Archives for North Korea category

I’m sharing this press release from LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) regarding Kim Jong Il’s death. Very eye-opening to anyone tracking the situation from the past few days. I’m planning to write a little piece of my own soon.


The sudden death of Kim Jong-il has triggered a deluge of early commentary and analysis on what this may mean for North Korea and the region. The North Koreans themselves are of course the people who will be affected most by this development, but the voice of the North Korean people has been severely lacking. While the regime has always been comprised of much more than one man, the death of the leader does usher in a new period of increased uncertainty for the North Korean people.

It is impossible to go inside North Korea to interview the people regarding their true feelings on the situation. However LiNK has spoken with refugees who have recently left the country. It should be noted that North Korean refugees cannot be considered to be necessarily representative of the general population, as the majority have come from border regions and therefore their views may be different from those living in Pyongyang or elsewhere.


Dear Friends,

Many of us work in corporations and I thought that you could actually help me by sending a small request to any type of internal forum you might have at your company! I will very much appreciate if you can forward the text below to your company’s forum. It’s as simple as copy-paste and click on “send”. Unless your company’s forum is rubbish, which I sure hope it’s not!


My name is Tom and three months ago I went to North Korea. The experience was crazy, to say the least. It was sad and beautiful at the same time – a country so beautiful that you feel like you would want to spend months just admiring it. Yet, at the same, the landscape was filled with communist posters and slogans, a disturbing view. The people were fantastic, a lovely bunch of smiling faces. Yet, most of them have never seen a white man in their lives and every single one of them had to proudly wear “The Great Leader’s” lapel pin on their chest. People have their own opinions about the world, but they will never share them with you for fear of being persecuted by the Government. Their opinions are also based on the knowledge and facts that are fed to them by the Government and state-controlled media. This knowledge of the world is limited. I had to explain the concept of the Internet to a well-educated North Korean. What I heard in return was “Well, you might have the Internet, but we have our libraries”. Picking my jaw from the ground was not an easy task.

There are many resources out there to learn more about North Korea. Here are a few shocking facts about the country:

* An estimated 60% of North Korean children suffer from malnutrition as food is poorly distributed. The military gets most of the food produced in North Korea.
* The country has a mobile phone network, which is within the range of its middle class. You cannot call anyone outside of the country nor can anyone call mobile phones. We tried both ways. It’s impossible.
* North Korea gets an estimated 1,500 Western tourists a year.
* A few thousand North Koreans escape from the country every year. It’s a grueling challenge involving financial and organizational challenges – the Chinese government wants to send you back as quickly as possible and sex and human traffickers are on the watch for any North Koreans.

I have found an organization that contributes to the well-being of North Koreans refugees and helps them make their way to better life. It’s called LiNK and I am currently helping them raise funds. I will appreciate any funds you could send. Please also take advantage of any corporate gift matching programs at your companies. As the year’s end nears it might be a great time to do that.

You can donate through a credit card at this page:

I hope to raise $10,000 by the year’s end! I would also like to direct you to my website, which features a photo story from my trip to North Korea. I’m sure you will enjoy it! The address is

Thank you in advance for all your help. Let’s advance this cause together!

Best regards,
Tom Zacharski

North Korea – Fundraising

So, I have been doing those little challenges recently. I’ll write about it in the upcoming months… It can be anything, from small, to big; from a few-day long challenge to a few year long challenge. Among those were things like learning how to solve the Rubix Cube (that’s easy), learning how to play StarCraft (just the fundamentals, so that watching demos would be exciting rather than your typical “yyy what’s going on” moment), learning Korean (this is an on-going project as you can imagine – 네, 맞아요).

And so, I stumbled upon this website some time ago, where they were raising funds for refugees from North Korea. I remember the feeling of wanting to help the country so much after leaving it that I decided to take part in their fundraising challenge. The organization is called “LiNK” and my personal fundraising website can be found here.

The funds go to helping North Korean refugees. Not much can be done to help the country as the money typically disappears in the corrupt government officials’ pockets. There are however thousands of people who escape the regime every year – unfortunately, escape itself is not enough to ensure a peaceful life. Once out of the country (typically in China) a refugee needs to avoid Chinese officials who are more than willing to send them back to North Korean, sex and human traffickers and all other challenges. Once they reach South Korea it’s like a dream come true – they become South Korean citizen and receive a government stipend to start a new life. The funds being raised by LiNK will help all those refugees. I like to think that this can actually become more scalable. Once North Koreans learn that there are organizations like LiNK more of them might start leaving the country. A process like this can lead to a revolution and freedom for Koreans. And I don’t think that after my photo story I have to remind anyone that would be most desirable for the wonderful small country on the Korean peninsula.

I originally had a goal of raising $200. After one person (thank you Tim) donated exactly $200 and my overall sum of funds raised hit $251 I decided to up the goal to $500. But you know what? That’s nothing. THINK BIG. So I’m upgrading my new goal to $10,000 by the end of the year. Now that’s a challenge! I will be writing more in the upcoming days about my fundraising efforts. I will appreciate all your help – financial (you can raise money through the website) and organizational (more about this soon).


As promised I present the photos from North Korea – over 100 photos along with a commentary, I hope you’ll enjoy them. I will follow with photos from China probably next week.

Click on the first photo to start running through the photo story.

North Korea – Absurdities

I’m back to Dublin after a total of 12 hours on the plane yesterday and after an action packed morning sponsored by TheJetLag, I’m ready to write about some absurdities we found in North Korea. I’m adding some pictures to those – a full gallery will follow probably next week.

1. Amusement Park (“Fun Fare” as it was called by our guide)
In the very middle of Pyongyang, surrounded by communist posters / billboards / portraits / slogans (and whatever else you can imagine as long as it features Kim Il-Sung’s face), is nothing else but an amusement park. Not too big, but fairly modern, featuring a few rides – the equipment is Italian and has been personally tested by the leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-Un (Kim Jong-Il’s son). It was somewhat hilarious, because at every ride we were told where Kim Jong-Un sat when he took the ride.

North Koreans don’t like journalists. That’s the simplest and fastest explanation as to why the website was down for a couple of months.

Last year I went on a trip to Chernobyl with two good friends of mine. The idea for the trip was initiated on a random night a couple of months earlier when we started wondering what would be a “weird” place to go for a trip. Obviously after Chernobyl it was just a matter of time before someone posed the question: “What’s next?”

North Korea was an obvious choice. My friend, Bernard, is a veteran of Far East travels and wanted to combine that with a trip to other parts of Asia. I wanted to see China. And so, in March, we started planning the trip.


Current Highlights

Beginning February 2011 I have started a new job at Google in its EU HQ in Dublin, Ireland. I will be responsible for AdWords-related issues for the UK / Ireland market.

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