Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Report from North Korea (II) 去北朝鲜旅游:报告(II)

The second day we left the hotel and go by bus to the center of the city. We took pictures of the National Library (really cool one, looks like a little part of Chinese Forbidden City) and some monuments. Mr. Jin demanded us to buy flower (one euro for bouquet) to put in front of the Mansuade Grand Monument (huge bronze statue of “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung and dozens of farmers, soldiers and workers fighting for the socialist revolution in Korea). Than he demanded us to bow, in sign of respect. It has been really embarrassing for me, if I think of how many people died in Italy for my freedom and to avoid that in 2009 an Italian could still bow in front of any mother fucker. But still, I didn’t want to give any problem to Mr. Jin, and watching around I saw huge groups of Korean workers marching as soldiers, forming precise teams and bowing in front of their leader. And here the ancestral question: is it belief in something or fear for something else?!

Not far from Mansuade Grand Monument there is the Chollima statue, the Korean mythical horse.
Streets in the center of Pyongyang are really big, not many cars, lot of people dressing all the same (western dark suit or poor dark clothes), walking in the same direction, not easy to find someone talking or smiling, but of course there is someone doing that. I hope. What is pretty strange are a huge amount of kids walking as well, but alone, with no adults or parents, just going, sometime with other kids, sometime alone, often carrying sacks. A lot of soldiers along the streets, most of them holding rifles or machine guns. There are no traffic lights, I mean, there are, but they don’t work, I think cause of the power shortage; instead of them there are many traffic watchers, a kind of policeman who act as a robot telling to the cars (one to one! As I told you there are no many cars…) when to go and when to stop. Most of them are women. Beautiful women.
For the whole tour a man with a camcorder stayed with us, in the bus and during the visit, filming us all the day, but Mr. Jin told us it was to make a video-souvenir of our trip in DPRK. I haven’t bought the video.

Next stop is Myohyangsan Mountain. Two hours by bus from Pyongyang. We had the opportunity to have a look about the landscape, countryside and farmers’ life out of Pyongyang. The “highway” is pretty fucked up, but it’s not a problem cause there are no cars. Only soldiers and people walking along the highway, with horses and cows sometime. We are on March, so the weather was cold (minus 6 degrees in Pyongyang) and the landscape nothing special, only bare countryside and farmers apparently “doing nothing”. Sometime you can see teams of workers (common people I think, not farmers) organized together to dig and excavate something, under the flag of DPRK; most of them were smoking or chilling out, dirty of mud, holding red flags, using raw tools. Children are working as well. But, as many Chinese children who lives in Italy do when they are discovered by Italian police, they could say “I’m just helping my parents with their job!”.

During the trip by bus Mr. Jin was happy to introduce and explain us North Korean social and political situation. It sound more like a propaganda, he never stopped using terms like “great leader” and “American imperialism”, making comparison with Mao’s socialist China and other socialist developed countries. It sound like he tried to justify DPRK’s conditions with proud, showing us that: North Korea has no U.S. military posts (Italy has!), no prostitution, no drug, no unemployment, no pollution, no homeless, and everyone is happy in living in and working for the socialist paradise. I don’t know how, but I succeeded in not asking anything or making comments, but Mr. Guang, who was sitting a long of me, could not and said something like “Stop with these bullshits, your country looks like China during Cultural Revolution, poor and militarized! No freedom, no food and Party control”. Mr. Jin began a long discussion with him, saying it’s only a point of view and that DPRK chose its own destiny and still fight against American imperialism for a unite Korea.

At Myohyangsan Mountain we visited the Pujian Temple and the International Friendship Exhibition. The latter is a huge museum under the mountain (to avoid air attacks!) where are collected all the presents and gifts foreign presidents, parties and organizations gave to Kim Jong-il (son of the “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung and general secretary of Workers’ Party and chairman of Defence Commission) during last years. The museum looks like an Empire Palace and it’s forbidden to take pictures inside. Gifts came from all the part of the world (many from Italy, for example) and Mr. Jin focused on the fact that in other countries (like in Italy, for example!!) most of the leaders receive gifts from foreign visitors and take them for themselves while Kim Jong-il takes them for his country and his people. Well, about this, he was not completely wrong. But Mr. Guang didn’t stop to make fun of this “puppet country”, that looks, in his opinion, exactly like China thirty years ago.

Back in Pyongyang we have seen the Friendship Tower (a place foreign leaders and visitors use to go, bring flowers and leave some words on a big book inside the tower), Arch of Triumph and a huge stadium, were boys and girls were playing and were workers were bringing flowers and bowing to don’t know what kind of monument or slogan. The city is full of portraits of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il Song. And full of their slogan and catchphrase. I can’t speak or read Korean but you can understand they are slogan because most of them finish with a exclamation mark and have close to them some draw of political propaganda like Soviet Union and China had before.

Mr. Jin decided suddenly (?!) to bring us to visit a school in Pyongyang. Of course everything was planned and organized. Anyway, the school was not bad, it has many classes, classrooms, instrumentation and rooms for physic and musical activities. Portraits of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were everywhere. Some girls looks like a little bit scared watching a western tourist like me. A performance of a dozen of girls, singing and playing different instruments has been set up for us. Mr. Jin told us that a person who can not sing or dance is not a real Korean. So, I am not. At the end of the performance the girls called us to dance, I refuse but Mr. Jin demanded me to do that, otherwise it means I don’t respect them. So I danced. Maybe it’s only my personal opinion, but I think 99% of Korean girls are beautiful, and Tom and Wu agree with me. Before leaving, Mr. Guang gave some sweets to the girls, but seems like they didn’t appreciate it. Maybe they are not young enough for candies or maybe there were expecting for money. Outside we gave thank to the teacher and saw some students playing football while other were working as masons to construct I don’t know what kind of pillars.

Before the dinner, Mr. Jin showed us a serial of big bronze set of soldiers statues (DPRK army categories) in a park, memory of the war in 1950/1953.

After that Mr. Jin brought us to a shop full of Korean souvenirs; prices were not expensive at all, but I guess it was a place only for foreigners. I bought a small DPRK flag brooch for 0.5 euro and a carton of North Korean cigarettes for 5 euro. After dinner, back to he hotel. Beer and cigarettes in this tall hotel, isolated from the rest of the city, from the rest of the country.