North Korea (DPRK)

july 3: copy of Pyongyang Times uploaded

the Democratic People Republic of Korea, april 28

21:00 local time, room 3220 (32th floor) in the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang. View over the city.
Peter and me are sitting here, having a bit of a flat-out feeling and trying to process all information and impressions we have seen so far. Less than 10 minutes ago we stood in the hotel shop, a real 5000 Won-banknote in our hands (officially rated approx. €38 according to the cashier), with the knowledge that we cannot buy anything anywhere with this note. We were not even allowed to take a photo from the note... The note carries the image of Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader. Foreigners are absolutely NOT allowed to possess the Won, let alone export it. We respected the etiquette and held the note with BOTH our hands, and admired it as if it was made of pure gold. Só close, touchable, and yet out of reach...

Back to the start of the trip Beijing-Pyongyang:
Said goodbye to my partner who would fly back to Brussels later that day and went to meet Pete at his hotel at 8:30am. We re-packed our luggage since we preferred to haul around only one small suitcase and leave the other one in Beijing. With 22 kgs, 4 cameras, a lot of batteries and a selected number of articles we made for the airport. It is wise to leave anything that can communicate via GSM or has GPS-possibilities as these items will not be allowed to take INTO the DPRK. A new aspect for me in Beijing airport: all matches and lighters are to be handed in at the security check!
At the Air Koryo check-in desk were two lines: one for "tourists" and one huge group Koreans and loads of luggage. Dozens of flatscreen-TVs. Is this all going to fit into flight JS152? Nope, there is a parallel flight (JS222) leaving 30 minutes later, which is Korean-only and thus will carry all the merchandise.

Flight JS152 to Pyongyang Tupolev 204-100 by Koryo Air Entry visa for the DPRK Pyongyang Airport

According to the flight info we should fly a Ilyushin-62: perfect because I never flew an IL-62 before! Alas; at gate 09 we boarded a brand new Tupolev TU204-100. At the next gate was the Ilyushin IL-62 which would serve flight JS222. Too bad...
The inflight programme was very straighforward; only one channel which engaged immediately after take-off and lasted till touchdown. North Korean opera and citations at a (non-adjustable) soundlevel that was high enough to blank out the sound of the jet-engines.
Staff very friendly, plane cozy and full till the last seat. Food came. "What is this?". Pete asked. "I think it is chicken", I replied, and dug in. Munch, nibble, munch... Hm, what is this? A fishbone? Yes it is... So not chicken? We decided to label the item "Vip" (which would thanslate in Ficken), being an acronym of both fish and chicken.

90 minutes of flight (960 kilometers) later we touched down in Pyongyang International Airport. Viewed from the air not much to see: smog or fog? Empty fields, some roads but not a single car in sight. After touchdown a very long taxiing in which we passed a little bridge and crossed a local thru-way that was secured by men in uniform. For what traffic?
Out of the plane, into a bus that drove us the full 20 meters to the reception gate. Immigration formalities INTO DPRK were rather swift and efficient. We were out of the terminal in 45 minutes and on the parking lot with all our belongings. We met two Dutch ladies who had their DPRK-visa IN their passports, while we had a separate leaf that we had to hand in upon exiting... Bloody hell! That is what we wanted too!
We had to hand in our mobile phones which were put in a sealed envelope and would be handed back to us upon exiting DPRK. Importing a netbook is no problem as long as it has no GPS-devices onboard since Internet is virtually non-existing (read: non-accessible) for foreigners.

Mr. Kim, Ms. Kim, Driver Kim
and Video Kim
Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il
welcome us to Pyongyang
Hotel Yanggakdo View from toom 3220 over Pyongyang

Many uniforms: everyone (uniform and civilians) over a certain age wears a DPRK-banner shaped lapel pin, with the image of The Great Leader, on his or her heart. The airport has a very informal appearance for a three-million-residents city. We met our hosts for our stay: Mr. Kim, Ms. Kim, driver Kim. When they introduced themselves they gave their full names but since that would be very difficult for us to remember they proposed to use the "Kim"-familynames.
We acquainted our 10 fellow-travellers and concluded our group was composed and balanced nicely. On the bus for the 30 kilometers to Pyongyang. During the trip Ms. Kim passionately described the history of her country and along the way handed us some "do's and dont's". In other words: this is how you are expected to behave while in the DPRK. We knew this was going to come...

Our first emotion while looking outside: mixed feelings. We are in a luxurious touring car while the people along the roads have nothing else than their two legs (or the incidental bicycle). The apartment blocks remind me of the Soviet-blocks I know so well from the Kiev suburbs. Some of them painted in bright colors though, with flowers on the balconies. Could this be because these blocks are along the route that the tourists take? Ordered by The Great Leader? We will never know but we dó expect so... People are dressed in monotonous outfits, no colors except for some kids. One-choice haircut. Wide boulevards which are almost deserted. Roundabouts and intersections which are controlled by smartly dressed and strikingly beautiful young women (white socks included..), waving their batons and yellow flags to non-existing traffic.

Our first short stop at the Arch of Triumph: an almost perfect copy of "the other one" in Paris, but this one here is just a bit taller (of course...). We were allowed to make pictures; streetview and cars included. This is part of the rules: you have to ask for permission to make a pic, unless your guide(s) will tell you what is / is not allowed. Military objects and people in uniform: NO photos!.
It is important to obey and respect the directives from the guides since they are responsible for the groups' behavior and might be "punished" if a groupmember breaks a rule. We knew it could be beneficiary for us if we showed the guides that we are integer and obedient since this might loosen the reins a bit.
Hovering around us is a man with a video camera and he is filming us. Are we observed already? Nope, this man ("video Kim" as later on we would call him..) is making a movie of our stay which will be available to us. He can film things we are NOT allowed to... Don't forget that this whole trip is under strict directives and we will only get to see what The Great Leader wants us to see. And that is fine with us... We knew already and will submit to this.

Onwards to the city center, and on to our hotel Yanggakdo. Check in, inspect the room, and get a cold beer with Peter. We wanted local stuff but got served a Heineken at the price of €1. (foreigners have to pay with Euro, Yuan or US$). We don't want Heineken, at home we refuse to drink this hyped-up tasteless brew! We want the local stuff!! Buffet-dinner in the hotel restaurant. Good stuff. Do not think what is happening outside, in the knowledge that food for the locals is not in abundance and even rationed.
Room 3220 is basic but comfortable and spacy. Wonderful beds, we are sure we will sleep very well here. Tomorrow @ 9am sharp in the bus, ready to go. But first the evening news on tv!


April 29

Apart from the dredging device in the river that went on clanking away during the night, we slept like babies! It is sunday today. Yet, even at 7am, colonnes of people who were on their way to the Juche Tower, chanting and singing as they went. Koreans work 6 days a week, 9 hours per day, and are free on sunday. One exception are the military; they are always on duty and will be employed on sundays for works that NEED to be done or finished. One of those being some monuments for The Big Party day on may 1st.

We were instructed to be in the bus at 9am sharp, and we were! All 12 of us! We are facing a full day and our hosts are really keen on making their schedule, that is very clear to us...
By way of the city centre, along the railway station (where Pete and me would lóve to explore for at least one hour...) to the bank of the Taedong River which we walked to the Kim Il Sung square. Impressive! This is the place where the massive displays take place which we see on our TV from time to time. Now we also understand how this is directed; the entire square is full with marks and numbered dots, on which the actors will be positioned with their colored boards over their heads.

Pete will guide us thru Pyongyang... Juche-monument Kim Il Sung - square.. ..and the marks
for the participants..

Across the river stands the Juche Tower. The Juche - philosophy is the fundament for life in the DPRK. The monument is illuminated at night, the bright red flame on top a true landmark over Pyongyang.

Next stop: the Mangyongdae Revolution Park, where Kim Il Sung was born. This place has become a kind of Mekka, and is massively visited on sundays by throngs of people in their sunday best. We feel very uncomfortable amongst them because we are jumping all queues behind miss Kim. Thousands of eyes watching us, the privileged. This is só unfair. This is théir moment, not ours... We would have preferred just to queue and wait our turn.
The place itself looks nice and well-maintained, but I cannot help feeling a bit of a parallel with the "Efteling" (Holland) or "Epcot centre" (Orlando, USA). Too shiny, too new, too artificial. Even though the desk where The Great Leader wrote his philosophy looks authentic enough...

Pyongyang has two subway lines, of which we are going to visit one and actually use it. This subway clearly is inspired by the Russians since I immediately felt like entering the Kiev or Moscow subway. Same circular building on street level, same long escalators leading down to the platform, same theatre-like stations. The Pyongyang metro claims to be the deepest of the world but frankly I doubt this fact: the escalators in some of the Kiev stations appear to be longer thus deeper...
The stations we saw are impressive; nicely decorated and beautiful chandeliers on the ceiling. Mosaics on the wall. "Glory"-station was my favorite, where the ceiling lights suggested a firework display. Beautiful!
The metrotrains we travelled on were unmistakenly ex-Berlin stock. (see the link to the page above). Our guides were sure that the trains were Korean built, but they do not fool us when it comes to trains... Even a German text, scratched in the glass, could not convince them. One of the aspects we really appreciated was the total absence of graffiti and advertisements. The stations and trains are super clean, and the only decoration in the trains are pictures of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in every single carriage.

You can't help feeling that all eyes are watching you... When I sat down next to a smartly dressed man in his twenties he looked at me and asked me in basic but carefully formed English where I came from. The ride between the three stations was too short unfortunately, but we managed to exchange some information and I was touched by his openness and frank interest. We heard stories about Koreans being very curious and looking for the very rare opportunities to get in touch with foreigners. Well, here it was! This was só cool and impressive! This man was "doctor", single, and genuinely interested in the world outside the DPRK. I showed him the photos (I always carried with me) about my hometown, my house, my daughters, my work. Remains the question if this encounter was genuine or staged...

After this short but intense encounter I had a déja-vu: 20 years ago when I visited Ukraine for the first time the same happened. The people are somehow trapped in a system, are monitored all thru life and most of them will never see anything else than Pyongyang since they cannot travel freely. This is a fact we cannot relate to since we travel around the world without any limitation and do whatever we feel like doing. Is it fair, or do I need to say "just"? Hard to define...

Traffic control on every intersection.. Metro Pyongyang ..ex-Berlin stock..? Arc of Triumph

Lunch at a selected restaurant by KITC (Korean International Travel Company), our "watchdog". Souvenir- and bookshop included, accepting Euro and Yuan. Lunch was more or less a copy of our dinner in the hotel. Apparently there is some kind of food-formula for the tourists, based on tourist-taste but probably also on availability of ingredients. Kimchi is always there; the Korean cabbage-dish which I really like a lot.

When we finished our lunch we asked permission from our guides to go out on the sidewalk and make some pictures of the street. He agreed, as long as we stay in a 20-meter radius from the entrance and would NOT cross the street!!

Back on the bus we annexed the backseats, because apparently nobody wanted to sit there since the comfort is worst. We do not mind though, especially since the sidewindows can slide open which is ideal for making pics while on the move. Which is what we did...

Our next event was driving northeast into the mountains, where mount Myohyang was our destination. We will stay one night. 166 kilometer in a straight line from Pyongyang over reasonable asphalt. Left and right endless agricultural fields, people working the land manually or with an ox-drawn plough. No industry. No residential areas. No GSM-towers. No forests. No billboards. No traffic. Emptyness... Shades of yellow and brown. Sometimes a human shape, forking around in the narrow strip of grass along the road. Searching for what?? We think we know...

The Myohyang mountain range has some similarity with the Southern Alps in the Swiss Ticino-area. A steep climb to some kind of suspension bridge which should provide a stunning view over the mountains. Not bad, but not spectacular. And sunlight from the wrong angle so impossible to make pictures... Moving on to hotel Chongchon for the night. Our instructions: dinner at 7pm, hot water from 8 till 9 pm and 7 till 8am, breakfast at 8am, be in the bus at 9am.
Another round of belly-aching laughter with Peter, mostly over silly things but without a doubt also because we are totally overwhelmed with this country and need some kind of letting off steam... Christ, these mattresses are like a slab of concrete!!


Welcome to our mountains.. You are going to have a good
time in our hotel, we guarantee!
..worn on the heart.. ...

April 30

Woke up in the mountains: fresh air, birds singing. Hotelroom was hot like hell, so we opened the window during the night. At 2am someone shone a torch into the room and shut the window. For our safety or for preventing us to escape? We will never know...
Visit to the "International Friendship Exhibition": 111.093 presents from the leaders or representatives of 184 countries in over the past 50 years. One Delft blue dinner plate from our country was all we could discover... In procession we marched to a statue of Kim Il Sung, to whom we had to pay our respect by taking a (very) deep bow. We cannot do this in the way the Koreans do it, simply because we are not used to this ritual and we are totally bad when it comes to marching in straight lines. And taking a bow to our leaders? That would be the day!
When I got straight again and faced the statue I could not impress the image of him doing the moonwalk while impersonating the late Michael Jackson. Had to be careful to keep my face straight and not smile... The entire exhibition, the ceremonies included were very impressing though and worth a visit. The building alone will make you feel tiny...

International Friendship Exhibition,
no pics beyond these doors!
Pohyon tempel.. different statues for a change.. From the bus: trainspotters' delight!
(DPRK-locomotive in the countryside)

Visit to the Pohyon Buddhist Temple. 20 Buddhist monks still live and meditate there. The temple was destroyed almost completely during the Korean war but is being rebuild according to instructions and guidelines from the Great Leader.
Back to Pyongyang: 166 kilometers of endurance but with amazing views over the countryside and making a lot of pictures. Below is an excerpt without too much explanation.

Rush hour on the highway to Pyongyang.. Welcome in the War Museum Growing vegetables at your own risk! This is how the Korean war
REALLY was (info DPKR)

We visited the "Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum", obligatory propaganda-movie included. Now we know the truth about the Korean war! The Americans started this war to give the arms industry a boost. No war means no weapon trade, thus no money, thus collapsing economy. It makes sense. How could we not have seen this obvious reason!
In the basement a large collection of war material, taken or conquered of the enemy. Our gorgeous museum guide (in her smart army uniform) explained time after time how The Great Leader invented solutions for all problems the Korean Army encountered on the battlefield. Even a fragment of a huge chestnut tree that gave shelter to the troops was displayed.

"Monument of the Party Foundation" and the "War Victory Monuments" visited. Finally the light optimized so that pictures would be at their best: there has been a kind of smoggy layer over the city, making colours less vivid.
On the way back to the hotel we shot some film of streetlife. Red flags everywhere for tomorrow's party; may 1st. National holiday.

Today we had dinner in the revolving restaurant on the 47th floor. It actually revolved, one full 360o tour. We were already warned that revolving might be limited due to power savings... Nice chat with our Koryo Tours representative Julian. He is genuinely pleased with our group because of the informal and relaxed atmosphere. We decided to rename our tour the "Chill tour 2012" instead of the May Day Short Tour.

..war trophies Impressive diarama.. War Victory monument Diner @ 47th floor of the hotel

May 1st

Like in many socialist countries, in DPRK may 1st is a national holiday. Groups of red flags all over the place with the national flag crowning these clusters. Everyone has a day off, K(orean) P(eople) A(rmy) included, and masses of people migrate to monuments to honor their martyrs, leaders, resistance heroes with flowers. After the honoring they move to parks and funfairs to drink, dance, sing and have a really good and worry-free day.

Dancing in the street.. The Great Leaders on Mansudae Revolution martyrs.. ..are honored by the people

We ran into the first activity by sheer coincidence (or was it...): a colorful group of dancers, displaying a spontaneous and sparkling show on the sidewalk.
On Mansundae we paid our honors to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, both represented 20 meter tall bronze statues. Impressive! We had to dress appropriate (as instructed before leaving the hotel..) and made a line while we bowed and offered our flowers. Many people did the same thing, and it is expected of all visitors.
Pyongyang has 3 million inhabitants and I am pretty sure I have seen them all today. The crowds were immense, and the crowds keep pouring in the parks and monuments. Walking, in buses, on the loading deck of open trucks, on bikes.. And every single person appeared elated and happy. Colorful. Dancing, singing, drinking, fraternizing.

Moranbong Park.. which on may 1st you.. ..can have fun.... ..and food!

What still makes me feel a bit uneasy is the fact that everyone is constantly looking at you, probing you. Not in a hostile way, but they are made to believe we are evil. Propaganda made them believe that foreigners can not be trusted, especially not the Americans. Nevertheless you can feel that the people are curious and want to get in touch with you. Some actually succeed. Since language will be the barrier, I mastered a few basic words in Korean to lower the threshold. It was touching, moving and intense when out of thin air I engaged in a conversation with a father and his two boys. We introduced, and it was clear he was enjoying it too. He apparently explained to his sons like: "See? You are not eaten alive by a foreigner.

While walking and watching we had some longer individual talks with our guides. Not only about Korea but also some more "sensitive" topics like politics. They were open and gave a good insight in the way Koreans live, believe and think. This country is changing, very gradually, and all Koreans believe that once the Korea's will be re-united: a long road is ahead though...

Lunch: hot-pot. A pan filled with boiling water in which you first "cook" thin slices of meat, and after a few minutes you add a vegetable-mix. When done add an egg. Stir and eat from the pan with some rice. Really good and tasty!

Pyongyang.. seen from the Juche Tower ... Monument of the Party Foundation

The 170-meter tall Juche tower had to be visited and climbed (at least for my record: this tower meets all of my criteria..). Against expectations there was no queue. Our admission ticket had to be handed in after visiting since apparently it is re-used for the next visitor. Raw material is scarce, paper too...

May Day in Moranbong-park

We invited our hosts to have dinner with us (Western style) and we took them to a quite decent pizzeria. The two chefs were actual Italians, very likely flewn in by order of The Great Leader. Two wood-fired ovens in the open kitchen. Due to the large number of guests, all ordering pizza, waiting took some time but we were in no hurry. Instead we killed several bottles of good Italian wine. Ms Kim seemed to really like the wine and admitted the next day that she had a mild headache....
While in this place we experienced two black-outs: during the second I was in the street for a smoke and I saw that the entire area went pitch black. That is why we were advised to ALWAYS carry a torchlight during dark!


US-"spy"ship "Pueblo" Juche-tower street view Pyongyang by night
(as seen from our room)

May 2nd

Today the (long) ride to the DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) and Kaesong was planned. The DMZ is a strip, few kilometers wide, separating the two Koreas. A 170 kilometer busride, again in a straight line over an almost deserted highway. At some points the divider disappears over a 2-3 kilometer span, the asphalt merges, forming a rudimentary airstrip. No-one confirmed to my theory (but denied either..) so there MIGHT be some truth...
40 kilometer ahead of Kaesong the first checkpoint appears. No pictures beyond this point! Alongside the road obelisk-lie, concrete monuments appear. We already know that these monuments actually have an explosive charge in their base and can be toppled over the road in case of an invasion. Roadblocks in disguise...

Morning sun over Pyongyang Monument of Unity
(of North- and South Korea)
Ms Kim lectures about
Kaesong and Panmunjom
Price of slaves vs. cattle
(Koryo museum Kaesong)

First stop Kaesong: the Koryo museum with a souvenirshop in which finally we could find the typical propaganda-style postcard we were looking for. For lunch we could order dog, but I took a pass (only bulldog, chihuahua and poodle: the rest was already eaten).

We took off for the highlight of today: Panmunjom, featuring the three well-known blue barracks that are positioned exactly on the North-South Koreas border. We were lucky: the door of the centre barrack was open, meaning: welcome to enter. Panmunjom is hyped up a bit: we detected not the slightest tension as foretold. It feels strange though to stand on one leg in the last Stalinistic country of the world, and the other leg in a modern democracy..

Kaesong Map of divided Korea
(red=north, black=DMZ, blue=south)
Panmunjom explained Armistice hall, where treaty
was signed in 1953

The trip back to Pyongyang we will not forget: driver Kim was ordered to deliver us at the circus entrance no later than 4pm, since most of our group wanted to attend the show. Pete and I did NOT feel like it, since animals would be involved and if there is ONE thing we abhor, it is circus acts involving animals....

After the circus we passed the "Micro Brewery", where we had samples of locally brewed beer. Not bad, and beats Heineken by far! Dinner Korean style: mini-BBQ on your table. Delicious!
Since this was going to be our last nite in Pyongyang, we were presented with a nocturnal sightseeing through Pyongyang. We managed to make several "night-exposures".

The daily reports are brief, this we realize. It is impossible to elaborate on all and everything we have seen. The pics will hopefully assist in telling the stories that are not written...

This desk is positioned exactly
on the border..
Two DPRK-soldiers protect us
against the aggressors
Panmunjom Kim Il Sung - square

3 mei
Last day in Pyongyang. We left the hotel at 09:15 and headed for the railway station since seven our group were taking the train to Dandong. (note: American citizens are not allowed to travel over land and have to leave the country by plane).
Train 28 leaves at 10:10 and will arrive in Sinuiju (229 km northwest) at 15:20. An extensive customs- and securitycheck will be carried out during 2 hours, after which the train continues over the famous bridge to the Chinese side of Yalu River in Dandong. Another immigration check, and if all goes well we will arrive in Dandong at 17:30.

Tram in Pyongyang Let's march to the station
to say farewell to Pete and Onno!
Platform of Pyongyang
railway station
Destination-plate and
Korea emblem on train K28

The kick-off at Pyongyang station was splendid. Again all 3 million inhabitants of Pyongyang decided to travel on train K28 to Sinuiju today... What a crowd! Fortunately we had reserved berths in the "tourist"-carriage so we were assured of a seat. Being active railway employees, Pete and I wanted to take several in-depth pics of the rolling stock: Pete's interest, being chief conductor, lies mainly in the passenger coaches while my interest (being traindriver) is more in the traction engines. I manage to persuade our guide Mr. Kim to join me to the locomotive and make an effort to "talk me in the driving cab". To sustain my credibility I brought several pics of my hometown, family but also several of our trains and me at work in a TGV. Together with three packs of cigarettes, these were the arguments that turned the trick and I actually sat behind the controls of a North Korean electric locomotive while the crew was scrutinizing my pics... They just could not grasp the idea that we actually operate at speeds up to 320 km/hour... The pics stayed with them, so did the cigarettes...

collegue-drivers awing over
our trains
Onno at the controls of
Red Flag 1-class locomotive 5041
E-loco 5041 pulling train K28
Pyongyang - Siniju
Timetable of train K28

Pete made detailed pics of the two North Korean carriages. Especially the national emblem shields on the sides of the coaches are impressive!

Five minutes after departure the generator of our coach kicked the bucket and could not be re-started anymore. This means: no power, no airco, no comfort. As long as the train moves and the windows are opened it is bearable (and even better for us to make pics, though officially prohibited...). We did our best to avoid making pics of the railways outside of Pyongyang and almost managed ;-)

We knew the procedure of border- and immigration control upon LEAVING the DPRK was going to be thorough and time consuming. The DPRK leaders will not allow any material that is offensive or insulting to leave the country. This includes pics and film that show the Great Leaders in a way the regime does not like, texts that are insulting, pics of sensitive installations and so forth. Be prepared that all your cameras and netbooks are going to be scrutinized: even hidden files might be detected since their technological skills are better than we think...

Our compartment was visited by an elderly, formal-looking female official. The failure of airco was definitively in our advantage since the temperature in our chicken coop was unbearable. We left it at that, hoping it might speed up her search in order to get out for fresh air. This tactic worked, since she did not show the least of interest in my (modest) camera and netbook. Pete's professional Nikon with telelens was scrutinized more thorough and she erased several "sensitive" pics.
Keep in mind though that in different conditions you have to be prepared for a full search, USBsticks and harddisks included. We were just lucky. But take our word that even in the backups there were absolutely NO pics or movies that could be considered dangerous. The risk of getting caught and the possible repercussion is not worth it.

Departure according to timetable, and crossing the two kilometer over the famous Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge. Next to it the remains of the old bridge, which was bombed by the Americans during the Korean war.

Our carriage in Dandong

Chinese immigration was swift, and we met our (very young) guide "Ms Si" at the station. Transfer to our hotel, where we had room 511 with a view over the railway station. After dinner we went for a stroll along the river bank. Bizarre! Dandong resembles Las Vegas; bright lights, casino's... On the other bank, 940 meters across the Yalu River, a totally dark North Korea...

Only 940 meters, but two extremes meet. This I never experienced anywhere else in the world, and it is a bit eerie. It really IS like in Google Maps. Try for yourself and look for "Dandong, China". See what lies across the river. North Korea that will be, but without any road, any city, any river. A ghost country. But yet it exists since we have spent a week there. With roads, cities, rivers AND people!

The 6-day DPRK travelog ends here. DPRK has been an event we are never going to forget for the rest of our lives, and we are determined to return. One may think about the regime as one wishes. One can be intimidated by the media and believe what is written about The Great Leaders and their nuclear threats. Maybe it IS true, maybe it is one big hoax. We are not sure.
We have seen the country as it has been shown to us. 20 million people just trying to survive and make a living, but not in the way that is so normal for us. The Leader determines what is good for you. You are going to have a life that is defined by your songbun. From birth till death. If you are off your duty, you can have fun, drink, dance, socialize. Even with a Big Blond Foreigner, given the opportunity. Some get that opportunity, provided the Foreigner is willing to respect the moral and rules of this nation.

Pete and I respected the moral and rules and were rewarded with some encounters. And impressive that was!

We take a deep bow for Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. But also for our hosts Mr. Kim, Ms. Kim, driver Kim and camera Kim: without their efforts some doors would most likely have remained closed for us... They cannot open those other doors that we would have liked to be opened for us.

Nation emblem of the
Democratic People Republic of Korea

Some fotosessions without explanation; the pics will tell the story..



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