KO YONG HEE – the mother of KIM JONG UN

Family PICKINGS: Ko Yong Hee was born in June in 1952 in Osaka, Japan. She was the daughter of a Korean-Japanese judomaster professional wrestler, Ko T’ae-mun. The Ko family repatriated to the DPRK via Wonsan in 1960. Ko Yong Hee joined the Mansudae Art Troupe in the early 1970s. She met Kim Jong Il around 1974. Ko Yong Hee was a popular North Korean dancer.

Ko Young Hee was Kim Jong Il’s second mistress. In official propaganda she was called “Respected Mother”

Ko-Yong-hee and Kim Jong Il had two sons, Kim Jong Chol, 1981, who, according to his father, “was no good as a successor because he was too much like a girl” and Kim Jong Un, 1983. They also had a daughter, Kim Yeo Jong, 1989. Ko-Yong-hee was reportedly Kim Jong il’s favorite wife who could prepare his favorite foods.  She also did not tolerate his mood swings and fits of depression.

Officially she died of breast cancer in August 2004.

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.

KIM JONG-UN, the “Great Successor”

"The Great Successor" salutes his father

State news broadcasts PICKINGS: North Korea has been proclaiming KIM JONG IL’S youngest son, the Swiss educated KIM JONG-UN, the “Great Successor”. At the age of thirteen, he lived under an assumed name with an employee of the North Korean Embassy in Berne, Switzerland. From 1998 – 2000, he visited the public school “Liebefeld Steinhölzli“ in Köniz.KIM JONG-UN is to become the youngest leader of a nation with a nuclear arms program. Though he was not in his homeland known, he certainly will be feared.

KIM JONG UN, second right, and his uncle, JANG SONG THAEK, at far left

His uncle, JANG SONG-TAEK, is the husband of KIM JONG IL’S sister, KIM KYONG HUI.

Kim Jong Il's sister KIM KYONG HUI

She also appears to be playing a prominent role in the shaping of the new leadership.  JANG SONG-TAEK has been promoted to general of the armed forces of DPRK.

the ULTIMATE NO!

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

There is an ultimate NO! beside other NO! and NO’S! in the Kingdom of KIM, an absolute ban on all fotos of “The Eternal President” and his son “My Dear Leader” that are not taken in full size. Pictures or portraits of KIM IL SUNG and KIM JONG IL shall not be photographed in parts. Cuts are forbidden as well as detail shots.

The KIMS live on a "different planet", the oxygen is an inane mix of mystification, paranoia and a bizarre utopia – They are totally removed from the harsh reality of daily life in North Korea

The KIMS cruel reign does also keep their lifestyle away from the screen of DPRK citizens. The inner power circle remains a mystery to the people and the KIM family itself is puzzling and elusive to the man in the street. Several times different people asked us what we knew about the women and children of KIM JONG IL. It was unknown to all of them that his youngest son KIM JONG UN – a lover of heavy drink – was named as his successor – most likely by the military commanders – and should follow in his father’s footstep. When I told them that KIM JONG IL’S second son KIM JONG CHOL was spotted at an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore they said I was lying and when I told them that I read KIM’S eldest son KIM JONG NAM was deported from Japan trying to enter the country with forged travel documents to go to Tokyo Disneyland they stopped asking…

KIM JONG UN was born on January 8, 1983. He was educated in Switzerland, as were his two older brothers. He is the son of KIM JONG IL'S third wife, Ko Yong Hi, a former dancer. She died under suspicious circumstances in 2004 – officially of cancer.

The absolute authority to exert power and the fear that surrounds the military dictatorship keeps everybody’s interest in check.

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.

TRUE CHILDREN of the PARTY

“hardcore” PICKINGS from my DPRK DIARY 11.–21. April 2011

"Koryowood", Film City – walking behind our two guides to the auditorium

It is impossible for me...

At the end of our tour through  – let’s call it KORYOWOOD (Film City), a favorite child of KIM JONG IL – we got a chance to watch a North Korean production at the auditorium. The two of us – with our two “permanent” guides sitting behind us – waited in the complete darkness while the technicians tried to start the film. It took them several attempts to get the screening going.

...to accept the promotion

In the dark I got my camera ready without being looked over my shoulders.

The love story turned out to be a pitiless propaganda piece with the purpose to drill emotions to follow the party line. It carried a wicked message for all those whose emotions threatened to override party discipline.

Indoctrination is everywhere. Sometimes it is annoying, sometimes it is painfully obvious but it can also be quite subtle. French people we met complained about constant propaganda by their guides. They wouldn’t miss an opportunity, they said, to shower them with anti-Western, specially anti-American and anti-Japanese warmongering German tourists said the same.

In this respect, our experience was different. Our guides had their hands full with saying NO to us and our appetite to make contact with North Koreans from all walks of life! They often were exasperated and didn’t know how to control our curiosity. They didn’t seem well prepared to deal with people who had no political agenda but travelled, eyes and ears open, looking for genuine life situations.

My repeated referral to China about missing travel restrictions helped to put them on the defensive too. China was the only point of reference that was relevant for them. When I told Jong Hui and Min Bing Gee, our two “permanent guides”, that in China I could could enter any supermarket and pay in local currency they were very surprised.