GLEN ELLYN – With the Winter Olympics now taking place in Pyeongchang in South Korea, all eyes are on the Korean Peninsula these days.
Journalist and Glen Ellyn resident Sandy Stevens will talk about her trip to North Korea during a presentation from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Glen Ellyn Public Library, 400 Duane St. To sign up for the program, go to gepl.org.
Stevens took the trip about eight years ago. Like the rest of the world, Stevens watched with interest as athletes from North Korea and South Korea marched together during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. But she believes that moment was more about North Korea trying to create an image rather than any real unity between the two countries.
"I'm not terribly surprised that it happened," Stevens said. "Everything in North Korea is about image, and that's one of the things I emphasize in my program. It's all about image. They show you what they want you to see. They clean it up so that everything you see in Pyongyang, which is the capital, is supposedly pristine."
And they want to make sure that image is conveyed to the rest of the world.
"We had to ask permission to take any photographs," Stevens said. "I took two that I didn't ask permission for. We went through a smaller town, and I saw women washing their clothes in the river. And I snapped a picture of it. And that's not something they would want us to see."
In order to go on the trip to North Korea, Stevens concealed the fact that she was a journalist.
"I could not have gone if they [had] known I was a journalist," she said. "No journalists were to be allowed into the country. So I said I was a retired teacher, which was absolutely true."
Stevens said she wanted to visit North Korea because she has two Korean grandchildren.
"They were adopted as infants through an agency in Seoul, South Korea," Stevens said. "We knew that the Korean culture would be part of their lives. That's very important to my son and his family."
Her granddaughter is the birth child of unmarried North Korean miners, she said.
"When her mother found out she was pregnant, she escaped, with the help of an underground organization," Stevens said. "And for months, she was virtually hidden. They got her through rivers and over mountains to Thailand, then to the Philippines, then to Seoul before the baby was born so she could give her up for adoption. That's my definition of courage."
So Stevens decided to go on a trip to North Korea.
"I thought, 'Someday I will be able to tell my granddaughter why her mother was so desperate to give her a life elsewhere,' '' she said.
If you go
WHAT: A Journey to North Korea
WHEN: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20
WHERE Glen Ellyn Public Library, 400 Duane St., Glen Ellyn