One year ago I would not have imagined myself teaching Chinese high school students in Beijing. More specifically, I would not have expected to be asked to be the English-language sponsor for the Model United Nations at a high school in Beijing. And, even more specifically, nowhere on my radar screen was there the possibility of having a serious hour-and-a-half conversation with a Chinese student, a young woman, a participant in the Model U.N., on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and how it pertains to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea. However, this is what happened this afternoon. This student and I discussed this very issue in detail. Moreover, this discussion required crossing a still quite high language barrier, while also involving comparative history, culture and politics with respect to North Korea, China (during the time of Mao and since), and the United States.
I should add, about two weeks ago, while on a walk with some colleagues, we walked by the North Korean Embassy. As we passed by about seven or eight teenage girls came out of the compound. Clearly, these were among the Very Privileged Few. They were dressed stylishly, and were perhaps off to an athletic event. One had the word “Soccer” emblazoned on the back of her warm-up jacket. I can now say that I have been within conversation range of North Korean citizens, though at the moment I did not have the presence of mind to try to start one. Maybe next time.