John gave the second Roscoe lecture this year, but he made a Roscoe first, by cycling to deliver his address from London to Liverpool entirely by push-bike.
The three-time British Ambassador made his address to a packed St George’s Hall in Liverpool, covering a range of topics including the threats posed by the regime in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to international order and his take on the abuse of human rights in the country.
He began by challenging perceptions of the people of North Korea, whom, in his words, may have been generated by media: “Please everybody; this is a real country with real people living there… I need to stress that contrary to western belief, North Koreans are not automatons.”
“They have views like we do in Britain. They are heirs to a very ancient tradition of culture and hospitableness. North Korea is also a quiet country…. And an orderly country.”
Showcasing some fascinating photographs from his personal collection, John showed North Koreans in daily life – talking candidly of the similarities with Westerners but with some exceptions –for example how they play chess where it is often played in groups as a more of a sociable pastime.
John also used the images to draw on the North Korean healthcare system, how traditional music is a key part of young people’s education and the challenges of being in poverty during winter – when many North Koreans have to fish through ice in dangerous and often fatal conditions.
Moving on to the implications of the North Korean regime, John spoke of the country’s development of missiles and nuclear weapons describing how their rapid advances in weaponry production pose a real threat to international security and stability. He also spoke of the human rights’ abuse and the use of concentration camps where he said some 80-120,000 people could be incarcerated “at any given moment.” Drawing on a UN inquiry into human rights’ abuse in North Korea, John commented how “there is no doubt we are looking at human rights abuses on a massive and sickening scale.”
John’s lecture ended with a warning: “North Korea is an accident waiting to happen and if they miscalculate their use of weapons, we may have dangerous international consequences and the first use of a nuclear weapon in anger, since 1945.”
University Citizenship Awards
Prior to the lecture, John awarded a special Liverpool John Moores University Citizenship Award to four Year 13 students from Chesterfield High School, recognised for their role in the national ‘Connecting Communities’ project for the last two years.
The initiative aims to inspire, engage and empower young people to become more involved in their local communities and give them the skills and confidence to take control of the projects. Chesterfield High School was selected to run the project in Sefton with the following students receiving a Liverpool John Moores Citizenship Award from John on stage:
Tom Barker (absent due to illness)
Cath Murphy, Headteacher from Chesterfield High, described how these students have shown enormous commitment, giving up their free time every Friday morning for the two years they have been in the Sixth Form. Their role is to plan, provide and lead physical activity sessions in the local community at Thornton Children’s Centre. During the sessions the students provide various activities for toddlers to assist their physical development helping the children develop a wide range of interpersonal skills developing their confidence, self-esteem and social skills by playing alongside other children.