I was in Kreuzberg, a hip area preferred by artists and expats in Berlin. Sitting across from me was Jakob Grotewohl, a well-dressed 30-year-old Ger- man with an impeccable American English accent. I was visiting to watch my old improv troupe per- form, and it was the night of his debut show in the troupe. While everyone else dressed in street clothes, Grotewohl was dressed in dark pants and a white shirt, highlighted perfectly by suspenders, having just come from a dinner party hosted by the North Korean Embassy. His great grandfather, East Germany’s first president, had helped the North rebuild after the Korean War and the eter- nally grateful North Korean leader Kim Il-sung welcomed Grotewohl as part of his fam- ily after his great-grandfather died. Grotewohl has never tak- en the North up on the offer to visit since spending time there in his childhood, but has often accepted invitations from the embassy. My trip to Berlin was on the tails of the visit of South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, who had come to Berlin to gain in- sight from German leaders on the 25-year-old suc- cess of German reunification; they were specifically interested in how its lessons could be applied to a re- unified Korea, a vision the countries have sought since their separation in 1945. Despite the different circum- stances and cultural values, their stories are similar: war, communism, democracy and, of course, America. The biggest difference, however, is how long one divi- sion has outlasted the other. While the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, North and South Korea not only remain sep- arated, but the two countries are technically still at war. Grotewohl notes that history remembers the divided countries the way the winners paint them, and that in spite of the bad reputation forced on North Korea and East Germany, he has experienced the positives of both. He was quick to point out that his experienc- es are unique and not representative of the common thought, but they nonetheless present a side of history that is often forgotten or misrepresented. Groove Korea spoke with Grotewohl about his fam- ily’s history with North Korea and the German lesson of reunification. Groove Korea: Tell us about your family’s connection to north Korea. Jakob Grotewohl: My great-grandfather was the first president of the DDR (German Democratic Republic). After the Korean War (1950-53), he sent a team of specialists to North Korea to help rebuild. My grandparents on my father’s side were both architects and they helped build schools, kindergartens and hospitals in Hamhung. My father was born in Pyongyang while they were there, and the families have kept a pretty close relationship with North Korea, at least until the DDR ended with reunification. My parents took the whole family to North Korea in 1986. I was there as a child in ‘92 and ’94 because the North Koreans provided medical treatment for my dad, which he wouldn’t have gotten in Germany. He had multiple sclerosis, and he got acupuncture and all kinds of treatment for free. So they were really helpful to us. I was there as a child, so my memories are very different from what I would think about if I were to go there now. I was pretty happy about everything, but of course the context of my impressions was not very complex. www.groovekorea.com / November 2014 90 Edited by Elaine Ramirez (elaine@groovekorea.com) COMMuNITy N O R T H K O R E A N G R A T I T u D E A N D T H E G E R M A N L E S S O N Interview by Chance Dorland / Photos courtesy of Jakob Grotewohl A GERMAN SpEAKS ABOuT FAMILy TIES TO pyONGyANG AND THE EFFECTS OF REuNIFICATION GrooveCast GrooveCast host Chance Dorland spoke with Jakob Grotewohl in Berlin about reunification and how it can be applied to Korea. Subscribe to GrooveCast in the iTunes Store or listen online at groovekorea.com. ChANCE ENCOuNTERS