“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.

North Korea is indeed FRAGILE

Loggers loading stems on carburator truck

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

Childhood memories appear from behind the couch. Korea takes me back to the 1950s. While for me it evokes nostalgic feelings, for North Koreans it represents decades of retardation ending in horrific poverty of today. To them it is a real tragedy.

The military has wooden carburator trucks too

It was in the spring of 1950 – I spent so many months of my childhood in the hills of South Germany that I became almost a native, speaking the local dialect – I was kneeling beside Franz who was fixing the wooden carburator of his tractor at the farmhouse, waiting to go to the forest with him and his brother Hans… .

Sixty-one years later in April 2011, hiking in the woods of Mt Myohyang 150 km

Loggers in Mt Myohyang

north of Pyongyang, I was taking photos of “deja vu“, six forest workers, uploading stems when back in 1950, there were two men who did the job and an infant watching… .

I came across many wood carburators on the highways we traveled, giving weight to my observation that North Korea suffers a severe transportation problem and energy shortage. The “Holzvergaser“ trucks

A mysterious fragrance contrasted by a dreadful reality

dating to the 1950s and 1960s of the former USSR often broke down on the highway.

I did not see gas stations in the cities nor on the highways. When our driver got gasoline, he dropped us together with one guide on the roadside and left for 15 minutes to fill up his tank. We were not allowed to be present at government gas stations, neither in Pyongyang nor in any other city.

“Holzvergaser“ truck on a side road we have no access

Gasoline shortage was clearly evident where ever we traveled on the East and West Coast. Transportation means for the lower level of the population are in a precarious state, 1950s UDSSR-made vehicles.

Wooden carburator, military truck