Archive for July, 2006

China Seeks U.N. Title to Mt. Baekdu

Monday, July 31st, 2006

From the Donga:

The Chinese Government is hurriedly working on making the world recognize Mt. Baekdu (or Mt. Changbai in Chinese) as Chinese territory.

The Wenhui Newspaper of Hong Kong reported on July 30 that China has decided to register Mt. Baekdu on the World Geopark list designated by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Jilin Provincial Government of China has so far made efforts to get Mt. Baekdu registered as a world natural heritage site by the year 2008 when Jilin hosts the general assembly of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. It might be fair to call this the “Mt. Baekdu Project” of incorporating the old territory of Goguryeo, an ancient Korean kingdom, into Chinese history, as it follows the Northeast Asia Project that focused on incorporating its history into China’s.

Back in 1980, China got Mt. Baekdu designated as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) zone; the State Council designated Mt. Baekdu as a national-level natural protection zone in 1986 and has since managed it.

Mt. Baekdu has long been managed by the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, where people of Korean origin collectively reside. Last year, the Jilin Provincial Government established the “Committee for Protection, Development and Management of Mt. Changbai,” an organization directly belonging to the provincial government and responsible for management of the mountain.

In a meeting with the “First Delegation of Chinese Internet Journalists Visiting Jilin” on July 22, Vice Director Li Zhanwun of the Committee said, “Mt. Changbai ranked second out of 17 places on the preliminary list of the nation’s cultural and natural heritage that the National Construction Ministry announced for the first time in January. Protection and development of the areas near Mt. Changbai has entered a new phase of development.”

The Committee plans to inject two billion Yuan (approximately 240 billion won) to develop the western slope of Mt. Baekdu on the Chinese side and open it around the year starting 2007.

Mt. Changbai Airport, which is currently being constructed in Fusong County 36 kilometers away from the North Korean border, is scheduled to open before the 2008 Beijing Olympics begins. The Jilin Provincial Government is also sparing no investment to expand the transportation networks near Mt. Baekdu, and is planning to complete construction of the Mt. Changbai Eastern Railroad, three highway networks and circular roadways in the next three years.

The Chinese National Tourism Agency and the Jilin Provincial Government recently held the first tourism festival near Mt. Baekdu; they are also active in attracting tourists from Russia and other foreign countries by holding the Yanbian Korean ethnic exposition. They also seek to stimulate the economy by developing mineral water in the areas nearby Mt. Baekdu and expanding cultivation of ginseng there.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is reportedly seeking to register as UNESCO world cultural heritage the remnants of the Sanggyeong Yongcheonbu, which is the old capital of another ancient Korean kingdom—Balhae—located in the Bohai Bay, Ningan City, Heilongjiang Province.


DPRK Travel – 2005

Monday, July 31st, 2006

August 15, 2006 was the 60th anniversary of the end of world War II.  In North Korea this date is known as the “Victory over Japanese Imperialism,” when the Great Leader, President Kim il Sung, defeated the Japanese colonialists and liberated the Koreans from servitude–or something like that.   In honor of this auspicious date Pyongyang hosted the Arirang Mass Games. 

As an American, I could not travel as a tourist to see the games.  Therefore, to see them I had to be a member of a cultural delegation (visas issued by separate ministries).  So despite what had happened on my previous visit, I signed up to join the KFA on another delegation trip.  The irony is that starting in October 2005 the North Koreans began allowing American tourists to enter the country to see the Mass Games, and they have done so each year since.

Aside from my pictures, here are others from Naerna (1,2,3,4), Bjornar’s, and some othersMana Sapmak has good pictures taken on the KFA business delegation shortly after my trip.  Jason LaBouyer was interviewed at Berkeley.  Someone with Koryo tours also took these photos.  Also, the KFA wrote all about it in their defunct publication, Lodestar.

As in the previous year, I left Beijing on an Air Koryo flight to Pyongyang.  This year, I tried to get some pictures of the stewardesses (which is not easy). The only memorable event on this flight was the ENORMOUS French (or Belgian) man sitting across the aisle from me.  He was so fat that his meal tray could not be lowered over his voluminous stomach.  The poor stewardess did not know what to do when it came time to feeding him.  I am not sure if he even got to eat his generous Air Koryo meal.  When we landed in Pyongyang, I was one of the last to leave the plane.  While waiting for a bus to carry me to the terminal, I noticed an interesting way that Air Koryo staff supplement their incomes…

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Since this was a celebration event, there were many DPRK solidarity groups, of which the KFA was just one, we stayedin the Yangdakdo Hotel (A big improvement over our stay in the Sosan Hotel the previous year).  At the Yangdakdo Hotel, there was a ceremony to present gifts to the Leader, and several members of the KFA did just that.  The senior members of the KFA also sang a song.  What was interesting to note was the attitude of the Koreans to this spectacle.  Many foreigners made long speeches when they presented their gifts, but several Koreans were literally complaining about all the hot air coming out of these foreigners’ mouths.  They were literally of the opinion “Come on, no need to talk so much.” All of these gifts will someday be on display in Mt. Myohyangsan International Friendship Exhibition, including David’s miniature Statue of Liberty!

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1. This picture was taken at the KFA meeting in Beijing, which I did not attend.
2. KFA members are into wearing as many badges as they can.  Photographed here is the coveted “Gold” KFA membership badge, reserved for the KFA leadership-Alejandro, Bjornar, Jason, and Mana.

Grand People’s Study House
The next morning, we awoke to discover that the “senior” KFA members had all left town to fly to Mt. Pektu for the commemoration of a new monument.  This left everyone else in the group to get to know each other out from under the watchful eye of the senior KFAers.  There were plenty of other KFAers there taking notes on us, however, and this was fine with me–all part of the experience.  (Once I got the details afterwards, the trip to Pektusan did not sound like much fun).  The first tourist stop for those of us “left behind” was the Grand Peoples’ Study House.  It was fun to visit again and see the place for the second time.  We walked into an English class being taught by a Canadian.  She was paid in Euros and lived in the central district.  She was recruited from China apparently.  Check out the notes from one of her students below.

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Kim Il Sung Square
Since it was summer time, the “good” school children were out in the square practicing for a march in October.  They were already pretty far along.  In the few minutes I watched them, they accomplished several complex transitions.  One of my guides, Mr. Han, said “you can do this with a very organized society, and Korea is very organized.”  No doubt.  These kinds of activities keep children occupied in groups throughout their summer break.  Idle hands, after all…

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1. “100 battles, 100 victories”
2. “1000 times-don’t waste good abilities–protect and use them”

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1. Long Live the Dongjie (Comrade Kim Jong Il)

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National History Museum
Afterwards, we visited the Natural History Museum on the square.  Nothing too memorable about it except they had a mock up of the world’s first iron clad ship.  Also, I got a chance to practice with the children briefly out on the square.

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Moranbong Middle School
This trip to Moranbong was not as memorable as last year’s visit.  School had already let out for the day, so the place was half empty.  The children did put on a small show for us.  I think I even recognized a few (I still have not compared the pictures).  I tried to convince the girl playing the guitar to let me borrow it so I could play some songs, but she would not let go of it.  I was a little disappointed.  I doubt these kids have heard any “Nirvana,” and I was itching to jam with them.  One other interesting note, Pyongyang’s neighborhoods still burn all their own refuse.  I guess this is why I never saw a garbage man or a landfill.  We did see a burning facility outside the school next to a playground.

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1. “Celebrate”
2. “Lets everybody support the slogans and be good students in school” “Let’s learn from Kim Il Sung when he was young”


1. Ten rules students should have to know: 1.  Revere Kim Il Sung and Kin jong Il 2. think about the group as the most important 3. You have to love your “Dongmu” 4.You must be very respectful 5.We have to use respectful language to each other 6.You have to be respectful in public 7.Remember the traffic rules 8.When you are in school you have to obey the rules 9. You have to always be clean and keep your area clean 10. You have to act like the new generation of Juche Korea

2. The Juche Idea is shining through the whole world.  The 21st century is the Kim Jong Il century.

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1. The world of physics

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1. Lets be like young soldiers loyal to Kim Jong Il

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1. Lets finish our drama quickly

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Pyongyang Circus
The Pyongyang circus was on my 2005 wish list, so I was happy to see it.  I sat close to Mr. Han, who explained some of the humor to me.  It was interesting to hear him describe a skit about a ration coupon without actually knowing how to convey the idea of it in English.  The acrobats were fine, but required safety strings–something that would never fly at Ringling Brothers.

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1. The everything circus

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Pyongyang Maternity Hospital
The maternity hospital was also on my wish list for the trip.  To be honest, I thought it was a show piece.  The doctors would all put on their hats and look busy when we entered the room.  The patients all had makeup and did not think it was strange that a whole flock of westerners were walking in to examine them, unlike the rest of the entire population.  Additionally, the rooms all had western (sitting) toilets, which the guides told me Koreans did not use.  Also, a lot of the equipment they showed us was not being used.  So I was skeptical about it all.  Then I spoke to a friend that I trust and was assured that it was a functioning hospital because this person had been treated there.  So I guess it serves several purposes after all. 

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*”I want that you work hard for the people” Kim Jong Il

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Book Shop

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*A picture of me visiting Sinchon in 2004-posted on the wall in a Pyongyang book shop


Children’s Palace
As in the previous year, I visited the Children’s palace near Manyongdae.  This visit was better because I saw a whole range of activities I did not see the year before (when the place was a mad house and we had just gotten back from Nampo).  We saw children playing piano, drawing, practicing tae kwon do, and dancing in different styles.  The visit was capped off with a performance as was done the year before.  It seemed exactly the same, except maybe less obvious propaganda.

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Manyongdae Children’s Fun Fair (part 2)
I had visited the fun fair the previous year, but to my surprise I discovered the park is much larger than I thought and it has two entrances.  This time around, I visited a completely different part of the park.  Whereas the roller coaster was the big show last year, this time it was the log flume.  I always thought of log flumes as particular to logging in the US, but maybe they use/d them here as well.  Anyway, no one was at the park this year, so the whole place had a bit of a ghost-town feel to it. 

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Tower of the Juche Idea
We visited the tower of the Juche Idea again.  This repeat was also worth it because like in Kim Il Sung Square, people were training for the October parade.  It was interesting to see them drilling.  I got my picture taken with the huge portraits of the leaders (below).  About four or five of us got pictures like this, and then one of the men in charge of the training came and chased the group away.  Looking down at the people from the top was very interesting.  Also, I climbed up on the wall of the tower for a better picture of the torch.  Mr. Han got very scared when I leaned back over the edge.  I told him I used to rock climb all the time and I am not scared of heights.  He replied, “but if you fall, I will be in big trouble.”

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1. Lets be like brave soldiers for Kim Jong Il

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Party Foundng  Museum
The monument to the party founding was also on my wish list.  If I remember correctly, the guide at the monument told us that Kim Jong Il asked the workers to finish this monument in a single day…and they did.  WOW…You can’t really tell from the pictures, but this thing is BIG.  It is also lined up directly with the statue of Kim Il Sung on Mansu hill on the opposite side of the river. 

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*Long live the Korean Workers Party!  It will lead us to Victory!  100 wars 100 victories!

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1. lets follow our leader even 1000 [miles?]
2. Spirit of Paektu
3. Lets use our hands.  we are self sufficient.

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We also made a trip to Nampo to see the West Sea Barge.  Here is a little advice to future DPRK travelers:  The trip to the barge is not worth the time.  You drive for a significant amount of time to Nampo (a restaurant along the way was serving US rice food aid to tourists–sorry, I lost the picture a fellow traveler took)-you get out of the bus on top of a hill, look down at the barge, watch a hysterical video with Jimmy Carter visiting the construction of the barge, then get back in your car for the return trip.  You are much better off staying in your hotel drinking all manners of North Korean alcoholic beverages and asking your guide which he prefers and why.  Another person who was traveling in the DPRK at the same time as me also sent me photos of private street vendors selling fruit (below).  He saw them when his bus got lost. 

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Mansudae Hill
I visited Mansu Hill again and forgot to take a picture of the Great Leader and I (again).  I did walk down the hill and up the street to the Cholima Horse, then took a back trail to the top of the hill.  I met an old woman and a little girl who were cleaning the path.  All I could do was smile and say “hello.”

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Supreme People’s Assembly

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Chollima Horse

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1. All the military and people are united.  Lets show our power.
2. 60th anniversary of our country’s independence from the Japanese
3. 60th Anniversary of the party founding.  Lets do what the slogans tell us and put everyting into it.

Reunification Meeting
Thankfully we did not have to attend much of this.  There were too many speeches from representatives of such upstanding nations as Belarus and Cuba.  The (American) man who represented the US at this meeting seemed to have no other platform other than that he hated Jews and Israel.  I sat in my chair and studied for my comprehensive economics exams (which I had to take for my masters degree the day after I returned home).  It was fun because one of our guides was an economist who had studied in Singapore.  He was looking at copies of old exams I had and trying to answer the questions himself.  While everyone else was talking about imperialism, we were talking about marginal utility and constraint maximization functions. 

The meeting was covered in the pro-DPRK press.

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Spy Ship Pueblo 
The visit to the Pueblo the second time was not memorable.  It was full of tourists.  The thing that was most memorable was the fact that there was a huge Dodge Van parked out front.  It was so huge and out of place, everyone was looking at it and gawking.  The “Spy Ship Dodge Van”…

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Tomb of Tongmyong
This place did not do much for me largely because it was recently reconstructed (looked brand new) and it was empty.  One thing that I did notice were the beautiful trees around it.  I had realized at that point I had been in the city so long that I was surprised to be surrounded by trees again.

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Pongsu and Catholic Church
Several members of the group asked our guides if they could go to the Catholic Church on Sunday morning.  The group was scheduled to visit another remodeled tomb and then on to the closing ceremony of the reunification meeting listed above.  When I heard that some people were going to church instead, I asked to join them.  How often do you get to go to church in Pyongyang?  When Sunday morning rolled around, me and the small group of Catholics climbed into a small bus.  When we arrived at the church, I recognized it immediately as the Pongsu Protestant Church.  The pastor came outside and met us.  We all chatted for a bit.  Finally, one of the catholic members of the group insisted that we needed to go to the Catholic Church, not the Protestant Church.  The Koreans were embarrassed by this slip so they gave everyone the option to stay at Pongsu or go to the Catholic church.  Since I had seen this one, I decided to go to the Catholic Church.  Why see one when you can see two?  So then they took us across town to the Catholic church.  We missed most of the mass, and they did not offer communion because they do not have an ordained priest on staff.  They only perform communion when a priest visits from the south.  All other times a deacon of sorts officiates the service.  The crowd was mostly women and they were not wearing their Kim Il Sung badges.  They put them on immediately after the service was over.  Even though the church is state-owned, they took a collection.  I helped an older lady collect the prayer books when the service was over.

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March for Reunification
As in the previous year, there was another “March for Reunification” (“Tongil” in Korean).  Unlike last year, there was actually a large number of foreigners present.  The bizarre group from the year before must have looked silly to the Koreans, but this year there were several hundred imperialists among them.  All of the disparate groups from around the world supported by the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries came to participate this time.  Two things happened here that I will always remember.  The first is that I hate political speeches, no matter who is giving them.  The foreigners here were all giving dreadfully long speeches and were literally saying the exact same things.  I could not handle it, so I was chatting with some Korean friends who had no interest in listening either.  One Japanese man passed out in the heat, and Dr. David “Studly” Borenstein jumped to the rescue.  He began to treat the man for heat exhaustion and encouraged him to drink fluids.  Eventually a Korean doctor showed up and injected the man with some kind of “upper” she had.  I asked another guide what the injection was and she did not know the English name for it.  She mentioned that she had also been given a shot of this in the past when she fainted at a political rally.  This makes me wonder how often Koreans keel over at political rallies. This diversion was welcome–I was lucky enough to miss a whole speech while fanning the man to cool him off.  Also, we saw an elite North Korean girl use a cell phone.  The day before our guides told us cell phones had been collected for security reasons.  They just smiled and shrugged when I pointed it out.  They said “she must be special.  We are too ordinary.”  

David “Studly” Borenstein was also interviewed by Anna Fifield from the Financial Times, who was covering the week’s events.  He asked her out.  She said “no.” Surprised?

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Kamsusan Palace
Kamsusan is a very sacred place to North Koreans.  When I came here the previous year, I was touched by all the North Koreans crying.  This year, the place seemed more festive.  There were so many families and groups out in the courtyard spending time with each other and enjoying themselves.  It was really great to just hang out with them and take pictures.

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Changwang Street
This street is known as “Restaurant Street.”  It is home to the Koryo Hotel and what expats call the “Forbidden City”–executive apartments for family of the Korean Worker’s Party Central Committee.  I was hoping to get some time to see and eat at one of these restaurants.  Unfortunately all of our meals were in the hotel and I did not get to try any of them.  These restaurants charge North Korean won, but take market prices into account.  Although the official rate in the hotel is 100KW per $1US, the market exchange rate is closer to 3,000KW per $1US (which is the rate at the Tongil Market).  At the price of 3000 KW for dumplings (price at one restaurant), that is a $30 plate of dumplings at the official hotel rate. A more reasonable $1 at market prices.

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We had a banquet with Kim Yong Nam.  I did not take a picture with him, but Alejandro did.  Kim Yong Nam is the official head of state, and he had some very nice things to say about the KFA.  The Soju was smooth also.  I took the bottle back to my room and was yelled at by some other foreigner for being greedy as I walked out of the restaurant.  Mr. Kim, my guide, had to assure her it was ok.  Tim Beal managed to get an attendance list.

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Art Studio
We went back to the Mansudae art studio.  The previous year, they had an awesome brass-looking statue of a gorilla wearing boxing gloves.  My picture of it did not come out.  Unfortunately, it was not there this year.  Ces la vie!

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*Lets revere our son of Paektu mountain

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1. Lets revere comrade Kim Jong Il.  He is the brain of our revolution.
2. 56 days until the 60th anniversary of independence.  Are you doing your work for it?

Gala in Kim Il Sung Square
Because of rain, this Gala (and the Mass Games) were delayed one day.  As a result, this gala was held on August 15 (Liberation Day) and the Mass Games were held on the 16th.  This delay messed up many people’s schedule because they had made plane reservations for the morning of the 16th to return to Beijing.  So this gala was the only form of celebration they saw.  I had a great time.  It was thrilling.  I will never forget walking out to the crowd, turning around and seeing the enormous Grand People’s Study House illuminated in the dark.  It was truly incredible.  And so many North Koreans to dance with…how could you not have a good time!

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*60th celebration of independence

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Sinchon and “Indignation Meeting”
The evening before “The International Indignation Meeting Against the US Crimes in Korea,” I was up until the middle of the night first drinking with the Koryo Tours group who happened to be staying in the same hotel, then drinking with three of my Korean guides in their room.  Great conversations all around and an experience I will never forget.  But the next morning, I seemed to be the only one that was hung over.  Since the Sinchon museum was a repeat visit for me, I also knew what the drive would be like.  So I remembered to bring a pillow along so I could sleep on the bus.  When we arrived at the museum, I just sat outside not feeling well with our guides and some other KFA members that were preparing to give speeches.  They were each given their speeches to read, and since the English translations were quickly done by the Koreans, they suffered from severe “Konglish” problems.  So one KFA member tried to plead with the Koreans that he could not read his speech as it was written because everyone would start laughing.  The Korean in charge of the speeches did not understand this.  It took a lot of convincing to get the Koreans to agree to let him rewrite the speech because they did not understand why it was funny and they were worried that they would not have time to accurately translate it to Korean. 

The meeting was brutal.  All the foreigners talked and talked.  It never seemed to end.  All of the Koreans who could crouched in the back under the trees (including the girl with the cell phone), other less-fortunate citizens stood erect in the sun for over an hour.  It was enough to make me livid.  All those people forced to stand in the sun to listen to foreigners droll on and on.  After the event, I complained to my guide that stuff like this could be done indoors, or at least with people sitting, but this kind of input did not strike him as particularly important.  One KFA member tried to tell me that everyone who was hot was jointly “sacrificing” for the revolution, including himself.  I thought this was silly as I define sacrifice as the assumption of risk for a higher probability of a direct reward.  This was useless sacrifice, and the only time I ever lost my temper in Korea.

They claim to have sent a letter to the UN Commission for Human Rights.

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Mass Games (Arirang)
Since Kim Jong Il was there, no cameras were allowed.  The below picture is from Naenara, covering Kim Jong Il’s attendance.  I was sitting not to far to the left of this picture.  The Mass Games were performed by 100,000 citizens, and the performance was something you have to see to believe.  In the future, I will post some pictures others took on nights when cameras were allowed. The games were also covered by the Choson Ilbo.

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Trip to Wonsan
The trip to Wonsan was particularly sad this year because our guide, Mr. Han, who was about my age and let me call him “dongmu” drowned while swimming.  Mr. Han was an only child of a DPRK diplomat with the Foreign Ministry.  He had lived in Europe for a long time, spoke British English, and had hoped to study at Cambridge.  He went out into the water and never came back.  We all ran up and down the beach looking for him, to no avail.  There were several folks on the beach with binoculars, but they were not supposed to be watching the water.  They were supposed to watch us.  We were later told that Mr. Han’s body washed ashore in the middle of the night and that his family had been notified.  There were several little inconsistencies in the story as it was explained to me, which led me to believe that his body had not been recovered.  But I understood that the Koreans as good hosts were trying to ease our minds and assure us that everything had been resolved.  As a note to future tourists, there are several things to note about the beaches in Wonsan: 1.  There are no phone lines.  If you are in trouble, you are on your own.  2.  There might be some netting in the water in which you could get tangled.  One member of the group claimed to have gotten his foot caught in some netting under water.  I have no idea if this is true or not.  3.  The last is that “under toes” or “rip tides” can be strong even when the water does not look fierce.  If you are being pulled away from shore, swim parallel to the beach, not towards it.  If you swim parallel, you will get out of the rip faster and can then swim back to shore.

Even though the day was particularly sad, I did have a great experience in Wonsan before we noticed Mr. Han was missing.  I walked out on the pier with a bunch of DPRK teenagers, and one of them asked me where I was from, in English.  I told her “America.”  After she told all the others they all showed instant interest in me and surrounded me on the pier.  This was the only time that I had ever had access to North Koreans who could speak English without a guide present.  I asked them a few questions and told them about myself.  Particularly that there were lots of Korean restaurants in the Washington area I enjoyed and that my judo instructor was from Seoul.  They wanted to take a picture with me, but could not find a camera on the beach.  While they were looking for a camera, a security agent came and yelled at them for talking to me.  Then he turned and yelled at me.  I knew exactly what he wanted me to do (return to the foreigner’s side of the beach), but I stood there and played stupid to let the Korean kids see it was their security people who were keeping us apart.  Afterwards, I grabbed them, brought them to the foreigners side of the beach, took their picture with my camera, and got their mailing addresses.  I sent them the pictures, but have no idea if they ever got them.

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1. The Great Leader Kim Il sung will always be with us

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*notice the Nike swoosh?

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1. Lets do what our party is saying

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Hanging out at the Taedonggang Diplomatic Club
I have spent more time than I could imagine at this diplomatic club.  You can get alcohol, play pool, Chinese checkers, and karaoke.  I met an interesting employee of the UN World Food Program he told me 6 million North Koreans depended on food aid.  Also, he told me that cigarettes are rationed for ordinary North Koreans.  You can’t just go buy them, apparently.  We all sang and flirted with the girl behind the bar.  She was surprised to hear I owned a car.

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Yangdakdo Hotel Pics
The Yangdakdo is on an island in the Taedong river on the south side of town.  It is nothing special, but it is way better than the Sosan.  It has BBC news, Chinese television, and a Japanese channel.  The tailor who made some North Korean clothes for me, however, can only pick up the main state channel in her office.  She is so sweet.  The hotel has a bowling alley, pool, health clup, bordello, and CASINO!  It is run by a Macao-based firm and lots of Chinese were down there.  No pictures are allowed. 

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1. If our Great Leader is here, we will always win
2. Everybody in the party, military, and all people have to be like one to keep our revolution -kil Jong Il
3. Lets make our things of higher quality to sell to the foreigners -Kim Jong Il

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*These two images are of me visiting in 2004 on display in the hotel lobby!  This same picture was also posted in a book store!  Never have I seen such celebrity!  The guides thought this was funny.  

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Random Pyongyang photos:

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1. Lets do what the slogan says keep the military strong and unify the party to receive the anniversary


1. Our revolutionary brain that unites the military and the people.  Follow the Ranam torch.  Lets do what the party says.
2. The road is the face of the country, so lets keep it clean and make it better.
3. Everybody-lets do our work for the anniversary.
4. don’t worry about if there are roads.  we will take care of it.  

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1. Lets do what the public slogans say.  It is the revolutionary spirit and idea.

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1. The Great Leader Kim Il Sung will live in our hearts forever
2. The “Whistle”-locally produced Fiat
3. Spirit of All Military revolution

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1. Lets fight for our revolutionary brain
2. The 21st century is the Kim Jong Il Century

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1. In our generation, lets make the country united

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1. Whether we live or die, we will support the revolution

2. Long live Kim Jong Il (Used to be Kim il sung).  Long live the glorious party.

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1. Long live the plan for reunification.  It will not fail.

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1. the Great Leader Kim Il Sung will live in our hearts forever 


US tour company cancel trips to DPRK

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

from Yonhap:

U.S. travel agency cancels tour program to N. Korea

Washington, July 30 (Yonhap) — Travel agencies have scrapped their Pyongyang tour packages after North Korea cancelled its annual propaganda festival, citing flood damage and a joint South Korea-U.S. military training exercise, agency officials said Sunday.

North Korea had allowed travel companies to recruit U.S. and other foreign citizens to attend its Arirang Festival, which was to open on Aug. 15 for a two-month run.

The event, which features mass gymnastic shows, began in 2002 to commemorate the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung, father of current leader Kim Jong-il.

North Korea said last week it would cancel this year’s Arirang Festival due to recent floods that killed at least 154 people, left 127 others missing and caused serious damage to its infrastructure. The North also cited the Ulji-Focus Lens, an annual South Korea-U.S. drill due to be launched in August, arguing the exercise is a rehearsal for a northward invasion.

On Sunday, Asia Pacific Travel, a U.S. travel company and Koreakonsult, a Swedish travel agency, withheld their Pyongyang trip plans, as the North’s festival was cancelled.

Asia Pacific Travel was to book about 200 Americans for a trip to North Korea, which was also to include visits to scenic Mount Myohyang, the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong and the demilitarized zone.

North Korea has largely been off limits to Americans, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The U.S. fought alongside South Korea to repel invading communist North Korean troops, aided by Chinese soldiers, during the conflict.

The relations between North Korea and the U.S. have worsened since the North conducted multiple missile tests on July 5, despite repeated international warnings. The U.S. and Japan led a U.N. Security Council’s passage of a resolution imposing sanctions on the North.

North Korea and the U.S. don’t have diplomatic relations.


Arirang 2006 cancelled

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

from the BBC:

N Korea cancels gymnastics gala

North Korea has cancelled a massive festival featuring thousands of gymnasts, soldiers and performers because of flooding earlier this month.

The two-month long Arirang festival has in the past been popular with western tourists and visitors from South Korea.

The event features spectacular synchronised acrobatic displays and is seen by Pyongyang as a way of boosting leader Kim Jong-il’s popularity.

Floods in North Korea this month killed more than 100 people.

According to the UN’s food agency, some 60,000 people were left homeless by the floods, which followed torrential rains.

Strained relations

Han Song Ryol, a North Korean envoy to the United Nations, told the Associated Press news agency the festival had been “cancelled due to flood damages”.

He did not say whether the event would be rescheduled.

Pyongyang had planned to invite up to 600 tourists every day from South Korea to see the festival, South Korean news agency Yonhap reports.

The agency said South Korean officials were concerned that the cancellation of the festival could lead to contacts between the two Koreas being curtailed.

Relations between the two countries are already strained over Pyongyang’s recent decision to test new, long-range missiles, ending a self-imposed moratorium on such tests.

Froom Joong Ang Daily:

Citing flooding, North pushes back a festival
July 31, 2006

The North Korean Arirang festival, which was to have begun on Aug. 15, was postponed until next spring, according to the president of the Korean American National Coordinating Council. Rain damage in North Korea was cited as the reason for the delay.

Yoon Kil-sang, the president of the council, posted the postponement announcement Friday (in the United States) on Minjok, an Internet news site there. He said he was notified by the North Korean mission to the United Nations of the postponement.

But South Korean groups said they knew nothing of the change of plans. An official at the South Korean committee preparing for a joint celebration of Liberation Day, Aug. 15, said the committee had not been told.

“In order to prepare for the Arirang festival, working-level meetings should have been nearly finished, but we have not heard from the North,” the official said.

Despite the recent North Korean missile test salvo, Seoul said last week that it would allow a private South Korean delegation to participate in the holiday commemoration and the festival.

Chosun Shinbo, published by a pro-Pyongyang group in Japan, reported on Friday that an area where the festival was to be held was hit hard by recent flooding. It said 1,200 trees were down and roads had been destroyed.

The Arirang Festival, which was first held in 2002, is a patriotic festival praising the country’s leaders and system using phalanxes of people with flash cards, dances and circus shows. Last year, in its second staging, 7,000 South Koreans attended. The festival was originally scheduled to run from mid-August to mid-October.

Separately, in a relatively rare admission of problems in paradise, the Chosun Shinbo also reported in detail on the flood damage in the North. Reportedly, the Pyongan provinces near Pyongyang were hit hard, with 10,000 people affected by floods and 30 bridges destroyed. North Hwanghae province, the agricultural center for much of the country, also suffered substantial damage, the newspaper reported.

Last week, the United Nations World Food Program estimated that 60,000 North Koreans had been left homeless and 30,000 hectares of farmland were destroyed in the recent flooding.

Kwon Tae-jin, a researcher for the Korea Rural Economic Institute, said yesterday that it took several years for the North to repair damage from a flood in the mid 1990s and that the recent flood was likely to cut into food production substantially. But he said if paddy walls could be rebuilt quickly and quarantine measures taken to prevent the spread of disease, damage could be minimized.


U.S. hails Bank of China’s freeze

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Joong Ang Daily
July 28, 2006

North’s accounts were in Macau branch, Korean legislator says 

The United States is encouraged by Beijing’s “affirmative steps” in freezing North Korean accounts at a Chinese bank, White House Spokesman Tony Snow said on Wednesday.

His remarks were the first official confirmation of a South Korean lawmaker’s earlier claim that the Bank of China had frozen North Korean assets. Beijing remained silent on the issue after Grand National Party lawmaker Park Jin revealed the news, citing an unidentified former White House official as his source, after a trip to Washington.

Mr. Park said yesterday that the frozen accounts he was referring to were only in the Bank of China’s Macau branch, but that he is looking into whether the Beijing branch will make a similar move.

Mr. Snow was asked if Washington had knowledge of China’s actions in regard to freezing accounts. He answered yes, and said the move was related to counterfeiting issues.

In a related development, Stuart Levey, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence of the U.S. Treasury department warned yesterday in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that North Korea could use funds legally gained through trade for military purposes. A diplomatic source in Washington said yesterday the remarks by Mr. Levey could mean Washington might pressure Seoul about the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mount Kumgang tours, through which Pyongyang receives cash from the South.

A government official in Seoul said yesterday that if Washington tries to alter the current course of inter-Korean projects it would meet “heavy resistance” from Seoul.

Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok has repeatedly said the inter-Korean projects would not be influenced by North Korea’s recent missile salvo.

In October last year, the U.S. Treasury department designated eight North Korean entities as being involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Under U.S. law, all transactions between the designated entities and any person in the United States are prohibited while all assets of these entities are frozen in territories under U.S. jurisdiction. 


Eugene Bell provides health support

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

From the Eugene Bell Foundation: 

Public health officials from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) today visited Washington, DC to attend a private conference on tuberculosis. The five-person Korean delegation was invited by the Eugene Bell Foundation, an American faith-based organization that provides essential support to one-third of North Korea’s tuberculosis system.

The conference, hosted by the George Washington University graduate schools of medicine and public health, focused on including local communities in the global effort to fight multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

The Korean delegation is scheduled to travel throughout the United States this week to visit tuberculosis experts, national centers and research labs.

For more information, please contact:
Alice Jean Suh
Washington Office Director, Eugene Bell Foundation 202-329-2410 [email protected]


ROK caves on Kaesong in FTA talks

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

From Joong Ang Daily:

A high-level Korean government official yesterday suggested that the Kaesong Industrial Complex issue be dealt with seperately from the free trade talks with the United States.

“It would be appropriate to discuss the matter on whether products manufactured from Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea should be recognized as South Korean in origin in a separate discussion from the free trade negotiation between South Korea and the United States,” said Chin Dong-soo, deputy finance and economy minister.

Mr. Chin said that even though Korea has persistently brought up the issue during the second round of talks, which took place earlier this month in Seoul, there has been no detailed discussion between the two parties.

“If we continue to push the matter while there is no response from the U.S. party, other issues that are being discussed at the free trade talks will likely be jeopardized,” Mr. Chin said.


US warns ROK on sensitive materials to Kaesong but not too worried

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

From Korea Times:

Control on Sensitive Materials to NK Tightened

South Korea’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy has issued a warning to 80,000 local companies against any shipments of strategic materials to North Korea, officials said Wednesday.

In an e-mail message sent to trading companies, the ministry said international pressure was mounting to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring materials that can be used for the production of weapons of mass destruction. North Korea has been condemned by many countries as well as the U.N. Security Council for firing a series of missiles into the East Sea on July 5.

The ministry also said that with U.S. lawmakers poised to pass a law that penalizes foreign companies that ship dual-purpose materials to North Korea, Washington is expected to strengthen its international monitoring activities.

The message said it could lead to sanctions being imposed on all violators discovered by the U.S. surveillance.

In addition, the ministry said South Korean firms should be careful of shipping products to China and some Southeast Asian countries that could be resold to North Korea.

“If companies have any doubts about whether or not their shipping of products violated the strategic material export rules, they should not hesitate to ask the government,” an official said. He added that companies that ship products to the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean city of Kaesong, just north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, should be particularly careful.

South Korea is a signatory to the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral pact that restricts the export of commercial products that can be used to make weapons to certain countries. The United Nations has also stressed the need to monitor such trade.

Authorities here have said they will step up efforts to detect and penalize violations.

From Korea Times:

Inter-Korean Economic Projects Not Worrisome’ 

By Park Song-wu, Lee Jin-woo

Inter-Korean economic cooperation programs are not a worry to the United States as the money ending up in North Korea is not likely to be used for developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), a ranking U.S. finance official said.

In an interview with the Voice of America on Tuesday, U.S. Undersecretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Crimes Stuart Levey said what Washington worries about is the North attempting to abuse international financial institutions to secure funds for its development of WMD.

He said the Kaesong industrial park project and the Mt. Kumgang tourism program _ the two examples of cross-border cooperation _ are not the concerns the U.S. government has in mind to safeguard the international financial system.

In a related development, the Kaesong complex is expected to churn out products worth a record high of $6 million this month, despite security concerns on the Korean Peninsula caused by the North’s missile launches on July 5, an official at the Unification Ministry said.

Denying a negative outlook for South Korean factories in Kaesong, Ko Gyoung-bin, who is in charge of supporting the project, said “everything is going perfectly okay.”

“The total production amount is expected to reach $6 million for the first time since its opening in June 2004, almost 100 percent up from $3 million of last December,” he said during a press briefing in Seoul on Wednesday.

Ko said the export volume of Kaesong products has also been steadily increasing from $1.1 million in May to $1.6 million in June.

“I don’t agree with recent reports which tried to link North Korea’s missile threats with the Kaesong complex,” he said. “I met a few working-level North Korean officials involved in the project last week and they were determined to continue this project.”

As for concerns whether the North Korean government properly pays their workers the wages sent by South Korean firms, Ko said he is confidant that the money has not been diverted for other purposes.

“South Korea has paid some $500,000 to $600,000 for those 7,800 workers and their families each month,” he said. “I don’t think there’s enough room for North Korean authorities to use part of the relatively small amount of money for other purposes.”

He added the number of North Korean workers in the complex would reach 8,000 this month.

A North Korean worker there earns $64 in wages and allowances a month. Most of the money is paid on the 10th of the month. This month, it was paid as scheduled.

South Korea paid $6 million to rent the complex site for 50 years in 2004.

Earlier this month, the Korea Land Corp., a state-run land developer, which has been involved in the Kaesong project, decided to postpone the sales of some 516,000 pyong (1.7 million square meters) of land in the industrial complex to both South Korean and multi-national companies.

Unlike the present South Korean firms in Kaesong, which benefited from the inter-Korean cooperation fund with low interest rates and a three-year grace period to pay back borrowed money, companies which wish to newly join the project will be required to get loans from commercial banks after getting credit guarantee notes issued by the state-run Korea Credit Guarantee Fund (KODIT).

The industrial complex is expected to house about 2,000 South Korean companies employing nearly half a million North Koreans when it comes into full swing in 2012, according to the ministry.



Recent moves to isolate DPRK don’t include Kaesong Industrial Zone

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

From Yonhap:

Seoul to expand inter-Korean economic project despite U.S. concerns: official

A ranking South Korean official on Wednesday said the government may expand a joint industrial complex in North Korea’s border town of Kaesong at an early date despite concerns that money paid to North Korean laborers there may be used to build missiles.

“The Kaesong industrial complex is a project that runs strictly on the mechanism of a market system,” Goh Gyeong-bin, head of the office for the inter-Korean economic project at the Unification Ministry, told reporters.

He said the government may begin the next phase of the Kaesong development project as early as August or September, which would include leasing out 1 million pyeong of land at the joint complex to South Korean companies. One pyeong equals 3.3 square meters.

The remarks are in line with Seoul’s earlier stance that it does not need to halt the inter-Korean project despite concerns, mainly from the United States, that wages paid to North Korean workers may be forfeited and diverted by Pyongyang to build missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The apparent opposition from Washington, although still tacit, intensified after North Korea launched seven ballistic missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 believed capable of hitting the U.S. west coast, earlier in the month, while the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution prohibiting missile-related dealings with the North.

South Korea’s point man on North Korean affairs, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, however, has refused to halt or suspend the economic project with the communist state, claiming the U.N. resolution does not require his or any other country to cut normal, legal economic relations with the North.

“What the international community, including the U.S., is worried about is the North making or taking money through illegal means,” Lee told a National Assembly committee on Monday.

Currently, 13 South Korean companies are operating at the industrial complex, where about 7,800 North Korean laborers are getting paid US$57 a month on average, according to Goh.

The ministry official said there was no way of knowing for sure whether the North Korean government was taking any of the wages, but claimed it wasn’t happening.

“There is no possibility. The amount tells us that,” Goh told Yonhap News Agency in a later telephone interview.

“Even though North Korea is an extremely poor state, it would take at least 50,000 (South Korean) won (about $50) on average to feed a family of four for a month,” he claimed.

He said the South Korean companies are paying about $500,000 to $600,000 a month to 7,862 North Korean employees.

“The issue (of possible diversion of funds) may become significant when the amount grows to a significant level through second and third phases (of the development project), but it really is not an issue at this time,” he said in the press briefing.

Between 300 to 800 South Korean companies, depending on the size of each business, are expected to move into the joint complex when the next phase of the development plan is completed, according to Goh.

The industrial complex is expected to house about 2,000 South Korean companies employing nearly half a million North Koreans when it comes into full swing in 2012, according to the Unification Ministry.


DPRK, China agree on border river management

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

From Xinhua via NKZone:

China and North Korea have signed an agreement to facilitate transportation through and environmental protection of a border river.

According to the agreement inked last Friday in Changchun, capital of northern China’s Jilin Province which neighbors North Korea, the two sides will cooperate on the management of navigation buoys and the dredging of part of the Yalu River.

During a nine-day meeting, traffic officials from both sides also discussed measures to prevent environmental damage caused by the dredging works.

The two sides also agreed to tighten management of cargo ships plying the river, according to sources who attended the meeting.