By Mike Deehan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
---- — BOSTON — Rep. Paul Heroux managed to make it to North Korea after all, even after it looked like he wouldn’t be allowed into the isolated country.
After his visa was rejected by authorities, the freshman Democrat from Attleboro made contact with an acquaintance who happened to know North Korea’s United Nations delegate. The connection was a good one and Heroux found himself with approval to visit the country as part of an already scheduled trip.
The major takeaways from the trip for Heroux were the North Korean’s remembrance of their so-called victory over the U.S. in 1953 and the way the Kim dynasty, currently embodied by the country’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, is treated and revered. The trip didn’t change his opinion on North Korea, Heroux said, but it did help him better understand the mindset of the country.
“If we’re constantly antagonistic towards their government, over their way of doing things, then we’re not going to get that far,” Heroux said.
Heroux saw firsthand the extreme reverence demanded of the people by the authorities. Understanding that way of life, he said, would help Americans trying to comprehend the nation. “Understanding that would help formulate U.S. foreign policy toward that country, what to steer toward and what to steer away from,” Heroux said.
Heroux said he doesn’t agree with the country’s communist socialist ideals and saw several examples of how the government system is a failure. The representative traveled on terribly potholed roads and saw people seemingly surviving with very little sustenance, he said.
The group traveled to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and many military memorials dedicated to the Kims and the 1950-1953 war that divided the two nations. The one part of the tour that Heroux said bothered him was a newly opened war memorial featuring captured American military equipment and photographs of dead American soldiers.
Heroux told the News Service in July that the trip wouldn’t be a vacation, but rather a trip to increase his knowledge of the world. A group of Harvard University students and graduates, including Heroux, planned the private trip with the help of a Chinese travel agent.
Accompanying the group were two tour guides, an “interpreter” who Heroux suspected was a security agent and a videographer who filmed the foreigners’ experience in the country. But it wasn’t all structured tours and solemn memorials. Heroux said there was plenty of alcohol along the way. Even the security agent and one of the tour guides enjoyed the party, according to Heroux, leading the two to become “completely wasted.”
Heroux returned to the U.S. Aug. 20.