SPY and SUSPECT – all in one

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

In North Korea, everybody is a spy and at the same time a suspect. Even if there is no reason to believe that something is wrong, to suspect something behind something, it seems to me, is an “official duty” that drives the system. We tourists are constantly watched, but we are not the primary suspects in this game. Tourists are the fat cows that have to be milked and guided through the “idyllic pastures” of KIM’S make-believe world. Total national isolation from the outside world, suspicion, mistrust and denial within the country, self censorship and total restraint – based on severe punishment – make this illusory world survive.

From afar, looking over the “facade”-city of Pyongyang from the 37th floor of the Yanggakdo Hotel, I get the impression that the KIMS are in a private war with practically everybody. In this treacherous spiderweb world of paranoia where emotions are enslaved to the communist party everyone is suspect.

It is the main task of all our guides, “permanent” and local ones, to keep up the myth that DPRK is a normal country and Pyongyang a modern almost western like capital. But whenever we engage with someone they cut off contact. If we don’t give in, pretend not to understand they threatened us that all our material, fotos and films, would be checked and deleted at the airport upon departure – because in case of problems the guides are the suspects, they will suffer and maybe their family members too.

The MEANING of “SPY” – electric fence, DPRK

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

...fence and concrete blocks...in more isolated places...

When we go to a beachfront, we have the urge to put our feet in the water and take a swim.

On closer examination...

But there were two things we hadn’t reckoned with: We were on the road in North Korea, we couldn’t stop when WE wanted…

I could not verify my suspicion...

…and the beach outside of Wonsan had a fence in more remote places and concrete blocks that made the access to or from the sea impossible. The concrete pillars were bent towards the sea, giving the impression that some hostile foreign action had to be prevented like keeping out South Korean spies from landing. But a second look at the fortification triggered the idea that it was the other way around.

Concrete blocks against a South Korean invasion - Could it be the other way around?

Could government propaganda about the imminent danger of a “barbaric invasion“ by South Korean spies not camouflage the real threat that North Koreans could flee their homeland in small boats at the dead of night? I could not verify my suspicion… . I saw soldiers repairing holes in the fence but missed to make the photo. In some areas there was a inner fence too.