Thursday, February 21, 2013

FURTHER INFORMATION:            STACY ARMSTRONG (626) 857-4082, PAULA GREEN (626) 914-8873, DALE SALWAK (626) 914-8859

Citrus College Instructor Magically Bridges Cultural Divide
By Stacy Armstrong

GLENDORA, CALIF. - Dale Salwak, a faculty member in the Citrus College language arts department, may have discovered the key to opening up one of the world’s most closed societies:  Magic.

This spring, the La Verne resident and professional magician is expected to make his fourth trip to the isolated nation of North Korea.  The purpose of his visit will be to continue working on a proposed people-to-people exchange with the United States.

“Certain technicalities interrupted our plans to host North Korean magicians in 2012, but I am not discouraged and will continue to work toward making this happen,” Salwak explains.  “I have also expressed my desire to have a private meeting with Kim Jung Un, the nation’s leader, to discuss our mutual interest in creating such an exchange and have been assured that eventually the meeting will take place.”

Although the specific details of his upcoming trip to North Korea have yet to be determined, Salwak is looking forward to gaining broader access to the nation and its citizens.

“The officials and hosts I have worked with know me well and we have developed a level of strong respect and mutual trust.  We all want to possess a better understanding of our very different perspectives on the world.  What has brought us together is our mutual interest in the performing arts,” Salwak said.  “With each visit I have been given broader access to the society and I expect that to continue.  In fact, this year I hope to accompany my hosts on a trip deep into the northern provinces to see a side of life I’ve only touched upon during my previous visits.”

Salwak says he expects his fourth trip to be enlightening.

“Every time I am there I learn more and, in turn, share more,” he said.  “My visits are completely apolitical.  The common denominator here – the great leveler – is the performing arts and culture.  We actually share many similar interests.”

Salwak’s visit will begin when he flies to Beijing, China.  He will stay overnight and then pick up his visa from the North Korea desk at the Chinese Consulate, at which point he will then fly to Pyongyang, North Korea to meet his host, assigned translator, and driver. 

“The government takes care of the logistics once I am inside the country.  Upon arrival, I turn over my passport and I am always well taken care of,” he said.  “I go with no agenda – only a genuine desire to learn more about the people and their history, while helping them learn more about us.  The people themselves are very warm, gracious, kind and genuinely curious about the West.”

With details of his spring visit to North Korea being finalized, Salwak is also preparing for another big trip.  In late April, he is scheduled to speak at the Washington Symposium on Magic History in Washington D.C.

“Historians, policy makers, and others interested in the topic of magic will be in attendance,” he said.  “On April 26, I will be speaking about my trips to Pyongyang and describing my experiences with the performing arts programs there, the society of magicians with whom I have developed a close relationship, and my continuing work to bring about a people-to-people exchange.”

Salwak is one of the few private American citizens who have been granted access to North Korea.  Because of this, his story has gained national and international interest.  In fact, he has been featured  on Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and in publications such as Rodong Sinmun (the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling party) and The Choson Sinbo (a Japan publication for the General Association of Korean Residents).

Dr. Geraldine M. Perri, Citrus College superintendent/president, is not surprised by the attention Salwak’s trips have received.

“From his presence in the classroom to his extensive accomplishments as an author, Dr. Salwak has always been an impressive member of the Citrus College community,” she said.  “His continued efforts to share magic with North Korea only add to his remarkable resume.”

Mrs. Susan M. Keith, president of the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees, agrees.

“Dr. Salwak brings recognition to Citrus College with each new journey on which he embarks,” she said.  “We are so proud of him and greatly appreciate the fact that he represents the college in such an extraordinary way.”

Despite the interest in his ground-breaking travels, Salwak insists he is just a regular performer and educator.

“Ten years ago, the thought of visiting North Korea wasn’t even on my radar.  Life is filled with surprises and this is one of them,” he said.  “It will probably be years from now before I fully understand the many dimensions to this evolving story and the tiny role I played in it.”




FURTHER INFORMATION:            STACY ARMSTRONG (626) 857-4082, PAULA GREEN (626) 914-8873, DALE SALWAK (626) 914-8859