North Korea, Part 2: A Hint of Color

1 May

Because of the 100th birthday celebrations, no hotel rooms were available for our tour group on the evening of April 15. Thus, we were relegated to an even crappier hotel in Pyongsung, an hour north of the city. Hard beds, no elevator, no hot water, and uneven stairs. Interestingly, the two hotels we stayed at both had heated floors.

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Day 2: Our hotel in Pyongsung.

As we spent more time in North Korea, we began to interact with some of the locals and got to see a small glimpse of what life is like in Pyongyang during the biggest national celebration in decades.

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Two young girls at an open-air festival.

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Band performers.

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We attended a children’s performance which was fantastic. All the children were supremely talented and performed singing, dance, music, twirling, hula hooping, etc. These children were well on their way to their 10,000 hours of expertise.

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After lunch, we got lucky in that our tour guide allowed us to see the military parade. This was the largest parade in decades and everyone in the city came out to celebrate and cheer the soldiers. Both soldiers and citizens looked genuinely happy on this day.

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The soldiers rolled by in a neverending convoy of hundreds and hundreds of trucks, cheered on by schoolchildren in this stretch of the street.

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Each truck had a couple dozen military soldiers. Unfortunately the tanks and rocket launchers didn’t go the full parade route so we couldn’t see them. Supposedly on this day they debuted a super huge rocket launcher, but western experts had no idea if it was really functional or just a prop.

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Schoolchildren intrigued by us foreigners.

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Traffic signalers in their blue uniforms. Because there are very few stoplights, these traffic signalers control the traffic. Of course, on most days there are few cars and at many intersections there’s not a whole lot of work to do.

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People lining up to buy some sort of food from the shack.

One of the more interesting museums in the world that we’ve ever been to was the Korean War museum in Pyongyang. In this museum, the history of Korean resistance against the Japanese in the early part of the 19th century and the history and “successful defense of the homeland against imperialist US aggressors in the Korean War” is taught. Some of the language and history is so skewed I almost burst out laughing. One video said that the “US invaded South Korea and turned it into hell on earth.” Exact quote, I’m not kidding. Another video showed images of the great depression and stated that after US involvement in the Korean War, the great depression occurred. Kinda off by 20 years, but who’s counting?

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This is the entry hallway to the Korean War museum. The mural is painted such that no matter what angle you stand at, Dear Leader is always facing his front square towards you.

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Being taught a history lesson from the other perspective.

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The museum also has a collection of captured/abandoned American military equipment.

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Inside the world’s deepest subway. The escalator ride is probably at least a minute to get down to the bottom. Everyone suspects that this subway system doubles as a bomb shelter, but who really knows why it was built so deep. Inside each station is some beautiful communist tile art. Interestingly, the NK subway has quite a bit of graffiti keyed into the windows, even though I’m sure the punishment for that in North Korea is much worse than graffiti on BART.

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We also got a chance to visit a real fun fair aka amusement park. This one is right in the heart of Pyongyang by the Arch of Triumph and includes working rides made by an Italian company. Once again the entrance line was extremely long, but as foreigners we could walk right up and take the next ride.

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Jeannie and I rode this one. Pretty fun.

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Those small dots are people sitting around a ring which swings and revolves at the same time.

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Fireworks over the Taedong river on April 15th.

 

Here is a video shot by another member on the same tour with us.

 

Coming up in Part 3: North Korean Pride.

 

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2 Responses to “North Korea, Part 2: A Hint of Color”

  1. Ken May 1, 2012 at 8:33 AM #

    Very interesting posts on North Korea. I had seen some pictures similar to yours (traffic signalers, amusement parks, subway), but never an in-depth narrative about it. Did you get to see their new Supreme Commander?

  2. Brian Kincaid May 1, 2012 at 4:49 PM #

    Hey Jerry, i wasted a few hours looking at your travels instead of doing work. oh well. looks like your having fun. same old stuff here. you can still come back you know. ha ha just kidding
    Brian

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