One night in North Korea: Davenport man shares his experience in one of the world’s most isolated countries

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DAVENPORT, Iowa -- As the White House has announced a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a Davenport man who made a rare trip to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang says he hopes the dialogue will warm relations between the cold war adversaries.

Brendan Iglehart will share his travel experience at the DeWitt Operahouse Theater on Tuesday, May 7, once at 3 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. for the Noon Lions Club travelogue series, an educational fundraiser.

"I just have this interest in traveling to places that my mom doesn't like me to go," said Inglehart, who now runs a travel company in the Quad Cities. He said he's also been to offbeat destinations like Cuba and next plans to go to Chernobyl, Urkraine, the site of a catastrophic nuclear disaster.

He traveled to North Korea in 2014 with Young Pioneer Tours, the same group that American college student Otto Warmbier hired on his fateful trip. The U.S. State Department banned American travel to North Korea after Warmbier returned to the United States in June of 2017 with fatal injuries after 17 months in detention there.

Iglehart said Warmbier's story made him rethink how dangerous his own trip was.

"You just have to be respectful of local laws and realize that if you step out of line, you may not have due process like you would expect in the U.S. or other similar countries," Iglehart said.

But in June of 2018 there was an apparent breakthrough in Washington-Pyongyang relations. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made history in Singapore, marking the first time leaders of the two countries ever met face to face.

Iglehart said in his experience, North Koreans are a lot more savvy about the world than Americans give them credit for.

"Even though they live in this very controlled country, the people aren't stupid," he said. "They know about the U.S., they know about the prosperity of other countries around the world."

The U.S. extended it's travel ban for another year last September, so the North Koreans won't be welcoming American tourists again any time soon. Still, Iglehart said he is hopeful that dialogue will improve relations over time.

"I think that we can all agree that even if the governments don't get along, we're all people," Iglehart said. "And I got to really gain respect for the people that I met."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the travelogue at the Dewitt Operahouse Theater would take place on January 22. The event was postponed due to weather. 

 

 

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