Jersey on the Taedong: Pedagogical Resources for Robert Egan’s “Eating with the Enemy”

By | April 28, 2012 | No Comments

Jersey on the Taedong: Pedagogical Resources for Robert Egan’s “Eating with the Enemy”

by Adam Cathcart

As apparently noxious as US-North Korea relations are at present, it is worth noting that efforts for cultural exchange never stopped in 2012 and may be primed to expand [1]. An American men’s chorus performed at the far-reaching April Arts Festival in Pyongyang, and efforts are continuing to bring the North Korean Symphony Orchestra to Atlanta, Georgia and other places throughout what is know as the American South [2].  American military excavation teams left the DPRK in March 2012 after the announcement of the missile launch, but there isn’t anything to say they won’t be back to claim their fallen comrades.  The KCNA-AP exhibition at a small gallery in New York was — from the North Korean standpoint in any event — a huge success, in spite of some criticism from human-rights bloggers in Washington, D.C.

Discussing real “normalization” of a relationship, however, requires more than just a trip here and there; what is needed is truly sustained contact and the ability to build relationships. Robert Egan, the recovering alcoholic and owner of a rib shack in Hackensack, New Jersey, was one American who showed a unique aptitude in the 1990s and mid-2000s for connecting with North Korean diplomats.  His story is told in a recent memoir which, sources say, may be made into a Hollywood film at some point.  It is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in North Korea, cultural diplomacy, the New Jersey Nets basketball team, or the New York football Giants.

While we do not encourage unattributed borrowing and remixing of other materials released on SinoNK.com, we very much encourage university professors, high school teachers, library reading groups, or simply interested readers to take the attached question sheets about Eating with the Enemy and use them however you like [3].

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for Robert Egan, Eating with the Enemy

Robert Egan in New Jersey | Via New York Times, December 20, 2011

[1] I avoid adding the trope for increased “mutual understanding,” since both sides seem to understand one another’s destructive capacities quite well, and because “cultural exchange” does not imply wholesale or even partial ideological conversion by the rival culture being displayed.

[2] Apparently the possible irony of a North Korean group dancing around the edge of a southeastern perimeter — a la the Pusan Perimeter during the Korean War — isn’t stopping anyone, nor should it. Incidentally, the North Korean State Symphony is a bit of a consolation prize, since Unhasu Orchestra is the one with the deepest ties to the leadership and was already deployed to France in March 2012.

[3] Thanks to my students at Pacific Lutheran University for being game to discuss these and other related questions over some steaming grills full of kalbi in the thriving and gritty mesh of Tacoma, Washington’s own K-Town — it isn’t Hackensack, but then again, it isn’t supposed to be.

 

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