“smelled the coffee“


magic PICKINGS from my NORTH KOREAN DIARY 11.–21. April 2011

Beside the restaurant was the local Gallery in Wonsan. I was reluctant, to say the least, to waiste my time in cold and dark rooms looking at glorifying Korean war propaganda oil and acryl paintings being explained to me by one more local guide. But I went anyhow – and to my big surprise, I didn’t regret it.

Only look, no buy, no photo - KIM JONG IL holding CHERUBICS

Of about 300 paintings I wanted to buy 2 on the spot. One was true hardcore revolutionary propaganda. The other showed Kim Jong Il holding babies. Kim Jong Il’s painting I was only allowed to look at, I could not buy it and it was forbidden to make a photo. It was one of the many NO!…NO’S! I faced every day from my two “permanent” guides.

The price tag on the hardcore revolutionary propaganda painting was 320 Euro. Since I am an artist too, I asked for a discount and offered 250 Euro. But the gallery clerk was dead against it. He vehemently complained about my request with angry gestures.

When I told him I would come back another day, he all of a sudden “smelled the coffee“ and suggested I should choose a number between 1 and 9. The magic number turned out to be 9 and the deal was done at 290 Euro. I told him to cut the painting out of the frame, roll it up, pack it carefully and I would be back within two hours.

Out of the blue - for them and for me

As I returned to the Gallery which had been cold and totally without visitors before, I was greeted by a huge crowd, all well dressed and whispering. The truth dawned on me that the sale had seized the community like a forest fire. It came out of the blue. The 290 Euros were a huge sum for them and offered hope.

The successful sale had mellowed our two “permanent” guides for a minute or two, and as we left the gallery, I took my chance and went quickly to the local cloth shop next door. They immediately called me back but it was to late, Ursula and I had already slipped inside. I quickly went through the jackets, slacks, shirts, socks  – all made in China – and chose two tights for Ursula. After some deliberations between my guide and the shop clerk – the male guide had joined us in the meantime – I was allowed to buy them at fifteen times over the selling price for local people.

It was the only! time I was able to enter a local cloth shop or supermarket though I tried hard. My two “permanent” guides kept me persistently away, drove on when I told them to stop or pretended the stores had already closed.

Revolutionary satisfaction (Jürg) - magic number (Gallery leader) - success story (local guide)

Please keep the receit for the customs

Art Gallery in Wonsan - I pay 290 Euro

One Response to “smelled the coffee“

  1. Pingback: WONSAN – port city on the EAST SEA of DPRK « Gozilla

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