asia · North Korea (DPRK) · Travel

My journey into North Korea (Part 6: the weird stuff)

Hi guys, if you’ve started following me in the past few days from seeing this series, then cheers, it makes me happy knowing that people are enjoying this stuff, and there is plenty more to come.  If you’re new to this series then welcome and you can find all of the other parts here:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4 and Part 5  I hope you enjoy it:)

In the past few segments of this series I’ve covered crossing the boarder, the people, being on the roads, and the scenery of NK.  Today I’ll be writing about the weird stuff, the things that set the DPRK apart from anywhere in the world, the things that no matter how long you stare at them you find yourself thinking ‘is this real life?’.  From the wood burning trucks to the racist propaganda posters in elementary schools, it’s all a bit mental and at times hard to believe, so grab yourself a beer, sit back and enjoy this segment, I guarantee it’s going to be a weird one.  And without further ado, the rather racist propaganda on the walls of schools, I said that this was seen in an elementary school but this one was from the high school.

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The picture above shows two Korean high school students using a giant fountain pen to impale a US soldier, the general of the Japanese army and South Korean president Park Geun-hye.  This image conveys the message to young North Korean students that education is the key to defeating ‘the enemy’.  Quite racist in their depictions of the US soldier and his beak like nose.  There are also a few smaller images showing what the North Koreans believe to be the great injustices that have been laid on them by the US including mistreatment of civilians and soldiers during the Korean war and forcefully indoctrinating civilians into the Christian faith.

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What’s this you might ask? Oh, it’s just a mural of a nuclear missile surrounded by balloons…in a fucking elementary school.  They had no problem with us photographing this by the way, in fact they encouraged it as if it was something to be proud of yet it is this kind of stuff that the world finds the most strange, not the small villages or people riding bicycles that we were forbidden from photographing.

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I thought this was pretty interesting and worth a snap.  This is a globe that was found in the elementary school.  Notice that there is no separation of the Korean peninsula, no north and south, just one country.  Technically, the Korean war never ended, the 38th parallel was established and that was that.  In the mind of a lot of Koreans, Korea is Korea, one country temporarily divided.

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Another snippet of propaganda from the elementary school showing Korean children shooting snowmen that they have dressed up as what I think are supposed to be an American and and South Korean politician.  It’s insane to see propaganda this powerful in a place that is supposed to educate children under the age of 8, in fact it’s pretty abhorrent.

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Another one, this time from the high school.  I think the idea of this one is to evoke a message of power to the Korean people, in the way it shows that an American soldier has been captured by an elderly Korean man and a gang of rosy cheeked children who are all seemingly so at ease and relaxed that the elderly Korean bloke has time to chong on his pipe and the kid at the front can scold the soldier.

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On one of our excursions we were taken to a Korean food manufacturing plant, I think in an effort to reenforce the idea that people had jobs, there was a surplus of food, people ate well and it was all made possible through the power and love of the great leaders.  What we found after peering into a room was stacks of these crates from the World Food Program…I wonder if the citizens of the DPRK know how much help they receive from their enemies in the west.

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When the DPRK has the opportunity to broadcast to the world the image of their nation that they want to convey, all cameras will be on Pyongyang.  Tanks will roll down the road in great numbers, as will missile equipped artillery trucks complete with a marching army that moves with a terrifying level of synchronicity.  What you don’t see are the trucks seen in the image above, the trucks that are powered by burning wood shovelled into a furnace in the back.  These were produced during the second world war in countries where oil based fuels were scarce but forests were plentiful.  These trucks pretty much died out not long after WWII for obvious reasons, I think the last ones were made some time in the 50’s so it’s safe to say that the truck in the above image is at least 60 years old and I saw quite a lot of these in my week there.

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I didn’t actually get tired of seeing these two ‘sunshine smiles’ as they were so affectionately referred to.  They were all over the place in various forms but always sporting those pearly white cheddars.  These tributes to the leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are so quintessentially North Korean, I saw these on the news but never thought I’d get to see one in person.  I think no matter where you go in North Korea, no matter how impoverished the region, no matter if there is nothing else around you will always see at least one of these.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this segment, if anybody has any questions or any suggestions, shoot them my way.  Anyway, I’m up for work in 7 hours and I’ve stayed up far too late.  I will catch you all in the next segment, whatever topic it might be on.  I still have a hell of a lot of material on the DPRK.  Once again thanks to those who have followed and read my stuff.

Goodnight

Matt

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