My first contact with the world of big business was in 1973, when I met Sir Val Duncan and was told by him that I could be making what he called ‘real money’ by applying my talents to the search for oil and precious minerals. Yet it was to be years before I did this, and what led to it was a letter from a Japanese businessman that arrived one morning at the end of 1982. The writer, whom I did not know, wanted me to fly to Tokyo as soon as possible, all expenses paid, for reasons not made very clear. This sounded like a good idea with a touch of mystery to it, so I accepted and off I went.
The Japanese have their own ways of doing business, and at first I was given little idea why I was wanted in Tokyo. My correspondent just wanted me to meet some of his friends, he said, and the first one he introduced me to was Mr Ryoichi Sasakawa.
He is a remarkable man. He made his first fortune out of boat-race betting, then he moved on to building boats and eventually became one of Japan’s leading shipbuilders as well as one of its most generous philanthropists. In 1962, he set up the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation, which is now the largest non-governmental contributor to the World Health Organisation, among other things. In the past ten years or so, it has raised more than $20 million for campaigns against leprosy, smallpox, blindness and tropical diseases.
Our meeting was a very formal affair in his office, where I was introduced to the delights of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at which no mention was made of anything that Mr Sasakawa or any of his friends might want me to do for them. Later I was invited to join another group for dinner in a restaurant.
Many of the guests were heads of leading corporations, and it soon became clear that this was not to be a purely social occasion. It began very formally, and as we all squatted around the low table and sampled the large variety of artistically prepared bowls and dishes, one of the guests remarked politely that I was not taking any meat. I explained that I was a vegetarian, which I had then been for several years. He seemed to find this very interesting, and later in the evening when the party had become less formal, he steered me into an adjoining room for a private chat.
Before I go into any details of it, I must explain that there is much that I cannot include in this book for the simple reason that I have signed agreements not to do so, and although the names of some of my major employers have been made public by others, they will not be mentioned by me.
Mr D., as I will call him is the head of a multinational company involved in everything from civil engineering to shipping and mining in twelve countries, with an annual turnover of more than one billion dollars.
‘I understand that you have been working for mining companies,’ he said. I guessed he had seen the article in Newsweek that had mentioned one of my early (and unpaid) associations with this field. Then he added, ‘I would very much like to find gold in Brazil.’
He went on to give me a concise briefing on a country I already knew quite well, but adding much that was new to me. I was not surprised to learn that he already had interests there in many areas, for there has been a steady stream of immigrants from Japan since the early years of this century, and ties between the two countries are close. The largest Japanese colony in the world is now to be found in Brazil where almost every Japan-based company of any size has some local connection. His was no exception, and though not the largest, it had a considerable stake in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Many people wanted to find gold in Brazil, and many already had. In fact, the country’s first capital city was named Ouro Preto, or Black Gold. Yet the problems prospectors have to face there are enormous: Brazil is larger than the whole of Europe, east and west, and more than half of it is covered by the Amazon forest. Innumerable tributaries of that vast river wind their way into seven or eight other countries, and many South Americans have spent lonely and arduous lives roaming the region in search of a pan of gold of marketable quality. Some have found it, but it is still impossible to say what percentage of the country’s mineral wealth has been tapped, or even located.
Mr D. was not interested in hacking his way through the forest or scratching around in river-beds here and there. He was thinking of a major exploration, but without a very substantial initial investment he could not decide even where to start looking. In the region he had in mind, everything had to be flown into Manaus and then moved on by river, or by light aircraft if there was a landing strip available. Somebody like me, he thought, could save him a lot of time and money by telling him exactly where to do his test drillings. He mentioned the kind of money he was prepared to put into his venture, and asked if I was interested, without quoting any precise figures. I said I might be, and we agreed to meet again the next time he was in New York, which would be soon.
He called me from the Hotel Plaza, as promised, and on our second meeting he lost no time in formalities, but got straight to business.
‘Now, about our contract,’ he said in his careful English. ‘Do you have a figure in mind?’
‘No, I really don’t,’ I replied. ‘I’ll have to think about it.’
‘Well, why don’t you just come over to Brazil, and I’ll give you sixty thousand dollars?’ he said. He had already prepared a letter of agreement to that effect. It was, I noticed, written on plain paper, as agreements of this kind almost invariably are in my experience.
I do not like discussing money, preferring to leave it to my lawyers. It was very nice to be offered a five-figure sum for a free trip to a country I already knew and liked, but I did not feel inclined to sell myself cheaply. I knew that I might be able to save the D. Corporation huge sums of money, perhaps many millions of dollars that could have been spent on years of digging or dredging in some very remote areas before enough of the right kind of gold was found to make the enterprise worth while.
‘You must let me sleep on it,’ I replied, ‘and you must make me a higher offer than that.’ I was not being greedy. Sixty thousand dollars was a fair sum, but I had earned a good deal more than that on my previous visit to Brazil.
I expected Mr D. to come back with a higher offer, but he took me completely by surprise with his next words. Spoken without the slightest change in his expression, these were: ‘Would five hundred thousand dollars be all right?’ The bidding had gone up more than eight times in a couple of seconds.
‘I will really have to think about it,’ I insisted. Mr D. told me he was leaving the next day, but I would not be rushed.
After our meeting, I called my lawyer, whose office was not far from the Plaza. ‘Look,’ I told him, when I had outlined the situation, ‘I’d like to do the job, but over a long period and not just on one quick trip. I reckon I’m worth a million to Mr D., don’t you?’
My lawyer knew the value of specialized services better than I did, and he had already signed deals for me in the past worth more than that. ‘That’s underestimating yourself, Uri,’ he replied.
I asked him to get in touch with Mr D. right away, and later that evening he called me back.
‘I did what you wanted,’ he said. ‘I asked for a million, and he agreed to a million, but for a six-year period instead of four, as you suggested. Oh, and there will be another million after that.’
The bidding had certainly risen fast, my fee being now more than thirty times the original offer made only a few hours previously. My lawyer thought it was the best deal I could get in this case. So contracts were exchanged, and a million dollars was punctually paid into my bank account.
We landed in Rio de Janeiro, where a private jet was waiting to take us on to Manaus, via Brasilia, a trip of nearly 2,000 miles. Then we transferred to a small propeller-driven aeroplane and headed for an airstrip that is probably not marked on any map except the one I was given to use in my work. To this day I do not know the name of the place, or even if it had one.
The Amazon forest is the most awe-inspiring sight on earth, especially when seen from a low altitude. You know what a cloud-bank looks like – a great mass of cotton wool filling the whole of the space as far as the horizon in all directions. From a few thousand feet, Amazonia is one colossal green cloud, with little streams here and there for the tributaries that wind their way into the unexplored areas to either side of the river, which in parts is wider than the English Channel.
As you come in to land, the green cloud becomes a mass of individual trees of all shapes and sizes, each fighting for its share of the sunlight, and making its contribution to the world’s oxygen supply. Once on the ground, you are in a strange new world. Your horizon is suddenly restricted to a few yards ahead, where the undergrowth can be so thick that you have to hack your way through it with a stout Brazilian machete, never being quite sure what exotic bird, animal or reptile you might be disturbing.
One day, perhaps, I will go back to look for lost cities and the treasures they are said to contain. On this occasion, however, I was not a tourist. The D. Corporation had not gone to all that trouble and expense just to show me the beauties of the jungle. I had work to do.
Remote sensing, as I practise it, involves very intense concentration over a long period, and it is very tiring, far more so than a lecture or a television show. Before I visit a prospecting area, I study maps I have been given for at least two hours a day, sometimes more. I memorize their main features, so that I will recognize them when I am flying over them later. I do regular spells of map-dowsing, much as Sir Val Duncan taught me to do, but using my bare hands instead of a pendulum and waiting to feel those magnetic sensations on my palms or fingertips. Sometimes these come quickly, sometimes not, but eventually I find myself zeroing in on certain regions which I mark in pencil. I cheek these over and over again for days or even weeks, to make sure that my impressions remain the same.
When they do, I feel very confident, and mark the areas to be flown over on site for some aerial hand-dowsing, and eventually to be tramped over inch by inch for the ‘fine tuning’ and the location of exact spots. When they do not, I simply keep going until either the impressions come or I feel that there is nothing to find. I have not yet discovered a way of locating great wealth on demand from the comfort of my sofa at home.
I would love to be able to claim that I am always 100 per cent correct, but I cannot. In fact, it is not possible to rate my success record on a percentage basis. In some of my early laboratory tests, it was very easy; when I was looking for objects concealed in film cans at Stanford, for instance, all the scientists had to do was open the lids of the cans I pointed to and check. In one experiment, I picked the right can out of ten fourteen times in a row, though once or twice I felt no reaction on my hand and did not make any choice. Overall, they reckoned the probability of the result being due to guesswork on my part was about one in a trillion.
Digging up hundreds of square miles of jungle, however, is not quite as easy as opening a row of film cans. It can take millions of man-hours, and tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. It is not surprising that people like Mr D. are prepared to pay me quite a lot of money for telling them where to start digging, or where not to dig.
The D. Corporation eventually examined several of the areas I marked on the maps they gave me, and a number of these are, I hope, now producing gold.
I also did something for this corporation that had nothing to do with prospecting. It had always wanted to get into business in a certain country, but had never succeeded. I happened to know the head of a major development company there, a man who was very interested in psychic matters and has said so publicly. Thanks solely to my efforts, he and Mr D. came together and went on to build a skyscraper in one of the world’s leading business centres. A normal broker’s fee for a deal of this magnitude would have been a considerable sum, yet I neither asked for nor received anything at all.
In 1985, I was contacted by Peter Sterling, a dynamic young Australian whose mining company, Zanex Ltd of Melbourne, became the first to secure a mining lease in one of the world’s most promising areas of precious metal and mineral exploration: the Solomon Islands.
Gold was found there as long ago as 1568, within a year of the discovery of the islands by a Spaniard named Alvaro de Mendana, who named them after King Solomon. However, it was more than four centuries before major gold production got under way on any of these remote islands, of which the best known is Guadalcanal, some 1,200 miles northeast of Australia. First off the mark was Zanex, which beat competition from several major international corporations to open its first mine on 9 November 1985. In a statement issued to shareholders in October, Sterling announced that ‘The company is now combining both conventional prospecting and new exploration technologies in order to locate further mineral resources.’
He went on to report that as a result of advice given to Zanex by me (he mentioned one of my companies, but not my name), Zanex’s exploration thrust was being expanded to include a search for diamonds on a previously unexplored island, where Kimberlitic rocks had already been found. One of these, extracted from a site which I indicated on the map, was analysed by scientists from Melbourne University, who reported, ‘The sample indicates a high prospectivity of the rocks from that area for diamond-bearing host rocks.’ Sterling confirmed this in an interview with the Financial Times (18 January 1986), in which it was reported that ‘Sterling is well pleased with his investment in Geller’ and that initial studies of the rocks were ‘very encouraging’.
Immediately after my appearance in San Diego, which I described in the previous chapter, I flew to Guadalcanal to attend the opening ceremony, and also to put in a couple of weeks of very hard work. The island, I found, is not quite what it seems when you read the tourist brochures. It has plenty of beaches and palm trees, but it also has the hottest and stickiest climate I have ever come across and every kind of hostile wild life from poisonous coral snakes to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. I had to take two kinds of pills to protect me from the latter, and twice I nearly trod on what looked very like one of the former on the daily runs which I managed to go for in spite of the heat and the humidity.
The inauguration of the Mavu mine was rather unusual. The tape was cut by Sir Peter Kenilorea, who became the islands’ first prime minister when they gained independence from Britain in 1978. He held the scissors in one hand, and a spoon I had just bent for him in the other!
Even doing that had been quite an ordeal for me. For a start, it took some time to find a spoon. It seems that the islanders are reluctant to part with their cutlery. Eventually, somebody produced a handsome heirloom at least a hundred years old, and very solid. I worked on it for at least ten minutes with the sweat running down my back like a waterfall and, mercifully for my reputation, it had begun to bend when I handed it to Sir Peter. By the end of the ceremony, throughout which he held it himself, it had reached one hundred degrees.
My on-site exploration was just as exhausting. We flew over several of the islands, and I indicated a number of areas that are now being closely examined by Zanex’s geologists, who were encouraged by the accuracy of my initial long-distance predictions. Peter Sterling told me that I had managed to shorten the odds from about three hundred to one to more like three to one, which was enough reason to justify hiring me. He was also kind enough to give me an open testimonial letter, being the first of my employers to do so. He wrote:
I confirm that Zanex is about to commence exploration in areas identified by you in Solomon Islands. The most interesting area identified to date is on Malaita Island where upon your instructions we are about to commence a search for gold and diamonds. We have already confirmed the presence of Kimberlite which could be diamondiferous in this area. Other areas will be investigated in due course.
While I was there, a plane-load of international investment brokers came out to inspect the mine and assess its prospects. At first, Peter Sterling introduced me as just a friend who happened to be passing through, but by the end of their trip they had found out what I was really up to. We all flew back to Australia together, and during the flight I entertained them with some spoon-bending. I hope they were pleased as much by this as by the fact that Zanex shares had risen by more than 100 per cent in the few months since I had begun working for the company.
I had also provided some impromptu in-flight entertainment on my way to the islands, on the internal route from Sydney to Brisbane. It came about in this way.
One of the stewardesses brought me a note from a man named John Howard, asking if I could supply his three children with a signed photograph of me as a souvenir of one of my television shows they had seen and enjoyed. Peter Sterling told me he was a well-known Australian politician, so I had the girl ask if he would like to meet me. We duly met, and I bent a spoon for him in the usual way, allowing him to hold it himself for the last part of the process. Then he asked, ‘What do you feel about me?’
‘I have a feeling you will be prime minister of Australia one day,’ I answered at once. Peter then told me that Mr Howard had just been elected Leader of the Opposition, and could very well be the next leader of his country.
Perhaps I should mention at this point that there is no need for people to get nervous, as they occasionally do, when I start bending things during flights. I have flown millions of miles all over the world for fifteen years, and have never done any damage to any of the aeroplanes. The only uncomfortable moment I have ever had on a commercial flight was when I flew to Budapest in 1979 to visit my Hungarian relatives. As we approached Ferihegy Airport, the pilot announced that pieces of rubber from the tyres of our undercarriage had been found on the runway at Munich from which we had taken off. So we returned to Munich, where the pilot made low passes over the control tower, while experts peered through binoculars and verified that parts of our tyres were indeed missing. The runway was then sprayed with foam and we were ordered to prepare for a crash-landing. This was a most alarming prospect, but mercifully our landing proved to be a perfectly normal one, and we later changed planes and arrived in Budapest. This kind of thing can be expected to happen to anybody who flies as much as I do, so there is no need to panic just because I am on board!
During my stay on Guadalcanal, I had a pleasant surprise. I went into the modest bookstore in Honiara, its capital, to look for a book about the island’s role in the Second World War. (There are still a number of wrecks from this period off its coast, and several crashed warplanes on show where they came down, vivid reminders of the fierce battles fought in this now peaceful spot.)
‘This is one bookstore where they won’t have anything about me,’ I said to Shipi as we went in. Like any author, I instinctively scan shelves for my own books.
The first book I picked up was called Strange But True -The World’s Weirdest Newspaper Stories. That sounded interesting, so I bought it, only to find my picture on-the frontispiece! The weird story that had earned my place in the book was the one about the Swedish woman whose intra-uterine device had bent while she had been watching me on television.
Another story that must have struck some Australians as fairly weird appeared a couple of weeks after the opening of the Zanex mine in several papers, including the Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline: MINING GROUP SIGNS GELLER IN BID TO BEND A LITTLE CASH THEIR WAY.
In fairness to Zanex, I should point out that as much of its initial success was due to its directors’ conventional skills as to my less conventional ones. They went to far more trouble than their competitors to get to know the islands and their inhabitants, and to understand the deep-rooted landowning traditions that had prevented earlier exploration of natural resources in the region. By treating the villagers as partners, they won their confidence and beat at least eight other companies to the starting-line of the new Solomon Islands gold rush. Their use of my services was just one of several departures from traditional methods of mining companies, and I am glad to say that they paid off.
Just when I had decided to enter semi-retirement on my earnings from the oil and mineral businesses, I received a telephone call from Tony Hammond, a mining engineer who had followed my career since the early seventies and totally accepted my powers. He believed that my potential for locating oil and minerals had only just begun, and after introducing me to his colleague Dennis Thomas, who owns Hunter Personnel (an international placement and recruitment consultancy with thousands of geologists and engineers on its books and computers), the idea of Uri Geller Associates was born.
The concept was very simple: by combining my powers with the knowledge and experience of many of the world’s leading geologists and engineers, a unique combination of conventional and unconventional talents would be harnessed to investigate, explore and locate oil fields and mineral deposits worldwide.
As the end of the twentieth century approaches, increasing global concern is being focused on the finite natural resources of our planet and on the ability to sustain life as we know it. Yet vast areas of the earth remain unexplored, as I mentioned in Chapter Seven, and countless oil and mineral deposits remain undiscovered.
There are many reasons why exploration programmes are limited – or non-existent – in our modern age. Exploration costs can be prohibitive in many parts of the world where there are considerable logistical problems to overcome and the probability of making a major discovery is very low. Our team, I believe, can significantly reduce these problems and can undertake projects anywhere in the world, whether under the sea or on land and including the most inhospitable deserts, mountains and jungles.
As soon as a project is commissioned, UGA professional staff undertake a preliminary review of the area, and all relevant historical, geological and mining information is researched, reviewed and discussed before my work programme is prepared. Assistance from the client is welcome throughout the programme, and is particularly appreciated in the initial stages. Our services are especially aimed at organizations which are responsible for large exploration areas, including national and provincial governments, ministers in charge of fuel or mineral development, organizations responsible for national resources and surveys, and public or private companies in exploration target areas.
I will end this chapter with an account of one of my most unusual assignments, which was carried out in 1984 and has not been made public until now. I was in Japan, where I had bought a small holiday house overlooking Mount Fuji and was enjoying a short rest in it when I received a cryptic telephone call from a certain Mr C. W. Lee. He was speaking from Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
He asked if I would like to take part in a live television show for the Korean Broadcasting System similar to the one I had done for Nippon TV in 1983. The fee on offer was, he said, the largest ever made by the government controlled KBS.
I like to see as much of the world as I can, and Seoul is only a couple of hours’ flight from Tokyo, so I accepted with pleasure. Mr Lee then added that I was wanted there for something other than a television show, but gave me no details. I had the impression that there were a couple of strings attached to what sounded like a very generous offer.
I duly turned up in Seoul, where Mr Lee came to meet me. He was not a television executive himself, I learned. According to his calling card, he was the founder and president of the World Religious Unification Mission, whose organization, I should explain, has no connection with the movement founded by his compatriot Sun Myung Moon. It soon became clear that he was well connected with the authorities of his country. There was something they would like me to do for them, he said. ‘If you succeed, you will be given millions. The sky is the limit.’
I was intrigued, as I was when I received another of his brief telephone calls at my hotel. All this one consisted of was: ‘Some men are coming to see you.’
It was not quite like the military invasion that had been sprung on me in Mexico back in 1975, but it was clearly a high-level delegation. Two of the men were in Korean Army uniform, and they all looked extremely businesslike. One of them carried a large package, and when we had introduced ourselves he undid it and spread a number of maps on the table. Then he gave me a briefing on the state of affairs between South and North Korea.
For more than thirty years since the end of the Korean War in 1953, he began, relations between the two had been far from peaceful. North Korea’s Moscow-trained premier Kim II Sung had never made a secret of his intention to ‘reunite’ the two parts of the peninsula, and his regime had kept up a constant barrage of propaganda to that effect. Propaganda the Southerners could live with, but what was really worrying them was the knowledge that the North had made unmistakable preparations for a full-scale invasion.
I listened politely, wondering what on earth he expected me to do about that. He very soon told me.
It was known, my military guest went on, that a great many tunnels had been bored deep down beneath the DMZ – the demilitarized zone 150 miles long that separated the two countries. Three such tunnels had already been discovered, an American naval officer, Commander Robert M. Ballinger, having been killed in an explosion that followed the location of one of them in 1974. Presumably it had been booby-trapped.
The third tunnel had been found in 1978 after a tip-off from a defector. Yet despite massive and costly efforts over the past five years by special tunnel-detecting patrols, no more had been found. There were many difficulties: the tunnels were very deep and narrow, and their location was made especially hazardous because the ends had been sealed off, to be blasted open when the time came for the invading hordes from the North to rush out of the ground and attack the South.
‘This matter is so important to us,’ one of the officers told me, ‘that if you can help us find even one of these tunnels, you will become a national hero. You will be awarded the highest honour of the Republic of Korea, and you will be given ten million dollars.’
Before I had time to recover from my surprise, and luckily before I had replied ‘Keep the honours, just give me the money’, as I thought of doing, the officer pulled out a sheet of paper and presented it to me. Headed ‘Time Schedule’, it read as follows:
18 Sep. 0900-1000 Visiting at MND
1000-1100 Arrival at (—-)
1100-1300 Detection Activity
1400-1600 Detection Activity
Similar schedules had been prepared for the following two days, in which I was to visit three locations, the names of which I will not mention here. I was then to attend a final meeting at the Ministry of National Defence (MND).
What could I do? I had accepted the KBS television contract in the knowledge that there were strings attached, but I never expected these to lead me to one of the hottest spots in the Cold War, a zone that for all its ‘demilitarized’ status might well be the site of a major conflict at any time, either by mistake or on purpose.
It was too late to worry about that, however, for ‘detection activity’ had already been arranged, and my part in it was a high-level order rather than an offer. I would hardly be human if I failed to respond to the mention of $10 million, especially if I could be of some use to a country of which I had already become fond.
Before my trip to the DMZ, my military hosts had decided to test me. They drove me out of Seoul for an hour or so, and after bumping along a very rough road we drew up in front of a wretched-looking array of tin huts. They were nothing much to look at, but the smell was something else. It was a solid stench that nearly knocked me flat. As I was wondering what on earth was going on, one of the soldiers with me politely explained that we were at a chicken farm. Hence the smell. He then told me what we were there for.
The farm, he said, was located above a disused silver mine in which there were six tunnels, the exact locations of which were known. All I had to do was mark them on the ground, with a can of spray-paint which a man in civilian clothes handed to me. He was, I understand, from the Korean Agency for National Security Planning.
Under normal circumstances, I would not have accepted a challenge of this kind, since I do not feel obliged to prove to anybody what I can do. As I have said, I have done enough scientific experiments already. This was different, though. The Koreans had a real problem, and it was reasonable for them to make sure it was worth their while asking me to help solve it, especially with that eight-figure sum on offer. So I set to work, despite the appalling conditions. An overpowering smell of chicken droppings does not exactly enhance the psychic sensibilities, but I began to walk up and down in my usual way, palms outstretched and waiting for that magnetic push that tells me I am zeroing in on the target.
After two hours of very unpleasant work, I felt I could do no more. I sprayed paint where I believed the tunnels were, but I did not think I had been very successful. All I could think about was getting away and breathing fresh air again. The man from the ANSP, however, looked very pleased indeed. He showed me a map, on which six tunnels were marked, and told me that I had successfully indicated the positions of two of them. This is the only occasion outside a laboratory on which I have had immediate feedback in a test of this kind, and it was encouraging, especially in view of the opposition from the chickens.
I had evidently passed my test, for the following day I attended my formal briefing at the Ministry of National Defence and immediately began some ‘detection activity’ for real. We took off in a helicopter from a military base, accompanied by the US Army lieutenant-colonel in command of the EUSA Tunnel Neutralisation Team. He did not seem at all surprised to meet me on a mission of this kind; in fact he knew a good deal about me, especially the work I had done at Stanford.
We flew over the splendid stadium built for the 1988 Olympic Games and headed north. In a very short time we were in a different world, one I had hoped I would never see again after my military service in the Israeli Army: a war zone. Nobody was shooting at me this time, to be sure, but it was made clear to me that somebody might do just that at any moment. For this reason I had been ordered to wear combat uniform.
As we approached the border, there was a lively argument between the American and the Korean pilot, who was reluctant to fly so close to North Korean air space. It was the nearest he had ever been to it, he said, and he must have been aware of the many incidents in which the Northerners had opened fire on anything flying from the South, and had generally brought it down.
For three days we flew and drove all over the DMZ, frequently landing or stopping so that I could continue my prospecting on foot. I often went close enough to the border to see binoculars peering at me and mounted machine-guns pointing in my direction. After dark, the searchlights would blaze and the huge megaphones would constantly break out in torrents of angry propaganda. The atmosphere of tension and hatred began to depress me.
Each night, I was returned safely to my luxury hotel in Seoul, where there was everything available for guests’ comfort. Yet I found it difficult to relax and to tear my mind away from that dreadful barrier just a short hop away. Why was this kind of thing still necessary in 1983, I wondered? Why do people still have to divide themselves into groups and spend so much effort in trying to annihilate each other?
It was as difficult to work in such an atmosphere as it had been tramping over the chicken droppings and the dead rats at my ‘testing site’. All the same, I received some impressions, and marked the maps accordingly. At my final meeting a Korean major-general invited me to return after the winter to continue the search for tunnels. This was something I definitely did not feel like doing, for a number of reasons. The most practical of these was that from a security point of view there was not much point in locating one or two tunnels. To guarantee a solution to the threat they presented, you had to find them all.
I tactfully steered the discussion towards an idea of my own. The best way to locate those tunnels, I said, would be from a defector. Hundreds of people must have worked on them, and one person was enough to reveal the whereabouts of at least one tunnel.
This bright idea was greeted with typical Korean politeness, but I was soon told that very few defectors ever made it across that heavily guarded border. Not alive, anyway. In an attempt to get myself off the hook, I hinted that I might be able to use my powers to persuade somebody to come over. If they did not believe me, they did not show it. I hope I managed not to sound as if I did not really believe it either.
After the meeting, a two-star general took me aside and said, earnestly and conspiratorially, ‘Uri, forget the tunnels for a moment . . . When am I going to get promoted to three stars?’
I heard nothing more from Korea until 30 July 1985, when an item in the International Herald Tribune caught my eye. There had, it seems, been a shooting incident near the ‘truce village’ of Panmunjom ‘when a Russian defected while on a sight-seeing tour of the truce village’. Another press report a few days later described the Russian as a ‘student’ but gave few further details.
In due course, I learned from a source in Seoul that the ‘student’ was a foreign service trainee named Vasily Yakovlevich Matuzok, aged twenty-three, who was assigned to the Soviet Embassy in Pyongyang. He had been taking a look round the truce village and had suddenly made a dash across the demarcation line. The North Korean guards immediately opened fire on him, and in the ensuing crossfire three North Koreans and one South Korean were killed and there were four wounded, including an American. The incident took place on 23 November 1984, a couple of months after my visit.
What Mr Matuzok may have had to tell my friends in the Korean Ministry of National Defence I do not know. All I know for certain is that nobody has yet sent me a cheque for $10 million.
Motivational Inspirational Speaker
Motivational, inspirational, empowering compelling 'infotainment' which leaves the audience amazed, mesmerized, motivated, enthusiastic, revitalised and with a much improved positive mental attitude, state of mind & self-belief.