Para los que no os pasais mucho por los foros fotograficos, el forero me ha dejado ponerlas aqui
:eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2: :eek2:Dr Nick said:>>>Best North Korea Selection – May 2004, Day 1&2
These photos were taken in May 2004 during my Golden Week holiday in the DPRK – The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). My trips overseas usually involve slumming it with a backpack, but since independent travel in the DPRK is prohibited, the only way to enter the country is with a tour group organised in association with the government. I booked the tour through Koryo Tours (a British company based in Beijing; check out Koryo Tours for details) and went to North Korea with around 30 other travellers, all of whom agreed it was the trip of a lifetime. Described amongst other things as ‘a Stalinist theme park’ (in the Lonely Planet), the DPRK proved to be such a bizarre experience that I can highly recommend it if you:
a) Are a jaded traveller looking for somewhere else to add to your list of places you’ve been to.
b) Want to get a better insight into what the USSR (or indeed China or any of the former Eastern Bloc nations) was like 20-30 years ago before it succumbed to the necessity of a market economy.
c) Want to experience travel in a nation which has been totally consumed by the so-called ‘cult of personality’ of its leader (to the best of my knowledge, Cuba and Turkmenistan are the only other examples in the world of this today)
d) Wish to actively question reality without exposing yourself to mind-blowing hallucinogenic substances.
Unlike my previous threads on SkyscraperCities where I divided my photos into categories, I’ve made this thread in chronological order and accordingly presented it broken down into what we did on each day of the tour. I’ve included captions under the photos, although I apologise for their often fact-heavy nature - I got a bit carried away with the amount of information I could find on the internet about a nation I had previously heard very little about and enjoyed writing about my experiences there. If you can’t be bothered with all the facts and figures though, just let the pictures do the talking. Enjoy.
Before we get started though:
-If anyone has any good pictures of North Korea or knows any good website links, I’d be interested to see them so please post them on this thread.
-If anyone’s able to read North Korean hangul, I’d appreciate some information on what the messages in pictures 11,16,33,34 and 35 mean.
-I’ll post the link to Day 3&4 here when that thread is finished.
On this map of the DPRK you can see the places I visited: Sinuiju, Pyongyang (the capital), Kaesong and Panmunjeom. Dandong, my departure point from China, is just across the border from Sinuiju but isn’t shown here.
Imitating Chairman Mao in the Chinese border town of Dandong at 7am. Arguably the most enjoyable thing about any trip is the build-up of anticipation before you arrive at your destination; In the case of this trip I’d been dying to visit North Korea since September 2003 when I visited South Korea (http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=200572) and became fascinated by the nation’s history. Having being under the impression (as I think most people are, especially in Japan) that it was impossible to visit the DPRK, I was naturally intrigued when I read about Koryo Tours in a Lonely Planet guide book. Finally, after seven months of waiting (you can organise it quicker but I had to wait for my May time off work) and a bit of inconvenient visa paperwork to complete, the 24 hour+ train journey from Beijing to Pyongyang was the final hurdle. When you’re heading off to one of the least-visited countries in the world and the last bastion of hard-line Communism you don’t know what to expect (except that it’s bound to be an unusual experience) so what better way to savour the buzz of anticipation?
Few North Koreans are able to move freely outside their city or local area, and even fewer are allowed to travel outside the DPRK. For those North Koreans fortunate enough to be able to visit China however, here’s a nice reminder of their neighbour’s commercial and technological superiority on the access ramp to the Yalu River Bridge in Dandong.
Crossing over the sole, single-lane bridge on the Yalu River at Dandong to enter the North Korean border town of Sinuiju, you can see the surviving Chinese half of the old bridge (the Korean half was destroyed by US bombs during the Korean War). Upon arriving in Sinuiju you’re met with scenes of a standard of living that has remained virtually unchanged for several decades and a taste of what’s in store during the remainder of the train journey - oxen pulling carts, holes in the road, crumbling buildings and a statue of the Great Leader, Kim Il-Sung.
Shortly after we left Sinuiju we passed through Ryongdong, the previously unheard of town that made international news (check out these photos on BBC News) a few days before we passed through when it was devastated by a huge fuel train explosion. Needless to say the place was a mess, the town centre having been totally flattened.
You risk immediate deportation if you’re caught taking photos from the train, so unfortunately I don’t have any shots of what was actually probably the most revealing insight into life in the DPRK (or perhaps rather the insight least manipulated by the government.)
Over an hour before arriving in Pyongyang you can see the tip of the Ryugyong Hotel looming on the skyline. When you get up close it’s hard not to be impressed by the ambitiousness of this 105-storey construction, which dominates the capital’s skyline. Looking like it would be more at home in Las Vegas, construction work began in 1987. However, work was halted in 1992 when the government ran out of money to spend on the interior, having already blown over $750 million (2% of North Korea's GDP) on it. With 3000 rooms and a proposed 7 (!) revolving restaurants on top, it would have been the world’s tallest hotel if it had been completed but instead remains a gargantuan monument symbolising the failure of Communism. Check out Emporis.com for more information.
Rush hour in Pyongyang. The view from our hotel (the Pyongyang Koryo) on Changwang Street, one of the main streets in the downtown area. Private car ownership is not part of the Communist ethos and this, combined with the scarcity of fuel caused by economic sanctions, results in a distinct lack of traffic on the roads. Note the Tower of the Juche Ideal in the distance and the ‘traffic girl’ standing in the white circle in the centre of the intersection (since there are no traffic signals in North Korea traffic girls direct the traffic instead).
Unfortunately I couldn’t get a shot of the Pyongyang Koryo, but it’s a pretty impressive building. Check out MPK Holdings.com and Emporis.com for pics.
Miss Li, one of our tour guides, wearing a hanbok (the traditional garment worn on the Korean peninsular). Ours was her first ever tour and something of a ‘baptism of fire’ on account of the group’s party spirit and reluctance to adhere to strict instructions regarding not wandering off to take photos.
The North Korean flag (x20), for anyone who doesn’t know what it looks like. Nice eye-catching design in my opinion.
Me in front of the statues and fountains in the Mansudae area, the first of many we were to see on the first day of the tour.
Comedy fountain pic.
Communist propaganda in Kim Il-Sung square.
The Grand People’s Study House (as seen from the Mansudae area), a grandiose 10-storey library (built in 1982, despite its traditional appearance) which houses over 30 million books, including thousands alleged to have been written by Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.
The Grand People’s Study House, as seen from Kim Il-Sung Square.
The Arch of Triumph. Whilst it looks the same as the one in Paris, as with other North Korean copies, it’s bigger than the original (by a whopping 3m!). Also, in keeping with a principle evident in many North Korean buildings and monuments, numbers of bricks used, distances and measurements have symbolic significance. The guide told us too many examples of this to remember about The Arch of Triumph, but I’m sure one of them was the number of flowers that adorn the arch represent the number of years Kim Il-Sung had been alive when it was built. Or something like that.
With a guide in front of The Arch of Triumph. Note the Manchester City fans sneaking into the shot. Garlic is almost never used in Japanese cuisine so it’s always a shock when I visit other Asian countries and everyone mings of the stuff. This woman had definitely had kimchi (Korea’s national dish, made from fermented Chinese cabbage, garlic, ginger and chilli) for breakfast.
Any attempt to understand North Korean culture, society or modern history (ie post-World War II) must focus on the cult of personality surrounding Kim Il-Sung, AKA ‘The Great Leader’, who was the nation’s leader from 1948-1994. As with Stalin and Mao Zedong, Kim Il-Sung was regarded with great reverence; unlike them though, after his death he was succeeded by his son (Kim Jong-Il, ‘The Dear Leader’) in an unprecedented contradiction of Communist ethos, so with over a half-century of propaganda eulogy (which his son naturally enforces to this day) he has achieved demigod status. Check out Rotten.com (of all places) for some good background info.
Murals depicting the Great Leader at various stages of his life can be found everywhere in North Korea. I think this one shows him at age 13 setting off to begin his fight against the Japanese occupying forces, whom he (according to North Korean history books) would eventually drive out of Korea almost single-handedly.
‘Stop, look and listen’. School kids cross the huge intersection where the 6-lane boulevards meet outside the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Not much danger from traffic however.
Kumsusan Memorial Palace, the mausoleum where Kim Il-Sung’s body rests. You have to avoid taking close-up shots of people as lots of visitors are visibly grief stricken after seeing the preserved body of the Great Leader and aren’t exactly in the mood for posing for ‘happy-snapper’ foreign tour groups.
The Mansudae Grand Monument, a 20m-high bronze statue of Kim Il-Sung erected to commemorate his 60th birthday in 1972. The mosaic on the wall of the Korean Revolution Museum in the background depicts Mt Paektu, the tallest mountain in Korean and sacred birthplace of the revolution which symbolises ‘the ancient and ever-continuing revolutionary spirit of the Korean people.’ Apparently.
The Mansudae Grand Monument is flanked by two memorials depicting the revolutionary struggle. Each has a 23x5m red flag, and the two feature a combined total of 228 revolutionary figures including farmers, workers and soldiers. Mmmm, statistics…
The revolutionaries lead the way in this closer view of the left-side memorial.
Me and the revolutionaries in this closer view of the right-side memorial
It’s really interesting to examine the flanking memorials more closely as you can find some interesting details. Here North Korean soldiers trample on an American flag, a US army helmet with a bullet hole in it lying at their feet.
‘Bang bang, you’re dead!’
Me and the Great Leader. You have to make sure photos are taken of the front of the statue only and that the full body is in the shot to avoid causing offence. Our guide actually checked my digital camera after the shot was taken to make sure.
Hundreds of people visit the giant Kim Il-Sung statue everyday to pay their respect.
After paying your respect by laying a bouquet of flowers at The Great Leader’s feet, you have to bow. Our tour group had to do this a few minutes before I took this shot of a load of North Koreans doing the same.
The Chollima statue, erected in 1961. Chollima, the Korean Pegasus, symbolises the high speed at which North Korea was rebuilt after the Korean War. And to think it was all was achieved without the help of any ‘coalition forces’ (although I’m sure the huge amount of financial aid the DPRK received by playing the Soviets and the Chinese off against each other couldn’t have done any harm.)
The Tower of the Juche Ideal. According to ‘The People’s Korea’ , a website which appears to be run by/affiliated with the DPRK government:
‘In 1982, on the occasion of the 70th birthday of the late President Kim Il-Sung, the Tower of Juche Idea was erected in the heart of the capital city, Pyongyang. Made of well-dressed white granite, it was designed in a unique traditional Korean fashion of stone tower construction and executed in a grand yet graceful modern style of formative art.
The body of the 150-meter tall tower symbolizing the late President Kim Il-Sung's ideological contributions is capped by a 20-meter high torch as a symbol of the rays of Juche. In front of it there is a 30 meter high trio group of worker, peasant and working intellectual which displays the spirit of north Koreans forging vigorously ahead under the banner of the Workers' Party.’
By the time we arrived at The Tower of the Juche Ideal the sun was setting and the tower had closed, which puzzled everyone on the tour since we’d been ferried around the city’s sights in a totally illogical order covering unnecessarily long distances between locations (something we soon realised bearing in mind Pyongyang city centre is extremely compact and most major sights can be seen from each other), often doubling back on ourselves and frequently being forced to spend unjustifiably long periods of time in mundane locations whilst being herded through the more interesting ones with a bizarre sense of urgency.
One might conclude that this can be attributed to the fact that this fledgling Communist tourist industry is totally inexperienced in satisfying the consumer (or indeed taking money from them, as we were routinely deprived of opportunities to spend money on food, drinks and souvenirs despite our willingness to do so), but in fact it rather served to reinforce the conspiracy theory atmosphere as we debated why we were being kept somewhere too long.
As a result, probably most visitors to Pyongyang would agree that the experience feels like the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show as you half suspect the people you see on the street are hurrying to the next location after you turn the corner; several people on the tour even suspected that our interaction with ‘the locals’ during their May Day celebrations (see below) was staged but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t.
‘Take me to your leader’. The futuristic-looking, UFO-like 150,000 capacity May Day Stadium in Rungnado.
Part of the 100,000-seat Kim Il-Sung Stadium (you can see his portrait on the roof there), with the Pyongyang skyline in the background. After the deserted streets and the epic nature of the architecture and design of monuments and statues, one of the most distinctive features of Pyongyang (and indeed the other places we visited in the DPRK) is the absence of any signs of the outside world, and in particular the absence of advertising.
But the absence of images advertising products and services is more than compensated for by the ubiquity of propaganda reinforcing the dominant ideology. In addition to Kim Il-Sung pictures, propaganda images usually depict the unity of the populace, the strength of the military or the mockery of North Korea’s arch-enemy, the US.
For ultra-savvy Westerners who can spot propaganda a mile off (except the Weapons of Mass Destruction/model of democracy in the Middle East variety), such ‘primitive’ methods of citizen control seem rather quaint.
Travellers from the USA are banned from entering North Korea, and there’s no shortage of reminders of the hatred and contempt with which the DPRK regards the ‘American Imperialists’.
A May Day performance in front of Pyongyang’s old South Gate in Mount Daesong Park. Like Japan’s Ohanami (cherry blossom) celebrations, the DPRK’s May Day celebrations seem to centre around going to the park, having a picnic and getting trashed – in this case mostly on soju (rice liquor), which is similar to Japanese shōchū.
Old Roof in Moran Bong Park. Temples and traditional buildings on the Korean peninsular are different from their Japanese counterparts in their use of more colours and the finer detail of their decoration.
The victory sign favoured by all Japanese posing for photos makes its obligatory appearance as we join the locals for May Day celebrations in Mount Daesong Park.
As with most of the North Korean way of life, entertainment has changed little over the years. Here members of our tour group lend a hand in a game of Tug of War.
‘What’s going on here, like?’ Here’s me ‘strutting my stuff’ as I attempt to participate in a traditional dance. I’ve never felt I had two left feet so much in all my life.
Me with North Korean school kids in Mount Daesong Park. By the way, I must stress that that hand on the knee of the boy in the middle is his, not mine. Honestly.
Korean War veterans. Note the small Kim Il-Sung badges that all adults must wear on the left of their chest when in public, and also the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in the background.
The East Pyongyang Grand Theatre near Rungna Bridge. Although Pyongyang seemed much cleaner than Beijing in terms of pollution (as well as refuse/litter and hygiene) it was such a hot day that a lot of my shots were really hazy, as you can see from this one. It was such a scorcher of a day that I was soon looking like the stereotypical British ‘lobster’ abroad as you can see from my sunburn in some of the pics below.
After exhausting ourselves at Tug Of War and traditional dancing it was time for a river cruise along the Tower of the Juche Ideal section of the Taedong River, which runs through the centre of Pyongyang. Note the fountain in the background, one of two on the Taedong which are apparently the tallest in the world.
Posing with Dutch and Danish ‘comrades’ in front of The Tower of the Juche Ideal. In my left hand is a bottle of the local brew (filth) and in my right hand a shot of liquor which I later discovered was made from a mixture of rice and bear’s bile/gall bladder…Still, it tasted better than the beer.
In Japan, the national obsession with cuisine is often manifested in attractive, mouth-watering photos intended to excite the locals (nicknamed ‘food porn’ by foreigners). Here’s a ‘saucy snap’ of some Korean bulgogi for the benefit of those of you who are food lovers/Japanese.
After a hectic day of sightseeing it’s time to unwind at The Egyptian Palace which, as one of the tour group remarked, is simultaneously Pyongyang’s best and worst nightclub – the best in that it’s the only nightclub in the city (and maybe the entire country come to think of it), and the worst in that it must be one of the worst nightclubs in the world (though it naturally faces stiff competition from Dontino’s Nightspot in Hexham, England for those of you who have had the dubious pleasure).
Located in the basement of the Yanggakdo Hotel it has a number of facilities (run by companies from Macao) to accommodate the burgeoning Chinese tourist market (North Korea is the only country they don’t need a visa to visit), including karaoke boxes, a brothel and a casino, which bears the distinction of being possibly the only legitimate casino in the world where you can witness house dealers fumbling their hand and prompting customer outrage as games are halted (twice on the night we were there, and the tour guides said they’d seen it happen before). If any of you are card-counters, or have autistic brothers like Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rainman, I highly recommend a trip to Pyongyang as you’ll probably be able to take this place to the cleaners. And if not, the $5 chips with Pyongyang printed on them make great souvenirs.
Apart from the fleet of buses ferrying scores of Chinese tourists to the DMZ (the 4km-wide Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea) which had pulled into the Sohung Teahouse rest stop, the six-lane highway from Pyongyang to Panmunjom was deserted.
This sign at the last exit from the highway before Panmunjom reads Seoul 70km. No chance of completing the journey in the foreseeable future though…
Our guide for the DMZ visit. Probably called either Kim or Li, like everybody else on the Korean peninsular.
Inside the building where the Armistice that ended the Korean War was signed. In fact, a total of 1,076 meetings were held here during the 2 years and 19 days before the Armistice Agreement was signed between United Nations forces, the North Korean Army, and the Chinese Army on 27th July 1953. The first table was the North’s and the one behind it was the South’s, although these are now used only for the benefit of tourists visiting the North Korean side of the DMZ (since the end of the Korean War negotiations have been held 1km further south in one of the sky-blue UN buildings in the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom).
On the Southern table are original documents, a new UN flag and the original flag used in negotiations during the Korean War. I don’t know whether it’s true, but I heard that the reason why the original flag is in such poor condition is because the North Korean soldiers used to wipe their noses on it when the Americans weren’t around. That would certainly explain the discoloration…
In what was subsequently dubbed ‘the Panmunjom axe murder incident’, two American soldiers who tried to chop down a tree that was blocking the view from their watchtower were killed by North Korean soldiers on 18th August 1976 (Photos of the incident in progress can be found at Life In Korea.com). This is the axe that was used, now proudly displayed in the museum next to the original Armistice building on the North Korean side of the DMZ. Since the incident, border guards have been forbidden to cross over to the opposing side's area.
Kim Il-Sung’s signature on display behind the Panmungak building, the main North Korean building in the Joint Security Area (JSA).
An iconic image (well, for those of you with an interest in 20th Century history), the UN buildings in the JSA, patrolled and monitored by both sides. The building in the centre of the southern side is Freedom House, to its right the House of Peace. If you fancy brushing up on your 20th Century history knowledge, more info about the Korean War and JSA/DMZ can be found out at Life In Korea.com
The unassuming appearance of the small concrete demarcation that separates the two sets of soldiers here belies its troubled history and status as part of the most heavily guarded border on the planet. While it looks like a peaceful scene, I’m sure any attempt to make a break across the demarcation would trigger a shootout.
Inside the main light blue United Nations building where negotiations have been held intermittently since shortly after the Korean War ended. Technically I’m standing in South Korea in this shot. Unlike my photos from my visit to Panmunjom from South Korea in 2003 where the guards look like wax models because of their Taekwondo poses intended to intimidate their North Korean counterparts, this time it was my turn to take on the appearance of an inanimate object; I can only attribute my unusual facial expression to the fact that I’d just been reprimanded by being clapped at by the guard glaring at the camera (guards don’t speak as it would make them less intimidating).
Despite being intimidated by a clapping guard only a minute earlier, no location is too serious for the victory pose…
One last shot…
I couldn’t get a good shot of this mock-traditional tourist observation point when I visited the South Korean side of the JSA last year as we couldn’t move far enough away, so here it is as seen from the north side of the JSA.
Behind the House of Peace you can see Gijeong-dong, referred to by the US as Propaganda Village. Located 1.8 km from South Korea's Daeseong-dong (Freedom Village, home to 226 farmers) it was built in the northern area of the DMZ for the purpose of propaganda and has no residents except soldiers. It’s especially noteworthy for the fact that all the lights come on in the morning and go off at night at the same time (in an attempt to fool the Americans), and for being home of the world's tallest flag tower (160 meters, from which flies a giant 30 meter-long North Korean flag).
This is the real village where the North Korean DMZ farmers live. Located further north than Propaganda Village behind several lines of defence (including electric fences, barbed wire fences, tank traps and minefields), the real village is in a dilapidated condition compared to its fake counterpart, which is kept clean and is regularly decorated for the benefit of US observers.
Me and the Colonel who gave us a talk on the ‘Korean Wall’. Both sides have a vast array of defences to prevent attack, but on the south side of the DMZ there’s a 3m-high anti-tank barrier apparently spanning the entire 248km of the divide. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the DPRK has been protesting about the existence of this anti-tank barrier, which it claims the Americans built to permanently divide Korea. Unfortunately it was foggy when we went so I couldn’t see the wall, but it was nonetheless fun to creep around in camouflaged trenches surrounded by bunkers on the way to the observation post.
Mmmm. More ‘food porn’, this time what I think is called sinsollo, Korean broth/hotpot cooked at the table in the same style as Japanese shabu shabu or nabe but in an individual dish rather than a communal pot. The selection of small dishes can be added to the broth or consumed as they are, depending on your preference.
The Koryo Museum in Kaesong, which houses historic artefacts from the bygone Koryo era (AD918-1392). The Koryo dynasty was the only one to rule the peninsula with a non-South bias and without ‘selling out’ to neighbouring powers, so the era is naturally the focus of much North Korean interest/praise.
A different view of the museum.
This apparently ‘ancient’ work of art housed in the Koryo Museum looks suspiciously like the 20th Century Communist murals found elsewhere in North Korea. Not that I’m being cynical or anything…
The idyllic Korean Folk (Minsuk) Hotel in Chanam-dong, Kaesong. The hotel complex actually consists of 19 traditional one-storey houses dating from around 1900 which were opened to the public as tourist accommodation in 1989.
The Korean Folk Hotel’s old houses bearing the distinctive white cement pointing found in traditional brick buildings on the Korean peninsular.
The rooftops of these old houses are similar to their Japanese counterparts in style, although they are made from less-shiny ceramic tiles, have white cement at bottom of the tiles and have chimneys for ondol (under-floor furnace heating system indigenous to the Korean peninsular).