When every day is the same, is it like living only one day? Then, why not live 10 days as a North Korean? With this spirit we boarded a plane to Pyongyang.
Editor’s note: Just yesterday North Korea detonated a new hydrogen bomb in his territory. The NYT reported: “The assertion, if true, would dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of the world’s most isolated and dangerous states.”
While entering the plane I pick up the Pyongyang Times. The title reports “Kim Jong Un Inspects new pharmaceutical industry”. A big picture shows Kim cheerfully inspecting. Shortly after I find out that it is forbidden to disrespect images of the leader. The newspaper shall not be bended, folded nor rolled. It shall not be disposed of in a trash bin. After landing I find myself holding the newspaper with the fingertips from the corners. Hoping to dodge any sanction. Functioning as a human billboard of the regime.
At the Pyongyang airport we meet our guide, Mr Kang. It is not allowed for tourists to roam the country without the supervision of government officials. “It’s for your safety” says Mister Kang with a big smile. More rules are explained while we are shuttled to the hotel. It’s not allowed to call North Korea “North Korea”, the correct name is “Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea” or “DPRK”. The citizens of DPRK are a bit shy and not used to be photographed, so it’s better to ask for a permission. It is disrespectful to take a picture that only contains a part of leader’s figure.
The day after the arrival, entering the Hotel bookshop I meet another tourist holding a copy of the Pyongyang Times. The title reports “Marshall Kim Jong Un Inspects …”.
Me: “I got that newspaper on the plane”
Paul: “No, look! Today Ping Pong Pung is inspecting a school, brilliant!”
It turns out that Kim inspects a lot everyday. And most of the times it makes it to the front page.
We look at the shelves and realize that all the books mention the leaders on the cover, except for one: “Let us learn Korean!”.
We take a look at the first section curious to learn some useful basics: Yes (ye), No (aniyo), Excuse me (mianhamnida), I wish the dear leader Comrade Kim Jong Il long life in good health! (chinaehanun chidoja Kim Jong Il dongjiui mansumugangul samga chukwonhamnida!)
Me: “Well that escalated quickly. Wait a second! Kim Jong Il is already dead!”
Every day we follow the trip schedule. It soon becomes evident that everything is about glorification of the leaders. The museum of war is actually the museum of the leader during the war. The film studios are about the the leaders’ ideals. The theme parks are about how much the leaders love the people. The flower exhibition is about the flowers named after the leaders, Kim-jong-ilia and Kim-il-sungia. The International Friendship Exhibition is a huge collection of presents given to the leaders. The farmer’s hut where the first leader was born is about how much the leader is one of us.
Even natural sites like waterfalls or holy mountains or lakes are about the leader’s passage at the location: where the leader stood to take a picture, what the leader said there, the exact path the leader took while inspecting, where the unlucky duck was sitting that was shot by the leader from the distance with infallible aim.
Episode 2 – Coming out tomorrow on Positive Magazine