The story of the FIRST All-American basketball team to travel into North Korea.
“I remember having to piss on my gun every morning to get it to fire. Shit, my hand froze over there. Been like this for forty years now. Haven’t moved it since. It was rough at first, but you get used to it”. – Anonymous American Korean-War Vet.
With either side unwilling to acquiesce to the others request(s), two nations, once united, equally forged through deep tradition and a rich history; now in theory stand lifetimes apart, even though they share the same peninsula.
On July 27, 1953 at approximately 10:00 a.m., an armistice to end all fighting between the North and South was signed. The armistice ended a war that has been dubbed by many veterans alike, as “one of the coldest experiences, both emotionally and physically in recollection”.
Although the ‘all out’ war has ended, continued rhetoric and threats imply that the stretch of land extending 684 miles southward into the Pacific Ocean is slated for many more tumultuous years.
To date, approximately 2500 Americans have laid foot in the reclusive regime that is North Korea. Countless articles, interviews, books and personal accounts have been published and recorded in hopes of painting a more vivid picture of what takes place in this obscure land. On many occasion news agencies have revealed troublesome information to the public regarding provocations, aggression and broken promises from the nation that has been termed a ‘failed state’. Understandably due to the countries continued aggression towards their neighbor in the South, North Korea has alienated itself with the rest of the world.
A myriad of sanctions from South Korea, the U.S, China and the rest of the international community have placed the DPRK in a precarious position. A dear leader, Kim IL sung who passed away in 1994 and his son, comrade Kim Jong Il, who recently passed away in 2012, continue to have a strong presence in the countries economic, political and military decisions.
The word Juche, is an ideology that was created and first used by the countries cardinal and eternal leader, Kim IL Sung during a speech given in 1955. Juche is built upon self-reliance within the nations defense, self-sufficiency within its economy and independence politically. Approximately, 24 million people display fervent belief to this idea and are reminded everyday of who has provided the country and its citizens with the “so-called” prosperity that they are enjoying. In every expanse of life in the DPRK, a passerby can find pristine images and rhetoric applauding the works of the dear leader and his son. Its quite amazing with which artistic mastery the artists of North Korea are able to convey their messages through indoctrinating artwork. Not enough can be said about the talent that is sought out and thus used for the benefit of the nation.
On June 10th by way of Beijing, China, 11 American basketball players and 3 American coaches set out to accomplish something that many considered unthinkable, impossible and quite simply idiotic.
Spearheaded by a Starbucks crazed forward thinker, Luke Elie assembled a group that instantly gelled, put aside their pride, opened their hearts, praised God covertly (we’re smart, not foolish), redefined their faith, built bridges in the midst of countless storms, shared experiences and gained humility through it all.
In an troubled world where instant fame is easily garnered through deplorable behavior, these fourteen men chose a different higher road and received a higher education in genuine love from people who genuinely don’t know any better.
Oh…and we played some basketball as well!