Houstonians plan trip to North Korea regardless of nuclear facility restart

Country grants about 900 visas per year, says Executive Director of World Affairs Council

HOUSTON - As word comes of North Korea's intention to restart a nuclear facility, some Houstonians are planning to visit the country anyway.

Linda Wuest is the Executive Director of Houston's World Affairs Council. Her organization has made a trip to North Korea each of the last three years.

"I think a lot could be gained," said Wuest. "I say that knowing that we understand we're not seeing the whole country. We're seeing what they want to show us."

Wuest said North Korea grants about 900 visas a year, usually to groups like hers.

Clay McFaden is a political science professor at the University of Houston.

"I would say, if you can slip a cell phone to a North Korean, do so," said McFaden. "So that they can have some communication with the outside world, because the North Korean people have no communication, and they don't know how good it is in South Korea."

Other members said these trips also serve a purpose for North Korea.

"They want your money," said Alan Livingston, who visited North Korea in 2011. "They want to give you a visual impression of North Korea that they don't have horns."

But some believe they might, making a trip like this potentially dangerous.

"But a delegation from the World Affairs Council, I don't think that'd be a threat to the North Koreans," said McFaden. "They'll probably roll out the red carpet, try to put on their best face and try to charm them."

Related: North Korea plans to restart nuclear reactor

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