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

LIPS and LIPSTICK

Lips and Lipstick, local guide, agricultural university, Wonsan

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

Quite a lady

North Korean lips and Chinese lipstick, Kaesong City

Hairdresser at a cooperative farm, Wonsang

Local guide, Wonsan

Traveling through DPRK I come to the conclusion that, first, without Chinese help a revolt is impossible and, second, China does not lend it’s hand for an uprising. Mobility in DPRK is strictly controlled, districts, cities, villages, cooperatives are hermetically cut off, people have only shovels… indoctrination is very effective. After a disastrous currency devaluation, most people feel a lot poorer now. Hardship stifles protest.

My impression is that the Chinese don’t want to topple KIM JONG IL’S dictatorship for cynical and pragmatic reasons. They may fear that, without his ruthless grip on power, it could provoke a serious revolt and North Korea could rush inadvertently towards reunification with South Korea. A reunited Korea under Seoul leadership and allied to the US, highly developed, democratic and western oriented would make the “Chinese Teeth feel very cold“ indeed.

The Chinese tactic and strategy, it seems, is to keep the KIM’S in power, their paranoia alive and DPRK’s economy in endless decline.

They don’t want to get unpleasant things – like KIM JONG IL’S dictatorship – over and done with. In fact they detest a collapse of the system. They seem to prefer to draw out the agony: “Besser ein Schrecken ohne  Ende, als ein Ende mit Schrecken”.

The end will come but in endless and invisible small steps, unnoticeably. Then the Kim regime will come under Chinese patronage. They will help but at a price. North Korea will move into China’s orbit. China is already now buttering up the North Korean consumer – not South Korea and the West. They will keep the KIM JONG IL regime afloat and secure KIM JONG UN’S succession

Lips and Lipstick, local guide, cooperative farm, Wonsan area

The Chinese want to make sure that their North Korean lips will have Chinese make-up on. China, it seems, pays great attention that North Korean and Chinese economies will be close-knit. Beauty products are a forerunner of this strategy, the lipstick a symbol of it.

Public kiosk (not private) in Pyongyang, street vendor selling water at KIM IL SUNG'S 99th birthday – She was not allowed to sell me a glass of syrup, my “permanent" guide said NO.

For the Chinese leadership governments, dictatorships come and go. Their goal is to penetrate systems and political structures by means of production, exert influence and strengthen ties at all levels through market domination.

North Korea will become a satellite of China. This is not what the KIMS want. But there is no alternative to the regime survival of the KIM family.

Primatologist, our local guide at the showcase maternity hospital in Pyongyang

Guns, Lips and Lipstick, local guide, Pyongyang

OVERLAND in DPRK

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

“entering DPRK” by rail from China was still very much on my mind when I pressed my movie camera to the car window trying to find a stable position for shooting. Traveling from Beijing to Pyongyang by train had made a lasting impression on me. But moving overland by car through DPRK was different. Though my guides wouldn’t allow our driver to stop or even to slow down when I asked for, I still got in closer in contact to land, buildings and people.

On the Panmunjom – Pyongyang highway I got the permission from my two guides to shoot through the window. This highway is the direct access road to South Korea.

Like other highways we have passed, this one looked like an airstrip or a tank corridor too.

Fire wood - The man following on the side, the woman pulling...

Though the road was in poor condition, the car windows dirty and the circumstances very shaky, I was elated to get that chance. No cars were in sight. Sometimes people were walking on the highway.

Female farmworker

As it always happened day after day, the two guides discussed every move of us over lunch and talked daily to the main travel office in Pyongyang to get instruction.

tête-à-tête

After arrival in Pyongyang that evening, they must have discussed the filming with their superior because next day all shooting from the car window was forbidden…

Highway “DECORATIONS“, DPRK

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

Monumental concrete structures “decorate“ the highway

Ever so often we pass concrete structures on the left and right side of the highway from Panmunjon to Pyongyang . Ursula’s questions about the purpose of it, Tung Hui answers with “highway decorations“.

The entrance gate to the DMZ is made of concrete slabs which can easily be dropped as roadblocks against advancing South Korean tanks

The concrete slabs don’t look like sculptures though. They remind us much more of the entrance fortification to the DMZ. They can easily be toppled by hacking away the bottom part.

Another sample of roadblock on the way to the DMZ is the following.

Concrete road block - The wooden wedge can easily be removed

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.