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October 25th 2009
Published: November 8th 2009
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Me and my big buddy: The Great LeaderMe and my big buddy: The Great LeaderMe and my big buddy: The Great Leader

Compared to the visits on Lenin in Moscow and Mao in Bejing, the trip to the Great Leader was REALLY impressive. Not many foreign tourists (we saw 5 others), but huge crowds of locals who paid the final respectes to him. The got not by themselves, but the trips have been orginzed by the 'work unit'.

North Korea

ok it's way over time, but finally we've got some time and the facilities to do some bla-bla about North-Korea. (in the mean time we've been to Shanghai, Benxi and currently were at the 'base' of the yellow mountains, where we'll go tomorrow). So on the 24th of October we've took the plane to Pyongyong. But basically already on the 23rd espcially I got rather excited as we had a 2 hour briefing about North-Korea from the English tour-operator who had fixed this trip for us. Let's get some things straightened out immediately:
• 2 guides and 1 driver excorted us 24/7. we weren't able to buy stuff from locals. They bought for us. Only are certain designated 'shops' we could buy stuff, but only with Euro, Chinese RBM or USD. At one shop we could buy some local currency (Won), but that we even a 'special' edition, so we actually never saw the local currency in our trip for one week.
• the guides hardly ate with us. We ate 'special' menu's. And one guide was always extremely curious what we had. Weird. Even when we've asked for 'local' breakfasts, instead of bread, omelet, jam and juice what
The Dear LeaderThe Dear LeaderThe Dear Leader

The guides know everthing about the GL and the DL, but nothing about their private lives. We told our guides that the DL has at least 3 sons. They didn't know for sure whether he had a wife or not....
we're offer in the beginning, our local breakfast would still surprice our guides.
• Our week trip took us from Pyongyang (PY) to the west coast (Sariwon & the border with S-korea) back to Pyongyang, a 2 day trip to Wonsan (east-coast) and concluded in Pyongyang. We're really happy that we've included Wonsan, cause otherwise it would have been too short and too much of the same. The next point will explain why too much of the same.
• basically on the trip we were paraded along the various 'important' histrical points and their monuments. Kim Il Sung is really their God. The refer to him as 'the Great Leader'. His son, the current rules, Kim Jong Il is being refered to as 'the Dear Leader'. Every monent bears the dates when either of them has visited a certain location. In the beginning you're impressed by the monuments and you listen carefully what the guides are saying. But after a while it's basically huge parade of non-events. For example we've visited the hotel in Wonsan where the Great Leader (GL - Kim Il Sung) was for 2 days in the 1950's. The museum also included the train-station and the train
Pyongyang @ rush hourPyongyang @ rush hourPyongyang @ rush hour

I took this picture ~08.00 AM. No electricity in the city....
which was used when GL went to PY. Then we figure out that he actually never slept in that hotel, but just had a few meetings. and the the train station is actually a replica, as the original one was bombed during the Korean war. GL actually slept one night in Wonsan in the house of a secretary, which we also had to visit. The house was immediately branded as a typical Korean house, and the GL rememder the details of thius house when he came back on time in the 1980's ("hmmm, yes, I do indeed remember that the house had a second floor...." The GL must have said s-thing like that when he stood infront of that building, cause the guides happily tell these details in full color). The funny thing is that this house is not a typical Korean house, as we asked stupidly while poinintg at a large desk-like table with a normal chair: "so, he had breakfast at that table? We tought that Koreans ate primarily from low tables not using chairs????" Then the guide suddenly goes, "but ohh, this building was make by the Japanese and still has all the Japenese details in it.
Metro map of PyongyangMetro map of PyongyangMetro map of Pyongyang

The green buttons below state the various metro stops. So when you press you destination's button, you kan see if and where you have to change between the metro lines.... It's so complicated.
" So this Japanese house is typical Korean???? This is just one stupid example, but just imagine that every Dutch place/location where the previous Dutch Queen (Juliana) said something, a monument would be raised that Juliana whas there and which glorious words she uttered at that moment... And to make to make things worse, now now monuments are being raised where the current Queen (Beatrix) has been....
• But after a while you're realizing that they are totally stuck in the past and are memorizing only 2 things: the 'liberation' from the Japense in the 1940's and the Korean War in the 1950's. Every sentence relating s-thing Americain is combined wit hthe word 'imperialist'. Every word connecting to the Japense is connected to the 'horrors' done under the japanese occupation, which lasted several decades. It's really sad.

But the weird thing is that many North Koreans do not really understand how much they are being let down. Our guides, who spoke good English, we're hanging on our lips when we told s-thing about the outside world and one the second day actually one guide asked me whether there was any progress in the 6 Nation Talks. All that he could
Agi having lunch with her friends...Agi having lunch with her friends...Agi having lunch with her friends...

Tourist were often eating their lunches / diners in different rooms then the locals. When arriving to a restaurant often the whole 'ball' room would be for ourselves....
tell was that everything was being stalled by the USA. At the end I gave my print-out of the Lonely Planet chapter relating North-Korea to one of our guides. He had already seen that I had, and actually while we're waining to go the DMZ with S-Korea he actually read about kidnappings done in the 70's and 80's by the North-Koreans (N-Korea kidnapped several Japenese in order to have Japenese who could teach their language in N-Korea) or eveny a South-Korean movie director and his actress wife were kidnapped, since the DL was apalled by the quality made by North-Korean movie directors.....

Ok, enough serious talk. We really had a good time, although it's better to say we had an interesting time. I do recommend to go their, as you'll get a strange feeling, but the people are nice and several occasions people wanted to take pictures with us (especpially wedding couple, who were making their picture shoot. The guides likes us, so we got a bit more of a glimpse in the local stuff (e.g. they bought for us additional street food (rice pudding, possomon (a.k.a. kaki-fruits), fermented rice drinks, peanuts) and arranged some special food (for which
Clams with petrolClams with petrolClams with petrol

At bit weird in the beginning, but REALLY tasty. Especially when combined with Pyongyang vodka (56%)
was had to pay dearly, but definately worth the price): dog-soup and clams burned with petrol. The dog-soup was ok, basically chicken soup, but then made from dog meat and the clams were perfect: you place the clams on the floor. The back all skywards and then with a small bottle you poor the petrol (freshly tapped from our car) slowly ,but evenly over the clams, which are then in flames.... delicious. Think I might try something like this with mussles at home.....

Adios, C&A

Ps, before I forget: our car. We were driven around in a Toyota land cruiser, which was donated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).... I'm not sure whether the car was meant for this purpose....

Additional photos below
Photos: 10, Displayed: 10


Dog SoupDog Soup
Dog Soup

Personally I'm looking forward to meet Bodri again... (sorry for the insider joke...)

This picture has actually been taken from South-Korean siol. Unfortunately no stamps.... Also no stamps from North Korea in our passport. The North-Koreans did us this favors, cause stamps in our passports could cause problems when entering the USA, Japan or South-Korea....
Inside the Korean War MuseumInside the Korean War Museum
Inside the Korean War Museum

This plane was shot down by the ladies regiment who tied their light shot guns together, so instead of shooting one bullet at one time a hail of bullets with be shot at the same time. The lady in front of the plain was a local guide. She was REALLY scary. Her North-Korean drive/motivation was HUGE. Showing a burned down jeep, which apparently was a Toyota, she would say in a low voice: 'even the japanse were against us...'
My only military picture...My only military picture...
My only military picture...

Taken from the train at the border crossing with China. Pictures of people nearby were forebidden. Pictures from people in the distance were ok, but NEVER EVER take pictures of military people.... Note the typical propaganda on the background.

2nd April 2010

If you're not allowed to take these pics, why did you take them? Could you not have gotten anyone into trouble? Just asking
6th April 2010

Forbidden N-Korea pics
Sometimes you do have the possibility to take pics, e.g. when the guide next to you is sleeping and the other is just sitting in the front passenger seat of the car. At other times they just do not pay attention. They do take care and 'normally' it's only yourself who might get into discomfort. Only with taking pictures of soldiers and other uniformed people you can get your guides really into problems (including yourselves as well...).
11th April 2011
The Dear Leader

bad bad bad
15th June 2015

North Korea is the most miserable place on earth. it is the absolute worst dictatorship and totalitarian state the world has ever seen. no freedom, no food, no electricity, cell phones, computers, cars ect and tons of concentration camps to keep the people fear-filled and in total obedience. I have seen quite a few interviews with defectors and the horrors that these people have to endure are unimaginable. even though they have been brainwashed from birth and are shut off from the rest of the world, many of them still know that their lives in NK are far worse than other countries and when the "Dear Leader" died, one woman said that some people would put saliva in their eyes to make it seem like they were crying because the government, as always, was watching them to see who was really distraught and showed the proper emotion/ grief/ despair. another defector said that the people are in constant fear of being sent away from Pyongyang, where the "privileged" get to live. they put on a good show for the very few foreigners who are actually brave enough to make the trip to Pyongyang, but all those big, high-rise motels are just for show and there is NEVER anyone staying in them except for the foreigners themselves. and the electricity is always going out, even there. Every trip is monitored and controlled by the government, but thanks to all the defectors who are now speaking out, as well as hidden camera footage taken by some very brave people, we know just how deplorable the conditions are in this country. people starving to death and eating tree barks and grass to survive, people having to bow to statues of the "Dear Leader" and wear pins with his face on them and get special cloths to wipe down framed pictures of him and Kim Jong Un in their homes, no outside (western/ American) influences that just about every country in the world has, like Coca-Cola, Hollywood films, mcdonald's, Disney, popular music (they have no idea of artists that are known worldwide like the Beatles, Michael Jackson ect) and absolutely NO FREEDOM whatsoever. it is a country ruled by fear, oppression and tyranny and my heart goes out to the poor people living in this nightmare. I can only hope that one day, these people will be allowed the freedoms and rights that EVERY human being should have.

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