to China in 2006 because of Joachim Sieber´s work, I`ve got an interview with Joachim and his daughter Stephanie Felix Sieber, about the cultural impact and the political differences that China as in comparison with Brazil.

Stephanie Felix Sieber is 21 years old and she is studying International Relations at the university Anhembi Morumbi in São Paulo, she moved to Shanghai when she was 11 years old and with no previous knowledge of the language.

How was the cultural impact when you arrived there? It was chocking, everything is different, the people are different the food is different and the especially the language, it was very hard at first not only the talk but the writing.

Did you notice any difference between the Brazilian and the Chinese in freedom of speech and expression? Because I went there too young I didn’t care much for these things, I had no notion of the reality to live in a place where the style of government is the opposite of ours, but there wasn’t any difference in the freedom of speech that could be noticed easily.

Do you believe that this experience could or affected in your decisions of work and study? I`m pretty sure that it had, living abroad was one of the motives of why I chose International Relations. I didn’t have only a notion of mandarin as I also learned English and having to live abroad and in a such different place, I believe that it will help me in the future, live another reality and another culture completely different, living in this environment you can adapt, identify and learn with this people.

Joachim Sieber is 50 years old and he lives in China since 2006 because of his work which is the manager of a food factory.

Did you notice if there was difference in the way people treated you in your work or in your everyday life for being a foreigner? People always treated me with respect and here is not different, they respect me just like the people in Brazil respected me.

Are there any big bureaucratic differences in comparison with Brazil?  There are no differences; here you can find as much bureaucrats as in Brazil.

How China`s economic style affects your job? With the fast growth not only in economy but in general, there are some laws that they will have to create and other laws that will have to change to keep the growth.

Do you think that with proximity between China and Brazil may help in Brazil`s development? It can help both ways, at first China is with Brazil since 20 years ago, only in the big cities there is a fast growth, the interior is very poor and they have no development, at least is a very slow one, but this proximity will definitely help the  importation and exportation and both countries will  develop from this.

Do you want to come back to Brazil? Yes and no, my job is here now and I like to work here, I like my job; but I miss my children and I would like to go back to see them and to live with them.

Felipe Baldarena Ribeiro

Malaysian police find 139 suspected migrant graves

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“Volunteers help to exhume migrant graves, recovering bones from the forest ground” from BBC.

The human traffic is not a very common topic in the news, and in general people don’t know a lot about it.

In this case, the human traffic becomes a very important news when in Malaysia 139 graves in 28 people-trafficking camps along Thai border were founded, since May 11. We still don’t know how many bodies were in each grave. According to the national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar, in this graves may contain more than one body.

Traffickers are using routes to move migrants through its territory. The camps were found along a 50 km stretch of the Thai – Malaysian brder and were only hundreds of meter from the graves discovered in Thailand. For this reason, Malaysian police started an operation and cracked down these routes that forced the traffickers to move the migrants by sea instead.

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We can see in this map that traffickers usually take the migrants by sea from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand then overland to Malaysia.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia said to BBC that he was “deeply concerned with graves found on Malaysian soil, purportedly connected to people-smuggling”, he also wrote on his Twitter and Facebook accounts that he promises to “find those responsable”. This is something hard to believe. We’ve been hearing promises from a lot of politicians from so many countries, and we’ve seen that few promises were fullfilled. In addition to this, the human traffic is directed by an enormous mafia which is very difficult to find a person or a reduced number of people who was involucre in the slaughter. it is also very risky.

The main issue is that most of the countries which are close to the problem will not let these migrants get into the countries, that’s because thousands of migrants are left stranded by the traffickers whi abandoned them.

Last week, Indonesia and Malaysia suffered international pressure to provide temporary shelter to the migrants, but asked for them to be resettled by the international community within a year. The questions are not only how they will solve this issue or save these people or how they will find the responsable, but also why the authorities took no action before now, mainly because borders are military zones. It’s not an exception if the local police and other authorities be corrupt. It shouldn’t be but it’s almost normal, as we see in so many countries in development.

In order to solve this issue we believe that these countries should cooperate with each other, mainly countries from Asia which are close to the issue, for example, Bangladesh which their own people suffer with this problem – most of the corpses were Bangladeshi immigrants, and a minority of Muslims – should not only do pressure but help Thailand and Indonesia to fight agaisnt it.

There are many people who try to immigrate to another country pursuing a new and better life, but there are many of them who are obligated to get into the boats. They are used as products, for example the Rohingya Muslims who mainly live in Myanmar, where they have faced decades of persecution. “And some of them told us they had been forced on to the boats that thansported them here”. It is business. “The price for a cargo of 300 people, we were told by several sources, including Thai police, was $20,000 or more. Then the migrants were held in the jungle until their families pay a ransom, usually $2000 – $3000 per person, a huge sum for people usually doing low-end jobs in Malaysia.”

So this case make us think more about the ad situation in Malaysia, human traffic and its consequences.

The execution of “Bali nine”

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It all began in 2005, when nine Australian were arrested for smuggling more than eight kilograms of heroin out of Indonesia. In 2006, most of them were sentenced to death.

On April of this year, Indonesia executed eight of the “Bali nine” for drug traffic despite the high international rejection. Seven of them were foreigners, and the other one was Indonesian.

The execution was produced in the Penal Island of Nusa Kambangan, known as the Execution Island. The eight members imputed, rejected the blindfold, according to religious testimony that assisted to the act. Familiars were affected deeply since they were waiting for clemency, but only Mary Jane Veloso got that opportunity.

Their names: Zainal Abidin, Indonesian; the Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sucumaran; Rodrigo Gularte, Brazilian; the Nigerian Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Raheem Agbaje Salami and Okwudili Oyatance; and finally the Ghanaian Martin Anderson.

The relation between Indonesia and the resident countries of the accused parties will not be the same since these executions, and they are considering what type of measures to adopt.

The Abbott’s words about the executions were “cruel and unnecessary”.

In spite of the discussion on the social networks that mentiones an sporadic movement that could affect the economic system between Australia and Indonesia, this possibility was rejected because Indonesian Minister said that “For Indonesia, Australia is a very important fellow and I think for Australia, Indonesia is a very important fellow too”.

Only one of the “Bali nine”, called Mary Jane Veloso from the Philippines, is still alive. She always considered that she was misled by a mafia, which used her like a “drug mule” in 2010 with the promise of fast money. Her boss in Filipina turned herself into the authorities, accused of human traffic and fraud. The assistance of Veloso as a witness was necessary. The execution was postponed, and they called this unexpected change “The miracle of the night”. For Veloso’s family it was incredible good news.

The Widodo Government adduced that almost 18.000 Indonesian die every year for drugs consumption and the drug squad is welcome for the population.

“We are fighting against the horrible crimes in relation with drugs, that threaten the national survival” – said the Attorney General Mohammad Prasetyo – “An execution isn`t pleasant. It is not an enjoyable work. But it must be done to save the country for the danger that drugs implies”.

China’s new secret weapon : Artificial islands that raise questions.

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For a long time China has been dealing with problems with its maritime neighbors. Since 2014 the relationship between these countries have deteriorated when China started to build artificial islands in order to strengthen their military power.

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To assert its power over the Spratly archipelago, Beijing is creating artificial islands, triggering the anger of Washington. For three months, China has been quietly transforming a reef in an artificial island in order to establish a military base, as reveal  new satellite images.

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This reef is now 3 kilometers long and 300 meters wide. Large enough to acommodate an air and naval base. This area is also claimed by Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan. The exchanges between these countries are being monitored, especially by Washington. A report by the US Congress last week also showed that China’s territorial expansion in this area could be used to find raw materials. This year, China has deployed a large offshore drilling wells, triggering hot negotiations with Vietnam.

This zone, unknown of the general public, is of a major geo strategic interest. It is the crossing point between Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean and allows the communication of Europe and oriental Asia. Near a third of the commercial sea traffic of the world passes there, and 90 % comes from China.

South Korea, Japan and Taiwan use this channel to take more than half their energy resources. If the possible oil reserves seem limited for the moment, those of gas seem on the contrary very important: the zone could contain 13 % of the world reserves, according to the Ministry of Defence.

   “We call on China to stop its construction program of islands and engage in diplomatic efforts to encourage all sides to stop such practices”, said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool.

Washington speaks of “freedom of the seas” and calls on countries bordering the achipelago to follow a “code of conduct” to ease the growing tensions in this very important area for international trade. These warnings have been ignored by Chinese authorities, who prefer to deal individually with each of these countries. Trade relationships between these nations enables China to hold an advantage over its competitors.

China claims that they have the right to own these islands and that they are an indispensable right for the Chinese people, however the islands are considerably far from their coast and closer to the Philippines and Malaysia.

Japan is now offering maritime support to the countries that are being affected. Admiral Robert Thomas, commander of the Seventh Fleet and the top US naval officer in Asia said: “I think allies; partners and friends in the region will look to the Japanese more and more as a stabilizing function”.

Manila is negotiating a possible return of a US base to counter China’s ambitions. But the dstribution of the Spratly area does not necessarily mean an imminent conflict.

Universidad Europea de Madrid

Felipe Baldarena Ribeiro

Maria Esther Mula Forte

María Glez Fontanilla

Michael Diego

Thiago Uchoa Uhli Cortes