WHO IS MICHAEL SPAVOR?
This website is all about one of the two Canadian Michaels who were detained in China on 10 December 2018 (Human Rights Day!): Michael Spavor.
Here we will publish accounts and testimonials by people who know Michael Spavor and are fortunate enough to count him among their friends. We intend eventually for this website to contain a great many such accounts. Our intention is to put a human face on a man who has been caught up as an unwitting and unwilling human pawn in a confrontation between two superpowers and swept along by geopolitical currents and forces beyond his control.
Each and every one of us who write accounts of our friendship with Michael Spavor are one hundred percent certain that he is not, and never has been, any sort of spy or intelligence asset or national security threat to China, or to any other country for that matter. Suspicions to this effect are specious and completely without merit or foundation, and anyone actually acquainted with Michael knows these allegations about him cannot possibly be true. Michael is a gregarious and big-hearted man of bounding entrepreneurial verve, endearing mild eccentricities, and above all an intense and abiding love for all things Korean. Between China and Korea he is an interlocutor not an informer, an operator not an operative. His passion for Korea is played out openly in the ballroom, not indulged sub rosa in the cloakroom. He has neither the temperament nor the inclination to be secretive or manipulative in his love affair with Korea.
So who is Michael Spavor?
He is an ordinary Canadian with some extraordinary experiences. From a young age, Michael was involved in community and sporting activities. As many other Canadians, he was a Boy Scout, played hockey, took piano lessons and was even a performer the 1988 Opening Olympic Ceremonies. His parents taught him to have a curiosity of the world and appreciate other cultures.
His curiosity and travel bug got the best of him in 1997, when he first travelled to South Korea to teach English, but found so much more than a 3 month working holiday trip. While in South Korea, Michael worked in a variety of jobs including co-hosting a radio show, voice recording and extra work in movies and dramas. Michael then worked as the marketing manager for North and South America and Europe at the Korea Tourism Organization and the Seoul Tourism Organization for two years.
When his mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, he immediately returned home from South Korea be with his family. During this time, along with assisting with the care of his mother, he buckled down and finished his university degree in International Relations, focusing on the Korean Peninsula and East Asian Studies at the University of Calgary.
In 2001, Michael took a vacation to North Korea. Wanting to experience North Korean culture, Michael returned to North Korea in 2005 with an NGO (GAiN) to teach English and graphic design. In 2011, Michael worked with a non-profit NGO called the Pyongyang Project under the EWC (East West Coalition), as the Korea Program Director. In September 2013, Michael facilitated the visit of Dennis Rodman to North Korea and became one of the few Westerners to have met Kim while in Wonsan. He later organized Rodman's 2014 visit.
“Just the kindness of the people there. The people I worked with became my best friends: we’d go places together and talk about life, and that’s why I always wanted to go back. People might think I want to go to North Korea because it’s adventurous and mysterious, but the truth is I fell in love with the North Korean people.” Michael Spavor, July 2011, 10 Magazine.