Seventh graders at Jefferson Jr. High got an inside look at one of the most secretive and isolated countries in the world.
While Chris Heffernan’s classes were studying North Korea, he noticed CNN International Correspondent Will Ripley was there reporting on the country. Using the power of technology, Mr. Heffernan reached out to Ripley on Instagram and asked if he’d be willing to share his insights and experiences with his students. Ripley, currently in Japan, said yes to a Skype interview.
Ripley is one of the few American Journalists to make repeat visits to North Korea. Although the North Korean government had no say in his scripts, his crew was guided and had a few restrictions where they could film.
Students asked questions about the North Korean country,culture, lifestyles, and relationships between America and the communist country.
“North Korea is told that America is bad and to blame for their economic difficulties and isolation,” he said. “There have been times when North Korea has been more open than they are now. Now they are closed off and ramping up their nuclear power.”
Despite that, Ripley says the people were friendly. “I was surprised in a good way to see people laughing and having a good time. In spite of control, people seem to have more authentic moments with their friends and family.”
Ripley was also surprised to see people walking around with iPhones, wearing designer brands, and how much food was consumed.
When Ripley was asked to explain his visits in one word, he answered “surreal.” “The biggest thing we have is the right to make our own choices. Going to North Korea makes me value and appreciate that we can make choices. We can choose what to think, who we want to love, the music we listen to.”
“But don’t believe everything to see,” he continued. “Don’t believe the clichés that they are robotic people. They are just born in a different system. You see people with their own unique personalities.”