The recipe for a great and enlightening trip to North Korea is pretty simple. Just follow the rules, which are not unreasonable in exchange for a glimpse into their world for a few days. The rules are of course quite unreasonable if you have to live there. But that’s what I went to see and if things you and I consider crazy weren’t going on there, I wouldn’t have had the curiosity to go. When I’ve recounted a story or two about some of the constraints we were under, a few friends have said to me, “Well, I would have said this, or I would have just reacted like that….” and yes, it constantly crossed my mind to push the boundaries, but philosophical contention would have just shut down our minders, made them feel defensive and less likely to be open with us. After all, since we did not speak Korean and we could not go anywhere outside the hotel without our minders, we were dependent upon them for much of our experience there. No doubt it was limited, but it would have been counter-productive to limit it even more by being a contrarian. My advice? Just roll with it. You’ll have a more enriching experience and doing otherwise isn’t going to change anything except potentially your departure date.
Upon approach to Pyongyang, I noticed the complete lack of infrastructure outside the capital city such as the unpaved roads without a single car in sight and I could see people walking and on bicycles. It just looked weird. No telephone poles. No power lines. I’ve been in third world countries. I've seen poverty, unorganized chaos, the bustle, the strange mix of the old and the new.
This was nothing like that.
A couple nights into our stay in North Korea, we were joined at dinner by a junior government official working in the organization that provides guides / minders for foreigners visiting the country.
We were told that they had detained an American Korean War veteran who was in his eighties and that it had just made international news. They had to tell us this because we had no access to any news inside North Korea.
In business and politics, keep it civil. Keep it productive. Complain in private to your most trusted friends if you must – and even that’s not a great idea. But don’t prevent good business from getting done by wearing your negative emotions on your sleeve - especially when more than your own fate depends upon reaching a workable agreement. Most business and politics are conducted by rational actors - people who act in their best interests even though they may employ hardball negotiation tactics. Keep your emotions at home.
It’s easy and lazy to simply return from a trip to North Korea and relate the surrealist reality. But after consuming all the documentaries, Vice episodes (including those featuring Dennis Rodman), and reading the accounts of recent visitors, I hungered to get past the staring, laughing, and scoffing stage. I aspired to more. I wanted to understand the root causes of the madness. If we can’t comprehend how North Korea understands the world we can’t begin to predict its geo-political behavior.
Staple Street isn’t much of a street. It’s more of an alleyway lined with red brick buildings dating back to the 19th century and it only runs for two short blocks in TriBeCa, the Manhattan neighborhood bordering the financial district and the World Trade Center. I live on the corner of Staple Street and look out onto it everyday while […]
As always, below are some of the songs I’ve stumbled across this past week. Personally, I have favorites among them but generally speaking I hear merit in them all. You can hear some of my previous selections here and here. “All The Rage” by The Mates “Far From Over” by The Slang “Loved By You” by Candice E. Russell
If you were an A&R at a big label seeking to sign big new pop bands and to find new monster hits for the current roster of pop acts, how many songs do you think you would have to listen to before you hear a hit that meets your criteria? 8? 10? 100? More? If everyone you speak to tells […]
Music Xray has brought a level playing field to musicians, songwriters, and performing acts. But the level playing field isn't always what you think it's going to be. It forces you to come face-to-face with reality. Are you really as good as you think you are? It's hard to argue with the answer when you know you're getting a fair shake. But some artists still blame Music Xray instead of seeing the value of gaining access to the level playing field.