Saturday, October 15, 2011
|A view of one of the cool huge monuments in the middle of town.|
Simpler images of the 50s come to mind. For me, it brought back strong memories of visiting the U.S.S.R. in the 80s with giant, uniform, high rise concrete buildings, small stores selling almost nothing, no advertising, and simple signage accented with bright obvious propaganda images on billboards all over. And like my trip to the U.S.S.R. my movements were completely controlled and monitored and I was only allowed to see and talk to people they wanted me to.
There are lots of big granite memorials, statues, obelisks celebrating the ideals of the regime. (North Korea is a major exporter of granite but apparently they keep a little of it to make their own statues!)
Women dress much more conservatively than most modern standards, though many others look a lot like
|One of the Young Pioneer Corps - The NK Communist Youth|
It’s very hard to describe this all and give you the real feel. In one way it was very soothing. Things feel orderly and under control in a way that I didn’t question until I thought about how it could be this way without real enforcement. Apartment buildings look alike and are painted in light pastels. Everything flows nicely. Soldiers are EVERYWHERE but they are sloppy and a bit ragtag and don’t feel so oppressive. It’s hard to imagine them being the fighting force that our government is so afraid of. Their vehicles are still from the time of the Korean War and I kept hoping Hawkeye Pierce would drive by on one of the old green jeeps. (Gotta start watching MASH again.)
|This woman is reading the paper in the subway|
The most amazing thing about North Korea to me is that in a time where information is flattening the world North Korean’s live totally cut off from information. Everything feels stopped in time. Even when I travel very off the beaten path in Africa there are people with email addresses, access to the internet and cell phones that keep them connected outside their smaller circles.
|Reading the paper on a street corner|
In North Korea, the regime has managed to keep the internet and international cell phones out (though it appears that Chinese networks are becoming available to people who live near the border and they allow contact with people outside of North Korea.) Mostly people learn about the world through what seemed like one newspaper that was posted in frames on subway platforms and a few public places where people stood to read it together. There are also a few TV channels but if my watching was any indication of their programming it’s more just a replaying of the propaganda message of the Supreme Leader Kim Il Sung and the Dear Leader Kim Jung il and their activities.
Images of the Great Leader, Kim Il Sung are everywhere. Statues, photos in every room, paintings, billboards.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Do any of you remember the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony where 1000s of people danced and did acrobatics? Do you remember how beautiful and exact it all was? Well in North Korea, somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 people dance every night for 90 days each year. The dances tell the stories of the founding of the nation and are the most incredible show I have ever seen and that is an understatement. The video clips combined with the still shots give you a pretty good idea of what it looked like.
|The little children who flip cards in unison to create the background to the performance.|
Thursday, October 13, 2011
My Global Exchange "Reality Tour" of North Korea didn't really expose us to that much of the DPRK reality since the government keeps very close tabs on all tourists and only lets us see what they want to see, which means we mostly visited the standard tourist sights, but we were able to have one amazing visit that gave us insight into the culture. We visited a gigantic kindergarten in Pyongyang where kids are brought in on Monday morning and not picked up till Saturday. The place was kind of unreal. 5-6 year olds gave us amazing performances and behaved impeccably and all I could think was these kids are going to be the elite ruling class in the years to come. Either that or they are going to be dancers in the Arirang Mass Games.
In any case, this was one of the places that made me really question life in North Korea. I was not under an illusion that everything was perfect, but some of the aspects of a society like this were appealing, but the lack of free thought and movement, something I treasure so much, is so apparent and really makes me want to scratch even deeper under the surface to understand what it is like to grow up in North Korea when you don't know there is another world out there.
A YouTube link to see Future Arirang dancers
A YouTube link to see precise little singers