BE AFRAID … “to the ends of earth and heaven“

glass coffin PICKINGS – born-of-god KIM JONG IL is dead

The North’s official news agency, K.C.N.A., reported that coal production in the past three days shot up radically because miners “rose up heroically, turning their grief into strength and courage.”

MY DEAR LEADER surrounded by his special flower Kimjongilia, a begonia bred by Japanese botanist Mototeru Kamo and presented to KIM JONG IL as a birthday present in 1988.

the top five titles KIM JONG IL heldgeneral secretary of the ruling Workers’ Partychairman of the party’s Central Military Commissionpresidium member of the Politburochairman of the National Defense Commissionsupreme commander of the armed forces. The country honours him with a 10m-high rock carving on Mount Sokda in the south west calling him “PEERLESS PATRIOT”.

KIM JONG IL is expected to become the next client for embalming experts at the Research Institute for Biological Structures in Moscow.

Vladimir Lenin has been preserved for almost 90 years

He will join join the exclusive club of Communist tyrants like LENIN, STALIN, MAO ZEDONG and HO CHI MINH whose bodies have been pickled for posterity by Russian specialists. The maintenance of the body is said to cost more than $1 million a year. A secretive group of Russian technicians is said to travel to North Korea regularly to look after KIM IL SUNG  his father, “The Eternal President”.


“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. 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.

PUPLIC WORKS in progress, DPRK

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

Public Works at the Cooperative Model-Farm, Wonsan-area, DPRK. Work in the main square of the Cooperative Model-Farm began when we passed by Kim IL Sung’s one-liner column.

Coincidence or showcase-project?

Coincidence or showcase project for us, the local guide didn’t particularly like it when I stayed back to take some photos and video. The workers noticed that something was not to the liking of my local guide and left.

Not quite sure...

I have to follow my two guides to make the tour around the Cooperative Model-Farm.

Please follow us...

KIM IL SUNG with his son KIM JONG IL at the Cooperative Model-Farm

I see the big mural art and listen to the history of the Farm, Kim IL Sung’s pet – like every project I have seen – all carried his portrait and his writing: hospitals, universities, railway stations, factories…  . At the hair salon I got my long wished-for hair cut.

Back at the square, work is in progress...

As we continued our tour, surprisingly, the workers were back in the main square beautifying the socle of Kim Il Sung’s thoughts. Work is in progress, mixing cement could not be interrupted, the job has to be finished. Though my guides press me to follow them, I finish my job too.


Toddler group at the children's home

He will see significant changes within his lifetime

The next generation

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

Martial education starts at the toddler’s level. From “Womb to Tomb”: DISCIPLINE, SUBMISSION and DEVOTION to the Eternal President KIM IL SUNG, no stepping out of line, without queue-jump.

up and running

On the playground

Cooperative Model-Farm


“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

WONSAN – port city on the EAST SEA of DPRK

Wonsan reflects real North Korean life

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

Soldier catches a cab



Wonsan - not the usual destination

is a pleasant surprise to me though it doesn’t seem to be a big draw for foreign tourists – we were the only 2 in town. It is a popular holiday resort for North Koreans in summer judged by the two big government owned hotels I see, both second class. It has a Childrens Camp for 2000 students and a beautiful old fashioned parc. Wonsan seems to be the centre of learning on the east coast with 10 universities.

Wonsan - center of learning - students' morning class

We visited the University of Agriculture, the Cooperative Model-Farm, the Childrens Camp, the local Gallery, the little island, the cloth shop.

After “sudden snow“ we had lunch at the Tourist Restaurant in Wonsan, by  North Korean standards a smallish and cosy place with a wood-burning stove which was in use, a friendly service and the best food I got in North Korea.

After “sudden snow" the stove comes in handy

At the restaurant in Wonsan - The stove is on

SEA SHELLS… and misunderstandings

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

Needless to say that if you wish to loose weight, eat SEA SHELL. Our driver offered me 4 kg of sea shell from the black market.

Black Market in North Korea!!! I must buy them! 4 kg cost 20 Euro which most likely was a month salary for some diver in Wonsan.

Most effective for sliming...

My driver was a nice guy he said he would grill them in the evening. That’s what he really did. When we arrived for the “grill party” at 7pm (sorry no photos) he had siphoned off a bottle of gasoline from the tank of his car, poured it over the outspread shells, took his cigarette lighter, lit the pile and soon the shells cracked open. I loved every one of them and ate as many as I could.

Three days later Tong Hui said that I walk “like a woman”! I felt dead sick. I had lost three kilos…(sorry, no photo).

But I got her wrong. I was mistaken in the belief that she had taken note of my misery which had slowed down my “restless eye”somewhat. She didn’t feel sorry for my physical condition.

"You move like a woman"!

To the contrary: She had observed my work habit during the last few days and let me feel that she knew what I was doing when I moved at snails’ pace gently forward, step by step to achieve a balance, holding the movie camera down, the monitor closed, looking to the other side while filming or taking a photo.

I was under constant surveillance. But I kept my focus obscured which made it difficult for her to see what I filmed, what photo I took, and to say NO to my activities.

Obscured Focus - difficult to deal with...

EAST SEA – port of Wonsan, DPRK

East Sea, Wonsan, DPRK

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

Army girls strolling back from the little island

On the way to a mini island which is not on our itinerary I approach three army girls strolling back from the light tower.

There is no life in North Korea…without at least two guides. Behind Ursula – in front of her walks Tong Hui, our female guide – I cross the small footbridge with our male guide in tow.

I follow them with our male guide behind me

In front of Ursula walks Tong Hui, our female guide.

The footbridge leads us to the landing stage of the fishing boats. People are not particularly friendly, we have to pay 1 Euro to cross the footbridge. Our guides don’t want to go further. But we do. They have no instruction to visit the island and no budget. I pay one Euro.

...a minuscule black market...

The female divers we meet along the gangway to the lighthouse are camera shy, their men, for whom they work, are openly hostile, the girls who sell drinks don’t want to be photographed.

She sells drinks

I have an idea...

Slowly I get it: we have entered a minuscule black market!

Less than happy...

To brake the “icy climate” I have an idea. I buy a big bag full of shells for the mother of Tong Hui! As we say in German I get “Zwei Fliegen auf einen Schlag”: the locals suddenly warm up and our female guide is surprised. She is excited, sea shells in Pyongyang are hard to come by – and a foreigner who makes a present to her mother, that has never happened to her and her mother before.

Having lunch  in a nearby restaurant at noon, I tell my guide to get ice. “Ice, why ice?” she asks. She didn’t understand what I wanted the ice for  – and I assumed the kitchen had ice in the fridge. The restaurant had a fridge but no electricity during the day…

“No ice?” Our driver had no problem with that. He put the bag in the trunk of our car… .

Two days later, back in Pyongyang, I cautiously asked Tong Hui if her mother was fine. My worries were completely unfounded. The sea shells were a real “ice-breaker”. Something little in the “chemistry“ had suddenly changed.

Port of Wonsan

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