2006: Visit in the Wake of DPRK’s First Nuclear Test

Hinge Points: An Inside Look at North Korea’s Nuclear Program


Four members of the Stanford delegation with a high ranking North Korean Officer and a painting in the background

Dates: October 31 – November 4, 2006

The 2006 visit came in the wake of the nuclear test of 9 October 2006 that proclaimed the nuclear status of DPRK to the world. Hecker and the Stanford team members came ready to explore both technical questions about the test and the political implications of this critical step in the North’s nuclear program.

Stanford delegation: John Lewis, Siegfried Hecker, Robert Carlin, and Charles “Jack” Pritchard.

At the start of the visit,  Ambassador Ri Gun, the Foreign Affairs Ministry host, indicated that Pyongyang wanted to “let the American public know that the people in the DPRK are full of confidence and pride and we are marching forward”.

Notes by John Lewis (with Hecker input) of meeting with Ambassador Ri Gun (some of the Korean names are spelled differently in the memo than in the book – Li Gun instead of Ri Gun and Ms. Choi Son Hyi instead of Choe Son Hui), notes.

Mammoth army-people rally hails successful nuclear test“, Pyongyang Times, October 28, 2006

There was no visit to Yongbyon on this trip. Hecker and Stanford team members were hoping to determine the status and future steps of the DPRK nuclear program in discussions with Yongbyon Director Ri Hong Sop and other high officials.

Meeting with Director Ri Hong Sop, notes.

In his trip report, Hecker wrote: “We know very little about the DPRK nuclear stockpile and the nation’s nuclear strategy. DPRK officials stated the role of their nuclear weapons is to deter the United States and defend the sovereignty of their state. <…> They stated that DPRK’ s commitment to denuclearize remains unchanged in spite of their nuclear test, but it will require the United States to stop threatening the DPRK state. <…>

Yet, my general impression is that the hurdles to convincing the DPRK to give up its nuclear weapons have increased substantially <…> . It is essential for the United States to demonstrably address DPRK’s security before there is any hope of denuclearization.

2006: Discussions on post-test developments

Five men in business suits pose for a photo inside a hotel conference room

Meeting with Director Ri Hong Sop was “informative” but he was not authorized to discuss the recent nuclear test.

Two men in suits and ties seated next to each other

Hecker talks with Yongbyon Director Ri Hong Sop a few weeks after the first North Korean nuclear test. Koryo Hotel, Pyongyang.

A group of five men and one woman pose for a photo in an office

Meeting at the Peoples’ National Economic University. Pyongyang, November 2006.

Four men in business suits posing for picture in front of a massive sculptural composition featuring stone fists clutching items symbolizing values of labor and knowledge

Hecker (left), Lewis, Carlin, and Pritchard at a courtesy stop to visit the Korean Workers Party Foundation Monument in Pyongyang.

Two men with purchase bags standing on a broad side walk lined with high rise residential buildings

Hecker and Carlin after stamp store visit. Hecker was able to buy stamps celebrating the 1998 satellite launch.

Three men in business suits standing outside a building and smiling at the camera

Carlin (left), Lewis, and Hecker ready for a packed day of visits in Pyongyang.

Six men in business suits posing for picture.

Traditional courtesy visit at North Korea’s Supreme Peoples Assembly.

People sitting at opposite sides of a large conference table talking and taking notes

At the meeting with North Korea’s Ministry of Education, Lewis explored collaboration with Stanford University. “Yes, we are interested, but it will depend on our governments.”

Five men and a woman in Korean traditional gown posing for a photo in an office

Hecker found the visit with the Ministry of Education enlightening. Photo taken after the discussion.

Two men sitting turned to each other in a conversation at dinner table

Ambassador Ri Gun (left) and Carlin hold a conversation over dinner. Koryo Hotel, Pyongyang.

Three men seated next to each other with the man in the middle smiling broadly and reaching out to the man on his right

A lighter dinner-time moment of Amb. Ri Gun jesting with Bob Carlin (left) and Jack Pritchard (right).

Large group of men in business suits posing in front of a wall-sized landscape painting

Visit with representatives of the Committee on the Promotion of International Trade.

Two men in suits without ties sitting side to side and smiling directly to the camera

Carlin (left) and Hecker smile while resting at the Koryo Hotel in the end of a long day.

Man in suit and tie standing in a tree-lined ally

John Lewis on the way to next meeting.

Two men in casual suits sitting side to side and looking directly in the camera

Lewis (left) and Pritchard in Koryo Hotel dining room, after the day full of visit.


2006: Everyday life in Pyongyang

The rather light nuclear agenda during this trip allowed John Lewis to schedule more visits as part of his unyielding desire to understand North Korea from the perspectives of the economy, public health, culture and education.  Lewis explored every opportunity to see if the various organizations in the North were interested in cooperation with the U.S. and with Stanford University, in particular.

View of a high rise building and more city residential buildings further off. The view taken from a high point.

Morning view of Pyongyang residential buildings out of the Koryo Hotel window on 17th floor.

View of city street corner from high above

View of a street corner kiosk from the hotel window high above.

View from high above on a street with people walking and some waiting at the doors of a store

Morning in North Korea’s capital. People waiting for a store to open.

Woman walking with 3 small kids along a sidewalk in Pyongyang

Colorful outfits on children heading from school.

Three girls heading home from school seen from the back

Girls heading home from school – blue uniforms and red bandana.

Neatly dressed people queuing at a public bus stop on a tree lined street in Pyongyang

Common sight of people waiting for buses on a Pyongyang street.

Taken from the front side of a car, backs of cars in front, a truck with some people in military uniform, and a woman traffic controller ahead directing traffic

Common sight on a Pyongyang street. A woman traffic controller is stationed at the intersection.

A bronze statue of a man riding a beautiful strong horse against the wind

Bronze statue of Kim Il Sung on horseback.

An arched gateway decorated by three portraits of two men and one woman

Gateway entry to an industrial site with portraits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Suk (Kim Il Sung’s wife and Kim Jong Il’s mother).

Woman traffic controller in blue uniform standing in the center of a circle drawn in the intersection of two streets

Pyongyang traffic control.

A vast empty city-scape with concrete high-rise buildings

Pyongyang city-scape with a giant tower of Ryugyong Hotel, the unfinished 105-story pyramid-shaped skyscraper.

People exiting a busy building with some Korean signage above the entrance

Pritchard (left) and Carlin (right of center) at Tong Il Street Market.

Cars parked near the entrance to large covered market

The parking lot at the Tong Il Market was jammed with vehicles, some of them privately owned (with yellow license plates).

Vista into a marble-decorated arched subway platform

Hecker (front) and Carlin (further back) entering a subway station.

Man walking down stairs into a marble-walled subway station

John Lewis in Pyongyang subway.

Man standing on a marble-paved platform in front of a green and red subway car

Hecker in Pyongyang subway.

Students sitting at their desks and looking into microscopes with a woman teacher looking on

Biology lab in Middle School N1 in Pyongyang, housed in a big six-story building with 1500 students.

Man kneeling next to school desks with students sitting in pairs

Lewis in classroom during visit to Middle School N1 in Pyongyang.

Man looking with interest at the screen of a desktop computer with students sitting in front of their monitors

Hecker in computer lab.

Three girls in student uniform are conducting physics tabletop experiment

Girls conducting tabletop physics experiment in Pyongyang school.

Three uniformed students at a desk busy with a physics tabletop installation

Next desk, another tabletop experimental setup.

Two Korean boy students engaged with a desktop experimental installation for generating electricity

Electricity and magnetism experiments.

Man walking in an aisle between desks where students perform experiments with chemistry vials

Pritchard in chemistry class.

Girls in navy student uniforms with their heads bent each over her personal piece of embroidery

Embroidery class.

Two girls in folk dress perform a dance on a decorated scene

A music performance at the end of the visit to Pyongyang Middle School N 1.

Children performing a dance on a decorated scene

Dance performance.

Boy heading into subway wearing school uniform including red bandana but with baseball cap backwards and a Nike swoosh.

Boy heading into subway wearing school uniform including red bandana but with baseball cap backwards and a Nike swoosh. At the time Hecker thought “where there is swoosh, there is hope.”

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