Wilfrid Laurier University student Andrew Fawcett had an eye-opening visit during a student visit to Asia, and the experience has turned the student in Waterloo, Ont., into an open-information advocate.
While in China for a brief academic exchange, he signed up for a short chaperoned visit to North Korea.
Starting out as an optimistic attempt to make contact with "real" people in North Korea, he quickly learned how insular, xenophobic and dangerous the country can be.
Fawcett told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition how state monitors watched and listened to his conversations with tour staff and people he met during the visit.
One evening, the Canadian student chatted with a tour guide about his personal dreams, learning of the guide's aspirations for his daughter's university education. The next morning, the guide disappeared from the tour team.
Fawcett's classroom project to bring awareness about North Korea quickly grew into a formal panel discussion that included international relations experts and two people who had successfully defected from North Korea.
He's also joined a drive to collect USB keys for making information available to North Koreans.
They'll be loaded with Wikipedia, because even information that basic is prohibited in the country.
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