Potential DPRK-US magician exchange

According to the Los Angeles Times:

Dale Salwak, who teaches English literature by day and performs as a magician at night, knows that arranging for North Korean illusionists to visit the U.S. is no easy trick.

Salwak teaches English literature by day at Citrus College and performs illusions at night at places such as Hollywood’s Magic Castle. His skill at floating mysterious zombie balls in the air and turning silk scarves into exploding flowers earned him an invitation earlier this year to visit the secretive Asian nation.

His six-day stay in Pyongyang in April prompted him to attempt to organize an exchange program that will lead to visits by North Korean magicians to this country.

Officially, the 62-year-old Salwak was attending the 26th Spring Friendship Art Festival, which is held biannually by the Kim Jong-il government to promote “friendship, solidarity, exchange and cooperation” among musicians, dancers, acrobats and other performers.

Salwak’s invitation was arranged by several South Korean magicians who were acquainted with him. He was the only American among 680 performers from Asia and Europe. [This last fact is not true. See here.]

“When I arrived, I was told to ‘act as if you’re always being watched, because you are.’ We were given a list of dos and don’ts — ‘don’t express your feelings, don’t talk about politics’ — and told we’d have to turn over our cellphones. We weren’t allowed to take telescopic camera lenses, we could bring no books or magazines. We turned over our passports when we arrived.”

Salwak was assigned two young college-student “managers” who were at his side every time he stepped from his hotel. They spoke fluent English and translated when he spoke with others. They also supervised the two-minute phone calls he was allowed to make from the hotel.

Nonetheless, he came to respect his escorts. “I knew how I behaved, what I said, would reflect on my managers,” he said. “So I was extra careful.”

The visitors had no direct contact with regular Pyongyang residents, although they saw blocks-long lines of people waiting for buses as their group was driven through the capital, he said.

Salwak said the visiting magicians took in several North Korean magic shows and performed twice themselves. He said he staged his own impromptu 20-minute card-trick exhibition for two dozen dining room workers when he showed up early for breakfast at the hotel.

He said he hopes to arrange for the North Korean magicians’ American visit in time for them to attend a planned International Brotherhood of Magicians convention next July in San Diego. He said there will be no restrictions on where they go or whom they talk to.

“I’ve started by writing a letter and sending it through the appropriate channels. We’ll see what happens,” Salwak said.

Along with giving North Koreans an opportunity to perform here, Salwak envisions holding a forum so that the visitors can discuss their views of the performing arts and their role in it.

Read the full story below:
La Verne professor wants to pull some diplomacy out of his hat
Los Angeles Times
Bob Pool


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