The United States “has expressed its willingness to start dialogue with the North,” said a spokesman for President Moon Jae-in, who met with Vice President Mike Pence last week.
This year, Canadian pair skater Meagan Duhamel is leaving the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with at least one gold medal, as part of the winning Canada skate team. Last year, she came back from the country with a dog.
Duhamel, a two-time world champion, hopes that other animal-loving athletes take the opportunity to save a canine during the Olympics.
In South Korea, close to two million dogs are raised on meat farms in horrible conditions each year and then slaughtered to be served as a delicacy. Dog meat dishes can be found throughout the country, including in Pyeongchang.
Free Korean Dogs is one of the groups working to save dogs from the South Korea dog meat trade and bring them to other countries to be adopted out. The non-profit united Duhamel with her beloved Moo-tae last year, driving the dog eight hours to meet the skater, where she was competing in a test run for the Olympics, so she could take the innocent pup home.
Along with saving her dog, Duhamel also brought another dog meat farm rescue back to Montreal to be adopted out to another family.
Moo-tae didn’t arrive in North America injury-free, the pet will have misshapen legs for the rest of his life due to the abuse he experienced as a puppy.
But the little pup seems eager to put that behind him, quickly adjusting to the loving, safe life he has with Duhamel.
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“Most of the time, he just wants to sit in everybody’s arms,” she told the Associated Press. “He doesn’t even care to play, he just walks up to everybody and wants to be held.”
Duhamel plans to bring another dog meat farm survivor home on her return trip from the Pyeongchang Olympics, she hopes other athletes will do the same even if they can’t adopt the dog themselves and need to have it adopted out at home instead.
“Dangerous and naughty but family.”
“North Korea, who are you guys? Can we be friends?”
“NK & SK: We love each other, I guess…”
“Now we seem far away but I hope we can be friends later on.”
“NK: Dangerous and naughty but family.”
“We were one. Now we are two.”
“The situation is very uncomfortable, uncertain, and dark. I hope spring comes soon.”
“Now we are enemies but in the future can we be family?”
“We definitely need more cultural interaction and less military conflict.”
“The reality is kind of sad. The joint entrance and the flags (at the opening ceremony) was moving.”
“It’s heartbreaking that our country is divided. I love the North Koreans with all my heart. We are one.”
“Although it seems dangerous right now, I think there will be reunification one day. Go team Korea!”
“I hope we can step away from political ideology and be reunited peacefully.”
“From PyeongChang Olympics to reunification!”
“It’s hard to answer because it’s a sensitive issue. It’s hard to trust North Korea and what they are doing. It’s quite worrisome. I hope that they stay truthful.”
“We are one. We marched in the parade together 11 years ago and it’s very moving to see it happen again.”
“Let’s see each other soon! Go Pyeongchang Olympics!”
“We hope for reunification. We are one. Passion. Connected. Go Pyeongchang Olympics!”
“I hope we can become closer through the Pyeongchang Olympics.”
“There were some countries that originally said they weren’t going to participate because of North Korea provocations, but now that they are participating I think it’s going to be a peaceful Olympic games.”
North Koreans pay their respects at the Mansudae Grand monument in Pyongyang.
Fabian Muir is an Australian photographer whose documentary work aims to develop humanistic narratives in otherwise politically isolated regions of the world. After years documenting places like the former Soviet Union, Iran, and Cuba, his next series focuses on a country that epitomizes the phrase “hermit kingdom”: North Korea.
Since 2015, Fabian Muir has traveled to the isolated nation of North Korea five times to capture a side of life that many Americans may be surprised to see as nonconfrontational and somewhat relatable.
Here, Muir shares with BuzzFeed News the story of his journey and his thoughts on the pictures he walked away with:
The series began with many of the same expectations that anyone would have before going there — bleak cityscapes, expressionless people, soldiers everywhere. It’s difficult not to have such preconceptions since the dominant visual narrative pushes these tropes. I had hardly ever seen an image of a smiling North Korean before visiting.
So to start, I was also looking for things to confirm these expectations, no doubt exacerbated by the fact that my first visit took place in winter, which is excruciatingly cold there. After several days, however, various unexpected layers began revealing themselves, not least the way in which I observed North Koreans interacting among themselves and the fact that they can actually be very warm.
Schoolchildren make their way from the leaders' statues in central Hamhung.
Traditional female Korean haircuts and a customer at a Pyongyang hair salon.
A cyclist rides through rural North Korea.
With repeated visits the project became increasingly personal as I realized how limited most people’s understanding is of the country, making me feel a kind of obligation to tell the story. I’m not talking about the understanding of the political dimension, but rather of ordinary North Koreans in day-to-day contexts.
It’s estimated that up to 200,000 people are incarcerated in North Korea’s prisons, which are constantly in the media spotlight, but what about the other 25 million there, who are leading “normal” lives? These are the people I wanted to discover: What is a normal life in North Korea? How do they relax? What does family life look like? What do they read? What music do they like? What do they know about the outside world? How do they operate within their political framework? How do they respond to foreigners? What are the similarities and differences between us and them?
There are so many questions in this vein, and the fact that the answers at times ran counter to popular assumptions meant that the work initially hit brick walls in some quarters. At times, people were unwilling to entertain the notion of a “human” North Korean and instead suspected I had fallen for elaborate setups or that the North Koreans had stage-managed my photography. Occasionally things are indeed set up, but this is rather rare and very obvious when it does occur.
Nervous anticipation as locals prepare for the launch of a ride in Kaeson Youth Park in Pyongyang.
Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang.
Pyongyangites play volleyball at Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang.
It’s important to mention that any foreigner who goes to North Korea is assigned at least two guides/minders, who will almost always accompany you whenever you leave your hotel. They are trained as guides, usually charming, and do provide a lot of information, but part of their role is also to control your movements. This means that by definition there are significant constraints, so the possibility of an absolutely definitive survey of North Korea does not currently exist, even though one can indeed travel through large parts of the country and photograph quite freely.
This doesn’t mean there was someone on my shoulder every time I took a picture, but they were rarely more than 50 meters away other than the relatively few occasions when I was allowed to roam free for an hour or two. That said, my own experience was that the guides are also in a position to facilitate a great deal if you simply treat them normally, and I was frequently surprised by the access I was given considering the circumstances.
They generally offer frank responses to questions. It’s clearly not the ideal arrangement, but if one tries to understand their own sensitivities and thinks of them as fixers it’s possible to work quite effectively even within these parameters. As mentioned earlier, I’ve not experienced intervention in my photography there, nor did they ever try to prevent me from interacting with locals.
North Korean fast food and US '50s outfits in Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang.
Locals enjoy a picnic on Moran Hill in Pyongyang.
Locals admire Kimjongilia (red) and Kimilsungia (purple) flowers at a flower festival in Pyongyang.
It has occurred to me that perhaps some people feel certain images are contrived because their composition makes them feel like tableaux. Such skepticism riles me since it’s difficult not to take it personally when an individual who has never even visited North Korea believes they know more on the topic than someone who has completed a two-year project and studied every text available. So it certainly became a personal mission on two levels: first to supplement the established narrative through a balanced survey of ordinary North Koreans and, as it turned out, lending them a dignity that has previously been lacking; and second, the task of convincing armchair skeptics that the images are truly candid.
The image of people laughing at a picnic is important to me since it is the last thing most viewers might expect to see in a body of work on North Korea. I've occasionally been challenged on this photo by people thinking it was staged, yet it was a completely spontaneous moment. Since it was a national holiday, there must have been thousands of picnickers in the park, and this particular group were laughing when a man in a neighboring gathering, who had evidently had one soju too many, stood up and began swaying in the breeze while singing painfully out of tune.
North Koreans never interfered with my image-making, deleted photos, or instructed me on what to shoot. The conviction that the whole thing is a huge Truman Show for visitors can take on extremes — for example many Westerners genuinely believe that the Pyongyang Metro only actually runs when a foreigner is on it!
Students participate in a mass dance on Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang.
A newlywed couple outside Pyongyang Folklore Park.
A guide translates a female soldier's comments about the Wangjaesan Monument in North Hamgyong province.
People in provincial North Korea pass before a mural of the leaders standing upon the North Korean “sacred mountain” of Mount Paektu.
As mentioned, it was my experience of North Koreans as thoughtful, kind, and humorous people, in many ways not different from us, that I found most illuminating. Children are cheeky and fun. Obviously the people are indoctrinated, but the automatic conclusion that they have all been completely desensitized to become unthinking cogs in the state apparatus is an exceedingly simplistic analysis and typical of the kind of assumption one makes without having been there — I had made it too.
I hope that the images open up unexpected perspectives on the country and particularly its people, and help viewers to attach a different face to North Korea from the bombastic version the state tends to project on the world stage.
A man runs past monumental mosaics at Pyongyang film studios.
A child sings at a kindergarten performance in Chongjin, North Korea. Talented children are trained to a very high level from an early age.
Young girls perform at a kindergarten in Chongjin.
A nurse tends infants in an orphanage in Nampo.
Children line up in an orphanage in Nampo on North Korea's west coast.
To see more of Fabian Muir's work, visit his website at fabianmuir.com.
Days after the White House unveiled plans to stage a military parade in the nation’s capital, Vice President Mike Pence blasted North Korea for doing the same.
North Korean leaders staged a large showing in the capital city of Pyongyang on Thursday, one day prior to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremonies, displaying several new short range and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that officials test-launched late last year. The parade was held to mark the military’s 70th anniversary and was broadcast by North Korean state media.
Speaking with reporters on Friday, Pence, who is in South Korea to lead the U.S. delegation, called the parade “an ongoing provocation.”
“What we witnessed in Pyongyang, and what we witnessed again yesterday on the eve of the Olympics — what [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] said last night he hopes would be an Olympics of peace — was once again an effort on the part of the regime in Pyongyang to display their ballistic missiles, to display a military that continues to make menacing threats across the region and across the wider world,” he said.
However, when confronted with the fact that the White House had itself confirmed plans for a similar military display this week, Pence dodged.
“I think any opportunity we have to celebrate the men and women of the armed forces of the United States is a great day,” he said. “I heartily support the president’s call to celebrate our military.”
Pence then hearkened back to President Trump’s visit to Paris, France last year, for the country’s national day celebration. The city hosts an annual Bastille Day military parade, steeped in tradition and, as the Washington Post pointed out, “deeply rooted in the country’s history and values.”
“I think in the United States of America, just as in France — where the president was impressed on Bastille Day — we can celebrate our troops, not in any way ever be associated with the provocations of the North,” he said.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 9, 2018
The Washington Post first reported the White House’s plans for a military parade on Tuesday, citing several anonymous military officials familiar with the matter.
“The marching orders were: ‘I want a parade like the one in France,’” one source said. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”
The source added that the parade was still in the planning stages. “Right now, there’s really no meat on the bones,” they said.
Shortly after the Post published its report, the White House and Pentagon both confirmed the claims.
“President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated.
A Defense Department spokesman later explained that it would release more details once plans had been solidified. “We are aware of the request and are in the process of determining specific details. We will share more information throughout the planning process,” they said.
Trump has long expressed a desire for a military parade like that of North Korea and other totalitarian regimes throughout history. In an interview with the Post’s Karen Tumulty shortly before taking office last January, Trump explained that he planned to follow through on his campaign promise to “Make America Great Again” by holding military parades in the streets of Washington, D.C.
“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country. And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military,” he said. “That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”
However, the president’s recent plans for a showy parade honoring the military have gone over poorly, both among the public and within the military itself.
“A military parade is third world bullshit. We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation,” former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill tweeted on Thursday. O’Neill was a member of the team that took out Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 and claims to have been the one who fired the kill shot.
A military parade is third world bullshit. We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.
— Robert J. O'Neill (@mchooyah) February 8, 2018
A Military Times poll published on Thursday also showed that nearly 90 percent of readers believed the parade was unnecessary.
According to the outlet, readers were asked, “Should there be a parade showcasing troops and military equipment in Washington, D.C.?” Eighty-nine percent of those polled — a vast majority — answered, “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.” The remaining 11 percent responded, “Yes, it’s a great opportunity to show off U.S. military might.”
Team USA has arrived!
U.S. Olympians marched into PyeongChang Olympic Stadium at the 2018 Winter Olympics with wide smiles on Friday during the ceremonial kick-off of the Games. The group added a special touch to the opening ceremony as South Korea showcased its culture through performance and spectacle on the world stage.
The group waved and dancing into the venue, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave a wave to the athletes from the stands.
Many of the U.S. athletes sported Americana-inspired outfits provided by Polo Ralph Lauren at the event. The ensemble featured slim-fit moto jeans, fringed cowboy gloves, a tricolor wool knit sweater, a navy bandana and brown suede mountaineering boots with red laces.
Creators kept the cold weather in mind when designing the outfits. The athletes’ limited-edition down parkas are embedded with an interior heating system made of conductive carbon and silver ink and printed in the design of an American flag.
Leading the U.S. crew was Olympic luger Erin Hamlin — the first U.S. athlete to win an Olympic singles luge medal.
“It was a pretty big shock,” Hamlin said of learning she’d be leading the pack. “But it is an honor and a privilege to be recognized by all of Team USA.”
With at least 240 athletes competing at the 23rd Winter Olympics, Hamlin carried the flag with the largest U.S. contingent ever — although her selection was not without controversy. Speed skater Shani Davis called the decision “dishonorable” after he lost a coin toss to her.
NBC’s Katie Couric and Mike Tirico (taking over for the now-retired Bob Costas) covered festivities from the stadium, which seats 35,000 and was built specifically for the opening and closing ceremonies.
In a highly anticipated gesture, athletes from both South and North Korea marched under one unified flag during the ceremony. The move has been touted as an important step in relations between the two feuding countries, and also symbolizes the power of sport.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will air live starting Feb. 8. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.
In frigid temperatures and under the watch of spectators around the world, South Korea opened the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang only minutes ago on Friday night — or Friday morning here in the U.S. — with a joyous ceremony centered on peace.
The colorful, culture-filled ceremony featured a trio of young kids who appeared to embark on a journey through South Korea’s rugged mountains with Pyeongchang’s official Olympic mascot, Soohorang, a white tiger.
Though details had been kept largely under wraps, opening ceremonies customarily trace the history and culture of the host country. Yang Jung-woong, who directed the opener, reportedly teased beforehand that it would “be like a fairy tale in the winter. It’s a fantasy, which children see as a dream.”
The ceremony, which began about 8 p.m. local time and 6 a.m. on the East Coast in the U.S., was staged at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in the mountains of Pyeongchang County, approximately 120 miles east of Seoul. The ceremony will be rebroadcast by NBC in primetime on Friday.
Please return to this story as we continue to update it with details and photos from the opening ceremony.
The 35,000-seat Olympic Stadium was constructed specifically for the opening and closing ceremonies of this year’s Winter and Paralympic Games, after which it will be torn down, leaving behind a museum and smaller venue.
Some news reports in the months leading up the Olympics focused on the stadium’s lack of a roof and concerns about the potentially sub-zero-like temperatures inside — given the wind chill — with area lows this week dropping below the teens.
However, Friday’s weather saw warmer temperatures than in the days before, and one local forecast showed a temperature at 7:30 p.m. local time Friday of 28 degrees, which felt like 17 degrees.
The stadium came equipped with several solutions to keep attendees warm, including heated enclosed shelters near the seating as well as seat, hand and foot warmers and a kind of wind-breaker.
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Friday’s ceremony was overseen by Executive Creative Director Song Seung-whan, an actor and producer whose musical show Nanta, described as a “non-verbal” mix of “comedy, music, cooking and traditional Korean samul nori rhythm” is the longest-running production and has been seen by more than 10 million people.
“We have worked on all of our scenarios under the theme of peace,” Song said in January.
Of Song’s work organizing the opening, POCOG President Yang-Ho Cho said: “His experience and creative talent will prove to be valuable assets in producing ceremonies that will harmoniously connect our passion, tradition and cosmopolitan culture to the international audience.”
The 2018 opening ceremony followed in the tradition of the mass spectacle marking previous such openers at the Games in Rio de Janeiro; Sochi, Russia; London and others.
Friday night’s event also includes the parade of nations, including Team USA’s 244 athletes (who are kept warm thanks to a special heating system in their Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms, which used conductive ink in the shape of the American flag printed on the inside of their jackets).
The American delegation is led by Vice President Mike Pence, who attended the opening alongside wife Karen. Olympic bronze medal luger Erin Hamlin led the athletes as the flag-bearer, in a decision medalist and speed skater Shani Davis criticized after “dishonorably” losing to her in a coin toss.
North and South Korea will march under the same flag in the opener, the first time the two countries have done so at any Olympics in 12 years. They will also field a joint women’s hockey team — a first for them at the Games.
Other segments at the opener include the awarding of the second Olympic Laurel to former International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, a speech by current IOC head Thomas Bach and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, held aloft by five twisting supports and designed in the style of a traditional Korean “moon-bowl.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics began on Thursday and continue through Feb. 25.
North Korean figure skaters Kim Ju-Sik (right) and Ryom Tae-Ok (left) warm up during a practice session ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
Roberto Schmidt / AFP / Getty Images
BEIJING — North Korea will join in the festivities when the Winter Olympics open later this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a small diplomatic breakthrough in a relationship that has been marked in recent years by worsening tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
But after the games, it’s more likely than not that the situation will go right back to the way it was.
“Right now there’s nothing in the works beyond the Olympics. You know when you get to April 1, and the Olympics and Paralympics are over, it’s back to the joint military exercises,” said John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in South Korea. “That sort of sends us back to 2017.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has favored better inter-Korean relations since taking office last year, despite criticism from hawks both in the US and in his own country. The Trump administration has been skeptical of North Korea’s participation in the games in contrast with Moon’s approach. To hammer the point home, a source told Axios that Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the US delegation to the games, will take time to “remind the world that everything the North Koreans do at the Olympics is a charade.”
At Moon’s urging, Washington and Seoul have decided to put off annual joint military drills, which regularly anger Pyongyang. North Korea sees the drills as a threat to its security and has often responded with missile launches or other provocations that could have disrupted the games or even discouraged tourism. But Pyongyang has also historically carried out those kinds of actions when South Korea has hosted international events. And North Korea is still holding a military parade ahead of the Olympics, which many see as a provocation in and of itself because of the weapons that are likely to be on display.
“Conservative South Koreans will see that and believe, perhaps rightly, that [North Korea attending the Olympics] does nothing to modulate North Korea’s attention away from nuclear weapons, which are the primary source of problems between the two Koreas,” said Chad O’Carroll, CEO of data and analytics firm Korea Risk Group.
North Korea is dispatching athletes, as well as a cheering squad, journalists and government officials, to the games. Teams from the two Koreas will march together during the opening ceremony, the first time they’ve done so since the 2000 Games in Sydney, and the two countries will send a joint women’s ice hockey team.
The two Korean Olympic teams under the same flag in a gesture of reconciliation during the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images
Beyond sports diplomacy, Pyongyang is sending a 22-member government delegation led by its ceremonial head of state, 90-year-old Kim Yong Nam. (The elderly Kim is not related to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.)
The months after the Olympics will see several opportunities to revert back to the cycle of North Korean missile and satellite launches, which have been met with increasingly tough international sanctions. Those launches could be pegged to events like the anniversary of North Korea leader Kim Il Sung’s birth in April, as well as the US–South Korea military drills.
“I suspect that things could fizzle out quite quickly, and we return not to acrimony, but a chronic freeze in any major progress,” Delury said.