A group of North Korean disabled students are taking a rare trip of a lifetime to the United Kingdom and France with performances in London and Paris through the help of a private aid group in London.
Between February 20th and March 2nd, the 16-member group, including 11 North Korean disabled students, will be performing at the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Music in London, and at the French National Deaf School in Paris.
The 10-day trip was arranged by DULA International, a London-based aid group. The group started humanitarian aid for disabled students in the communist country after a representative of the group met with North Korean disabled students during the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Seok Hee Lee, director of DULA International, told the VOA Korean Service Thursday that the main purpose of the trip is to give the students a chance to see the outside world and learn from the experience.
The students aged between 11 and 20 will be performing “Arirang,” a well-known Korean folk song and the music of a musical “The Phantom of the Opera.”
“We really made efforts to persuade North Korean officials to allow the students to perform the musical. I told them the musical was composed by a British composer and it was important for the students to perform the music in front of the British audience,” said Lee.
In a phone interview with the VOA Korean Service, Kim Mun-chol, the Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the North Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled, who is leading the 22-member delegation, said the trip is “an effort to enhance exchanges and cooperation” between local groups and with international organizations.”
Kim said his organization has been strengthening its relationship with relevant organizations in China, Nepal, and Cambodia but many in Europe are unaware of their activities.
According to Kim, Pyongyang is preparing for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a focus on table tennis, archery, swimming, and weightlifting.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.