San Diego teacher talks about trip to North Korea

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SAN DIEGO – A San Diego teacher is back home Thursday after a trip to one of the most anti-American countries in the world.

Keith Ballard, a middle school teacher from Spring Valley spent six days in North Korea on a multi-country educational tour.

He documented his trip through photos and videos, which he admits he had to sneak around to get.

Through China, Ballard received a Visa to visit North Korea.

Ballard studies how education in other countries ranks against the U.S. but he says this time he was the one being schooled.

“I actually asked the question who do you hate more the Japanese because of their immense occupation or the Americans? They said we hate them both but we probably hate Americans more,” said Ballard.

Ballard brought back several anti-American propaganda posters, which he says, are sold in stores, displayed on streets and in schools.

The posters show images of devil-like American soldiers and an iron first punching through the American flag.

“All things in South Korea are blamed on America. When power outages go, its all America, when they don`t have enough goods, enough to eat … when the roads aren`t fixed – its all about what America is doing to them.”

From his experience, the Koreans were only friendly toward American tourists who were spending money.

At times, Ballard admits he would pretend to be Swedish in order to escape ridicule.
“What I saw was scripted. For example the hotel was like an Alcatraz, like an island through the river that flows through Pyongyang. There is only one way off by a bridge.  Everything is very protected, very scripted,” said Ballard.

Even as a tourist, Ballard was told to bow down toward the country’s “Great Leader.”
“Everybody walks the party line and if you don`t you are probably going to end up dead somewhere,” said Ballard.

The middle school teacher however, was impressed with some aspects of the schools system; students began their education early and were immersed in music and sports education.
“But the truth of the matter is outside of Pyongyang its very poor and there are a lot of problems and poverty. The truth is they only show you the very best and we saw the best,” said Ballard.

Ballard documented his journey and shares additional videos on youtube.