NO “wishi-washiness” says North Korea’s “Supreme Leader”

National Defense Commission PICKINGS.

Kim Jong Un vows NO CHANGE policy – the dynasty is promising "final victory"

North Korea issued two stamps after 14 days of mourning has ended

“We declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should not expect any change from us,” said the statement. “We will never deal with the traitor group of South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak.” The statement was carried by the Korean Central News Agency, the regime’s official mouthpiece to the outside world.

Hostile posture and typical bellicose attitude towards the outside world with a characteristically common threat to punish President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea for his “unforgivable sins” I read as a sign to rally its military and people behind the new leader KIM JONG UN who is believed to be in his late 20s.

“Don’t expect change from me!”was the slogan of the dynastic rulers. “The Eternal President” KIM IL SUNG used it, his son “My Dear Leader” KIM JONG IL ensured continuity with no change in policy and “The Great Successor” KIM JONG UN is promising “final victory” and presses North Koreans to remain faithful to the dynastic rule.
I register the confrontational behavior towards the external world as a tactic to extort large shipments of humanitarian aid from South Korea and USA.

Kim Jong Un during a memorial service for his father. On our extensive trip through North Korea, everybody I met or saw in the cities or in the countryside were slim, haggard or emaciated

KIM JONG UN inherits an extensive network of prison gulags. He faces a widespread food crisis, starvation,

an impoverished population and is confronted with an enormous fuel shortage and extensive daily powercuts all over the country, in tourist locations as well.

Traveling through North Korea, we met electricity shortages every day in the cities and in the countryside. Fuel shortage was visible everywhere, no gas stations along the highways or in the cities.

When our driver went to get gas in Pyongyang, we were dropped on the roadside at the outskirts together with our two guides and he disappeared for twenty minutes. My questions to our two “permanent guides”, why we could not stay in the car, were not answered.

Girl reading a book – she said hello

As Ursula stayed with our two guides talking to keep them busy I managed to cut myself loose and slipped away to the nearby river to see if  I could make contact with some people.  Away from my two guides I met this girl reading a book, she was a little shy but nevertheless she said hello to me.

PYONGYANG – “City under Water”

Revolutionary Wake-Up Call

balcony PICKINGS from my DPRK DIARY 11.–21. April 2011

Pyongyang is a “No-Today” city, a city without “Gegenwart”.

The aura of The Eternal President" who died of a heart attack in 1994 shortly before a meeting with the president of South Korea, is engulfing North Korea

View from the balcony of the Grand People's Palace

The architecture of the buildings, the monuments, murals and the mental state of propaganda, dominated by the communist party, give the impression of a “City under Water”.

Lost in the abyss of Necropolis

The deeper I dive into this sunken amalgam mixer the more images and symbols appear of KIM IL SUNG’S ever-present personality cult.

The Juche Idea is based on a set of principles by KIM IL SUNG that “man is the master of everything and decides everything”. In fact this hands a blank check to the KIMS to do as they wish.

Grand People’s Palace – though it is called “Grand People’s Palace” – people cannot walk in without permission. They are chosen from their factory or workplace and sent to the Palace after passing ability tests. They have to conform to the strict ideological guidelines of the Communist Party of North Korea to be allowed to learn languages, join the library and read foreign books, specially chosen and translated for them.

From the balcony on the top floor of this huge building made of marble we have an excellent view over Pyongyang and the Central Place. The huge buildings and monuments – some the tallest in the world in size, volume and marble – leave pointless marks.

T

SWISS YODELING over Pyongyang

“Appenzöller”- PICKINGS from my NORTH KOREAN DIARY 11.–21. April 2011

“If you act from the heart, you can’t make a mistake.” And DPRK is no exception.

Grand People's Palace – The Chinese enjoy KIM IL SUNG'S pet – The the largest selection of folk music in the world

Our guides didn’t like alcohol and went to bed early every night...

No easy task – Not for her and not for me...

Guides usually relax after some late nights with a lot of beer and wine but ours were different. They didn’t like alcohol and went to bed early every night. What was I going to do? How could I establish contact with “True Children of the Red Spirit”? How could I break the deadlock of professional suspicion without a lot of beer and wine?

Professional suspicion - Visiting the house of the local guide at the farm cooperative outside Wonsan, on the left: my "permanent" guide

Walking to the Lighthouse with my male "permanent guide

How could I avoid being made into a capitalist monster?

Film City – US corner – Capitalist Monster

Sometimes I felt like that when people reacted to me as if I had an infectious disease when our guides forbid me to make contact. Relating to someone looking at something not on the official itinerary was like spying for them. Our two permanent guides were true red spirit children of the the North Korean Communist Party.

I realized that Korean names were difficult to remember, I didn’t relate to the people by their name. So got myself to pronounce the name of my female guide – she was very surprised when I called her the first time by her name – it went some way but wasn’t quite enough.

Then, traveling through the North Korean Peninsula to the East Coast of Wonsan, walking from the port to the lighthouse, I bought a big bag of sea shells from divers on a rudimentary black market – not for her! but to make her mother a present. My spontaneous act turned out to be a useful gesture. Over her mother I could relate personally to her, she told me the next morning that her mother never got such beautiful shells before, that she would prepare them and the whole family would get together – but it was no ice-braker either.

Some time later we visited the Grand People’s Palace, the National Library. This enormous marble palace, a reading and learning center of North Korea, also had a audio department containing the largest collection of folk music from all over the world – KIM IL SUNG’S favorite pet project. The audio room was filled with dozens of desks and radio sets. From the vast selection of  Swiss songs we chose the yodel “Min Vatr isch en Appezöller…”.

Grand People's Palace – audio department

Ursula – surprised to hear Swiss folk music – immediately started to yodel too. Her voice was so catching that our female guide began to yodel too. This finally turned the page – Tung Hui was still yodeling the next day… . Swiss yodel finally broke the ice.

How to remove the sting of being a spy?

It didn’t mean that from this day on I could do what I wanted but it removed the dangerous sting of being a spy, a snake in the grass. Something in the emotional fabric had changed for the better as I found out when we departed from Pyongyang airport.

MUSHROOMS and OASIS

springtime PICKINGS from my DPRK DIARY 11.–21. April 2011

Ryugyong Hotel, Construction start 1987, still vacant – Unfinished Mushroom

Monuments, statues, monoliths, murals to the KIMS, the North Korean military and the Juche Idea are sprouting like mushrooms in Pyongyang.

Relaxing after the relentless propaganda I take a few free, unobserved minutes to follow a mother and her child in a nearby park as they cross a bridge over a little pond.

PANMUNJON – It is 70km to Seoul

Panmunjon - Tomb of lost hope - View to the South Korean side

North Korean war photo from the Armistice Talks Hall at the DMZ

North Korean propaganda officer “welcomes“ Ursula at KPA post

CHEJU-honeymoon-dream PICKINGS from my NORTH KOREAN DIARY 11.–21. April 2011

The wishful thinking of reunification obscures the fact that North and South Korea are light-years apart. Social and economic realities of the two Koreas’ are differently cycle-controlled. But both seem to have adopted the rule: If reunification is not working, stick to it anyhow!

We join a group of Chinese tourists - In the background the entrance to the Demilitarized Zone DMZ

Arriving at the KPA post just outside the DMZ we join a group of Chinese tourists. We were picked up by a soldier in his thirties – in charge of propaganda – who took us to the Armistice Talks Hall where negotiations were held from 1951 till the signing of the final ceasefire accord on 27 July 1953.

At the Armistice Talks Hall we got a lecture on the Korean war. The Chinese group applauded and agreed with the remarks of our North Korean soldier.

The Korean nation is divided along the 38th parallel into North and South Korea

As we had experienced before, Chinese tourists had more leeway and could move more freely which rubbed off on us two. Whatever the Chinese were allowed to do at the 38th parallel we could do also: we got more photo opportunities, were allowed to visit to the toilet in the official border building finding out that the toilets didn’t work because of electricity shortage.

I asked the North Korean army man when he would like to marry. He said “after reunification, maybe next year“. He thought it would not take longer than 2 to 3 years at the most. He would then go on honeymoon to the famous Cheju island in the South Korean sea.

North Koreans’ believe that KIM IL SUNG liberated them and that South Korea is still occupied by the US army up to now.

Ursula in front of the North Korean version of the final armistice treaty which was signed on 27 July 1953. The text goes like this: “On July 27 1953, the American imperialists got down on their knees in front of the heroic North Korean people and signed here the ceasefire for the war they had provoked.“

To them, the Americans were – and still are – the aggressor who started the war but finally had to succumb to the North Korean forces. Of the two Koreas’ they believe, it is them who live in a free and democratic state since 1953.

The countryside at the 38th parallel

The eerily soundless environment oft he DMZ was only interrupted by our lively Chinese tourist group.

North Korean propaganda officer elaborates on Panmunjon DMZ with an illustration that totally belittles the death-zone and the extremely heavy fortified border strip which makes escaping impossible

It’s a unique experience to see things from a North Korean perspective. The population is hermetically cut of from all outside influence and can not imagine how different the world is outside of North Korea. In their opinion it is just a matter of time until the American aggressor is defeated and the capitalist system of South Korea collapses. It’s like somebody kicking the can down the road but the can is getting heavier, the distortions more difficult to hide. The danger of a total collapse of the systems shows itself in the military posturing and in the harsh Gulag style atmosphere within DPRK.

KIM IL SUNG’S Homecoming, DPRK

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

The huge Mosaic illustrates KIM IL SUNG’S triumphant Homecoming after he “liberated Korea from Japan” at the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945.

Jürg shooting KIM IL SUNG'S homecoming mural

It shows in great detail how the young KIM is addressing an enthralled crowd.

The story though as it is presented on the mural omits the fact that it was not KIM IL SUNG and his partisans who liberated Pyongyang but STALIN and his Soviet army. In 1945 though, the partisans of KIM IL SUNG gave full credit to the UDSSR.

With this vast mural KIM IL SUNG celebrates the defeat of the Japanese army

This larger than life-size Mosaic is located not far from the Triumphal Arch in Pyongyang.

The Triumphal Arch of Pyongyang is the largest in the world, he is 3m higher than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

“KINGDOM of KIM“

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

Film City – "rea"l street cleaners

The film sites have a 1930’s Chinese street, a Japanese street, a US corner, a South Korean quarter and a bizarre selection of European architecture. They have three focuses: against the American Aggressor, the anti-Japanese struggle and the fight against the occupied capitalist and decadent South Korea. Watch out for signs of Massage Parlors that illustrate their South Korean compatriots’ decadence.

KIM IL SUNG visited Cinema City about 20 times in his lifetime to give on-the-spot advice to North Korean filmmakers. KIM JONG IL has a passion for cinema, thanks to his lifelong interest, the film industry is well financed. He dropped in over 600 times to give direction to the film studios.

Film City – American street corner, against the US-aggressor

But the North Korean filmmakers could not satisfy his vision. When their performance did not improve, KIM JONG IL didn’t hesitate to take other steps, orchestrated by himself.

Film City – Lactogen – Prepared in Austr...

Massage Parlors that illustrate their South Korean compatriots' decadence

Choe Eun-hui, a South Korean movie actress, was the first being kidnapped in HongKong by KIM JONG IL’S secret agents in 1978. Her husband, the South Korean film director Shin Sang-kowho flew immediately from Seoul to Hongkong to look for his wife, was soon after kidnapped and brought to Pyongyang too. The fanatic movie buff KIM JONG IL, who likes Rambo and James Bond movies, wanted the South Korean film director to make “good“ movies for North Korea. After almost five years in the Gulag for trying to escape twice, Shin Sang-ko made several movies. One of them is probably the most famous North Korean film called “Pulgasari“, a socialist version of “Godzilla“, though the North Koreans deny that he was involved.

In 1986, the couple were given the permission to travel for the first time abroad. They went to a film festival in Vienna and though they were followed by North Korean secret agents they managed to enter the US embassy and asked for asylum eight years after having been abducted.

Film City – Bizarre selection of European architecture

“over the rainbow“ – International Friendship Exhibition Shrine of KIM IL SUNG in the hills of Mt Myohyang

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

KIM IL SUNG'S spectacular warehouse of gifts of fellow communist dictators

The International Friendship Exhibition Shrine IFE of The Eternal President KIM IL SUNG is a vast traditional building without windows, containing 120 rooms with over 100’000 gifts presented to him by fraternal foreign leaders from many parts of the world.

The hills of Mt Myohyang are quite beautiful

The pompous building is located in a idyllic landscape in the hills of Mt Myohyang. Before we enter the vast shrine we have to put on plastic shoe covers and are asked to show reverential attitude. We have to pass a metal detector inside and to hand over all photo and video cameras.  Taking pictures is strictly forbidden. My iPhone was already sealed.

Ursula was “honored“ to open the huge doors that led us inside the temple like monument after she put on ceremonial gloves to protect the golden shine of the door knob. Beside our “permanent” guide we were joined by a local guide who took us – thankfully – only through some dozen of the 120 enormous gift rooms. KIM IL SUNG’s gifts are like Tales from a Crypt, especially the steel armoured train carrier by his mentor and protector Mao Zedong and the three limousine cars by his close friend Joseph Stalin are noteworthy (sorry no photo).

The presentation of the local guide is almost religious, the atmosphere in the windowless temple-like monument is sombre as we walk the over-polished corridors, our shoes in plastic covers. Suddenly, the tone of our local guide gets very serious and emotional. She opens the door to the most surreal of all rooms, to the final room of the exhibit. The over-life-sized waxwork of  “The Eternal President“ KIM IL SUNG – a gift from the Chinese leadership – is standing in a bucolic 3D landscape with birdsong and shopping center music. We are asked to bow our heads respectfully before leaving the room. Our local guide is moved to tears. Steps to make “The Eternal President“ KIM IL SUNG into a divine figure were highly obvious analogous to the Egyptian Pharao.

At the end of the tour through the windowless temple-like Palace, up on the terrace, we have a fabulous view of the surrounding hills of Mt Myohyang.

Below shot of the warehouse roof

Up on the terrace...

We are asked to talk about our experience with “The Eternal President“ and write down our feelings which Ursula dutifully did.

Our “permanent“ guide translates Ursula's feelings into Korean to be published in the eternal guestbook

Our “permanent“ guide translated Ursula’s handwriting for the “eternal“ guestbook of KIM IL SUNG’S International Friendship Exhibition Shrine.

On the other side of KIM IL SUNG’S “warehouse of gifts“ is a similarly pompous warehouse where KIM YONG IL’S gifts are stored.

We chose to have lunch

Lunch at Myohyangsan

We choose to have lunch at the government restaurant close by instead of visiting KIM YONG IL’S shrine of gifts. Sitting all alone in a huge building without electricity in a cold eating hall, being served by two waitresses and surrounded by a grand idyllic wall painting, I regret not having visited the second warehouse-temple-like building of KIM IL SUNG’S son KIM YONG IL.

They say that parts of the exhibit show row after row of wide-screen televisions and stereo equipment donated to “My Dear Leader“ by industrialists of foreign countries. Like KIM IL SUNG’S warehouse-temple , KIM YONG IL’S ends with his statue (which I also missed unfortunately).

Grand idyllic wall paintings are in many public buildings

The taste of the past was remarkably odd.

The SNAKE in the GRASS

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

KIM IL SUNG at the Grand People's Study House

It’s NOT a lie! No, I don’t say they lie at me. It is a different frame of mind, sometimes it is an anxious state of mind that dictates them and their actions, other times it looks like utter confusion or just paranoia in hiding.

It is the dictum of “The Eternal President“ KIM IL SUNG – the only statesman on earth who remains President even  after his death in 1994 that is of utmost importance.

KIM IL SUNG at the Grand People's Study House

KIM IL SUNG – The Eternal President

He and his son KIM JONG IL, called “My Dear Leader“, are telling Right from Wrong, Good from Bad. They decide what is real and what has to be banned, who is sent to the university or to the work camp, to the labor camp or to the gulag. KIM IL SUNG and KIM JONG IL have a six-decade grip on power.

KIM IL SUNG with local guide in the entrance of the Grand People's Study House

All in the Family - KIM IL SUNG “The Eternal President" and his son KIM YONG IL, called “My Dear Leader"

Our two “permanent“ guides work under the spell of this government-mind-set, they tell me that the local shops are closed when they are open, that people don’t like to make contact with a foreigner when in fact they wish just that. They change our itinerary every day but if we want to make an additional stop, it’s impossible.

This gentle local guide liked my questions, Agricultural University, Wonsan area

They make me feel like a disobedient child who doesn’t quite get it when I keep asking questions or like a snake in the grass when I make photos of simple life events.

Fear is guiding the system. The world of DPRK is under a delusion.

The hinge joint is the personality cult.

My guess is that “Big Brother“ will tell them. China holds the key to the future of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

BREAKFAST at a SOVIET SANATORIUM

Our local guide and receptionist at a formerly Soviet spa

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

At lovely lake Si Jung, the sanatorium is tucked away...

We are located in a old Soviet-type sanatorium at lake Si Jung outside Wonsan which was built  in the early 1960s, when North Korea grew rapidly. During that time a chain of resorts were built all over the Soviet Empire for the Communist Partys’ leading members to visit and consult each other, relax and go hunting.

Built on an artificial lake, the sanatorium is tucked away behind the road but close enough to the sea with a view to the mountains we had just passed. It offered privacy to the communist party members of the Soviet Empire from Georgia to Kazakhstan, from Moscow to Kyrgyzstan. Tourists nowadays pay for their upkeep (since almost no communist party boss is left over “from the good old times“ and those from China and North Korea most likely prefer more comfort.).

From "Russia" to "Kyrgyzstan."

From the "Georgia" to "KAZAKHSTAN"

We stay at this famous spa with electricity for 3 hours in the evening, almost no running water and a special fango-pack  treatment that was cold because of a power cut.

We are the only guests and retire early to do some talking and writing. Unexpectedly at 10pm, the light goes off and we sit in the dark not quite remembering where the toilet was… .

From nowhere we jump awake at 5am next morning realising that we forgot to switch off the light… . Suddenly the electricity was back on… .

Waitress at the bar

Breakfast is at 8am. We are very well received by our waitress behind the bar which serves us a full meal under a big painting of a mountain scene close to the Chinese-North Korean border.

Oh! KIM IL SUNG!!... Oh! KIM JONG IL!!... Oh! Communist Party!