North Korea's National Day

  • 30/08/2017
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On the 9th of September, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) celebrates its national day, but what do we know about this mysterious, troubled country? Max Fischer of The Washington Post has written that "almost any story [on North Korea] is treated as broadly credible, no matter how outlandish or thinly sourced", but we'll try seperate the fact from fiction in this post.

Following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, Korea was split in two, the two zones being the North and South. However, the divide was not only geographical but ideological too, with the Soviets and their communism taking the north, while the US held the south, spreading the ideas of capitalism. These divides eventually escalated into a three-year proxy war between the US and Soviet superpowers using the Koreans as pawns. Following the war and up until the 1980’s, North Korea actually fared a lot better than its southern counterpart, but by the 1990’s its ‘Juche’ (self-reliance) policy began to hinder rather than help the country and its people.

Not much can be said about North Korea without mentioning the Kim family. Supported by the Soviet Union, Kim Il-Sung became the first supreme leader following the creation of North Korea, and with his government he used his popularity to create a cult of personality around the Kim dynasty. Kim Sung-Il cleverly made North Korea an atheist country and supressed all religion, instead promoting far-fetched, overtly flattering propaganda to indoctrinate the masses; examples include that the Kim family ‘do not defecate or urinate’ and that Kim Il-Sung forced the Japanese out and guided the DPRK through the Korean war almost single-handedly. There are severe penalties for those who criticize or do not show ‘enough respect’ for the Kim regime.


Another ideology promoted by the Kim regime is that of ‘Juche’. This principle, and the ideas of the individual being ‘the master of his destiny’ and that the masses are “masters of the revolution and construction”. These principles were seen by those outside of North Korea as thinly-veiled mechanisms for sustaining the regime and its heavy-handed oppression of its people (North Korea regularly endures crop failures and famines, relying on foreign aid to help). Eventually in the 1990’s this gave way to the Songun or ‘military-first’ policy, and as an outcome of this we see North Korea as we do now – aggressive, nuclear-hungry, oppressive, and unfortunately, tactically-astute. The Kim regime have worked themselves into a place where there is no easy answer to the North Korea question. 

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The Partition of India

  • 17/08/2017
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This week marks the 70th anniversary of the Indian Partition, an event that split British India and created the two countries of India and Pakistan. At the time, relations between Muslims and Hindus were incredibly tense and the two communities felt that there was no common ground they could meet on, and so upon leaving the British Empire drew the Radcliffe Line (the border that splits India with Pakistan) with East Pakistan later becoming Bangladesh. The Indian Partition was a bloody and savage saga in India’s history, and is likened to the Holocaust in terms of cultural significance in Indian/Pakistani society.

In 1947, two years after the end of the Second World War, Great Britain could no longer afford to keep control of its largest asset, British India. Prime Minister Clement Atlee was in favour of Indian Independence and sent Britain’s final Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, to arrange a handover. Upon arrival Mountbatten could see the simmering tensions that had boiled over more than once in the last decade, and rushed to declare independence a mere 3 months after his arrival, fearing the British would end up refereeing a civil war. India’s independence was announced on the 15th of June, 1947; the borders were announced two days after. What followed was a total breakdown of law and order. As the British empire relinquished all responsibility to two brand-new, ill-equipped and completely overwhelmed governments, and their first task was to oversee one of the greatest mass migrations ever recorded in history - in which they completely failed. As 14.5 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were displaced and criss-crossed the new borderlines to their respective religious strongholds; terrible, terrible atrocities were committed by both sides, and historians estimate up to 2 million Indians lost their lives in the chaos.

So, what does the Partition mean to India and Pakistan now? The situation remains very complex, and the relationship is still defined by the Partition; the two countries have fought 3 major wars, an undeclared war and many armed skirmishes and military standoffs, particularly in the disputed area of Kashmir. In recent times the relations have calmed down, perhaps due to the length of time it has been since the Partition – the current Prime Minister of India is the first to be born after the Partition, indeed now most of the population were born after 1947. It suggests that time really does heal all wounds, but with nationalist rhetoric and propaganda from both sides and a nuclear standoff as recently as 2001, one feels it may take more than just time to fix this damaged relationship.


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Business in Africa

  • 03/08/2017
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Our sister company, Diversity Resource International recently co-hosted a networking event with the British African Business Alliance to encourage business leaders in Sussex to look at how they can work with their African counterparts or the continent itself; and with good reason, as Africa is seen as the ‘final frontier’ of emerging markets, and it has been growing in popularity over the past few decades. Africa is rife with opportunity and investment, featuring a huge and young population keen for work, expanding trade links and growing economies. However, the continent can be a daunting place to set up a business, and it seems for every opportunity there is a handful of risks or obstacles. So what are the pros and cons of setting up a business in Africa?

Africa offers the highest return on foreign direct investment in the world, according to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The first benefit of investing in Africa is the huge amount of natural resources that the continent has to offer. From oil and uranium through to diamonds and gold, and many of these materials remain untapped due to a lack of infrastructure and finance. Perhaps the most important factor is the population of Africa; The continent makes up for just under 15% of the world population. This means there is a truly massive consumer base, ready to utilise the appropriate products.

However, as mentioned there are risks to working in Africa. Governments in Africa are known for their corruption, and this can translate to a lack of policy or obscure procedures. These factors can lead to further problems such as extortion and nationalization, as well as just making it difficult and long-winded to do business. Another issue is infrastructure – the electricity grid and roads of Africa are poor compared to other developing countries. Finally, conflict -while generally declining in Africa- is still a major issue, and a change in regime can seriously affect a business.

Some final things to consider are the vast amount of languages spoken in Africa, and similarly to China business is built on relationships rather than transactions – a good reason to get involved with business leaders at certain networking events! Ultimately, Africa is a smart place to get involved in and as conditions get better more and more people will get involved.

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Celebrating our Diverse Associates!

  • 06/07/2017
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We’re big fans of our interpreters here at Vandu; they are often the face of the company and we’re incredibly proud of the job they’re doing. We wanted to give a little back in celebrating some of the things they do outside of Vandu.

Many of our interpreters  carry out extra social work in their communities. One of our Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi interpreters Sabah Kaiser, volunteers at a charity for female survivors of sexual abuse, run by women called Survivors Network. The charity aims to reduce the impact that sexual violence has on a woman’s life, by providing counselling and hosting events for survivors. She’s also in the midst of setting up a multilingual service for the charity.

Amel Mikhail, an Arabic interpreter, is a bilingual caseworker for a charity called Voices in Exile, who provide support for asylum seekers and refugees in Sussex and Surrey. They do this in providing access to toiletries, food and financial support, as well as giving integration support, and free immigration and legal advice, such as applications for family reunions and work permits.

Finally, Spanish speaker Karin Brauner provides counselling for both young people and adults for an array of different subjects, such as anxiety and stress, academic concerns, abuse, grief loss and bereavement, shame, addictions and compulsions and many more. Karin also provides tutoring in academic subjects, and has qualifications in Adult and Child Residential Social Care, working part-time with people with learning and physical disabilities and Autism, and the elderly in respite and recovery services.

We’re so happy to have such hardworking interpreters as part of our Vandu team, and it reflects in their interpreting skills too. Please see below  the relevant websites for the interpreters mentioned above. Over the next few weeks we’ll do another post on our associates that are creatively inclined – stay tuned!


Sabah Kaiser and Survivors Network -

Amel Mikhail and V.I.E –

Karin Brauner -

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Refugee Week

  • 13/06/2017
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Here at Vandu a lot of our work comes through refugees, with many of our clients requiring interpreting or translation for languages such as Arabic, Tigrinya and Kurdish Sorani. On Monday the 19th of June, we’ll be celebrating refugee week along with the rest of the country here in England and around the world, but how much do you know about refugees?

Something that sometimes gets mixed up is the difference between immigrants and refugees. The definition of a refugee as we know it today came about following World War II due to the large number of people fleeing Eastern Europe, and the subsequent UN 1951 Refugee Convention, that gave this definition:

"[A refugee is someone whom] owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."

 This definition was expanded in 1967 to include those fleeing from “external aggression, occupation…or events seriously disturbing public order”. When looking around at the current events around the world, you can see why these caveats have been added. In places like North Korea and to a lesser extent Eritrea, there are accusations of human rights violations and persecution, and in Somalia there is a famine which is spreading the population onto neighbouring countries. But war is the main culprit in the creation of refugees. The on-going European refugee crisis an example of this; as of 2016 nearly 2 million refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe due to the conflict in Syria and serious instability in Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo and Eritrea. 

We know the issues that refugees can bring with them upon arriving in a new country, such as the need for government money, housing and integration into a new society, but what problems do migrants face themselves? Generally, refugees tend to have poorer health, PTSD, depression and anxiety from the events they were leaving behind or encountered on their way (the route to Europe from African and middle-eastern countries is often fatal), problems with access to healthcare services in their new country, exploitation in various forms and finally, the risk of recruitment -forced or not- to terrorist or militant operations.

Becoming a refugee must be one of the hardest experiences to suffer – imagine losing your home to a problem you couldn’t affect, and coming to a new country where you are often demonised? Refugee week is a time to acknowledge these hardships and try to do something to help. There are fundraisers going on throughout England such as the ones in the link below.


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