Travel Journal

North Korea (DPRK)

(Thursday 4 October 2007) by Lynda
North Korea, the "hermit kingdom". This description was enough reason for me to go there and see for myself.

Got on the night train to Dandong with only 4 minutes to spare..... so much
DMZ at Panmunjom (seen from the north)
DMZ at Panmunjom (seen from the north)
stress....and crossed the border with North Korea the next morning. The border procedures took ages because all luggage had to be hand searched, no mobile phones allowed (mine was wrapped up and sealed), my books and cd's did meet with critical looks but in the end I could take everything with me. At the station of Pyongyang I was met by my two guides, very nice and welcoming people. The first day I did see all the landmarks of Pyongyang: war monuments, the bronze statue of Kim Il Sung (of course with a respectful bow and flowers), the tower of the Juche idea (could be summed up as: I lead and you follow!) and we made a trip to Keason in the south, close to the DMZ. I've seen the Korean wall separating the country in two, quite a sad sight. Slept in a traditional Korean house on the floor with very efficient floor heating, nice experience!

Next morning we visited Panmunjom located in the DMZ, a strange place where the demarcation line is marked by a low concrete threshold just a few meters away. It felt a bit like being in the eye of a storm, such a quite place in such a sensitive area. The atmosphere was quite relaxed and shooting pictures was not a problem but still, not a place for happy smiles, it all made me very sad being there and looking at the results of a power struggle between our world's "great" nations and the Koreans have now to cope with these results.
The Arirang mass games in the May Day Stadium
The Arirang mass games in the May Day Stadium

Back in Pyongyang we visited more monuments and museums and I've even been to the funfair riding the electric cars and having fun with the Koreans. Next day we visited Mount Myohyangsan and hiked up to see the beautiful waterfalls on the mountain. After a visit to the International Friendship Exhibition where all the presents to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il were displayed (the stuffed alligator holding a tray of drinking glasses was my favorite!!!) we went back to Pyongyang. Highlight of my trip was being in the May Day Stadium to see the Arirang Mass Performance. What an impressive show; 18.000 schoolchildren sitting at one side of the stadium with colored books and flipping them so every few minutes you see a complete different background while the arena is filled with another 40.000 people doing gymnastics and making intricate patterns simultaneously. Altogether about 100.000 people contribute to the show. Absolutely awesome but a the same time a bit scary that it's possible to drill people to such perfection. The show was over way to soon, I could have watched it for hours.

My trip to North Korea or the DPRK was very impressive and I'm glad I went there and see for myself. I've seen nice but also very sad sights, yes, the trip and hassle were definitely worth it to see this exceptional country.

  • dandong by xu
    • Dandong by Lynda

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