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Old 05-08-07, 08:46 PM   #1
gbcb
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North Korea trip -- Photos! (56k beware)

I'm not sure if this is going to work -- never tried hosting images off Flickr before, but now I'm trying to be all hip and Web 2.0.

Edit: It works! Hooray!
Edit 2: And thanks to whichever mod changed the title.


On the plane, an old Soviet Ilyushin-62, from Beijing to Pyongyang. I needed no reminding to fasten my belt.


Arrival! Interestingly, the picture of Kim Il Sung beaming was introduced around the country after his death (July 1994). Before that, portraits of him were much more stern. The airport had the old portrait until just a few years ago.


View of Giant Kim Il Sung statue on Mansu Hill, Pyongyang. TV tower in the distance.


gbcb and Kim Sr.


Cool shadow over Pyongyang.


In May Day stadium (150,000 seats), before the Mass Games. Each one of those little pixels in the stands is a kid holding up a placard. I think there are 20,000 of them in total. Anyway, lots. Watching the pre-game "calibration" was, to that point, one of the coolest things I had ever seen.


But then the Games started.


Mass Games performers


More Mass Games performers


It got a bit strange with the dancing eggs came out.

More coming....

Last edited by gbcb; 05-09-07 at 03:05 AM.
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Old 05-08-07, 08:57 PM   #2
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Those eggs are kinda fruity.

Seriously though, amazing photos so far. Will you be making a write up of your trip as well?
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Old 05-08-07, 09:07 PM   #3
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Mass Taekwondo demonstration


Lobby of the Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang


One of the more improbable finds on the trip. The casino, in the basement of the Yanggakdo Hotel, is run by Stanley Ho, a huge casino tycoon from Macau. The basement also includes a "sauna" that provides extra "services" (I did not partake...). This basement is off-limits to Koreans, and is staffed entirely by extremely bored-looking Chinese.


View from my hotel room. The giant pyramid is the Ryugyong Hotel: 105 floors and 300 metres tall, but a concrete shell. Construction stopped in the late 80s / early 90s


Another shot from my hotel room. That's the Tower of the Juche Idea, (170m tall), built to commemorate Kim Il Sung's ideology


Me with guides, outside Kim Il Sung's mausoleum (hence the jacket and tie): Miss Choe on the left, Mr. Oh on the right. Both were friendly, helpful, and just all-around great companions on the trip.


Pyongyang Metro! I had read a lot of conspiracy theories about how it's obviously for show, and that there are only really two stations (all foreigners are shown the same two stops). I'd like to put an end to that theory. While I'm sure that the two stops we saw are the nicest-looking of all the stations, we saw people streaming in and out of Metro stations all over the city.


Pyongyang Metro chandeliers


Soldiers and cadets at the birthplace of Kim Il Sung. Usually we weren't allowed to take pictures of soldiers, but the guides let us snap away here. Not sure why.


We took a trip up to Mt. Myohyang, a famous scenic area. The scenery was beautiful, and the water absolutely crystal-clear. Unfortunately, I forgot to do the Shadiyah pose among the trees...
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Old 05-08-07, 09:08 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by TheKillerPenguin
Those eggs are kinda fruity.

Seriously though, amazing photos so far. Will you be making a write up of your trip as well?

Thanks! I do intend to do a full write-up of the trip, but that will take a little while.
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Old 05-08-07, 09:22 PM   #5
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Moving along...


More pretty scenery


A Buddhist temple in the mountains. Much of it had been flattened in the Korean War (like most of Korea, really...) but there were a few older buildings around.


More temple


Our hotel in the mountains. The inside of this hotel was straight out of The Shining. It also had a huge karaoke room where, fuelled by something called "Wild Grape Liquor" at 1 euro per bottle, I sang "Only You" with Mr. Oh, the tour guide.


At a circus, which was fantastic, aside from the bear... which was really, really sad to watch.


They've built a series of permanent outdoor sets for filming movies. Here is the standard Korean War-era US Army den of iniquity.


Pyongyang Traffic Lady! In my humble opinion, vastly superior to traffic lights.


A sack race in the park on May Day (May 1). It was amazing seeing the locals having an utterly unscripted, really good time.


Gathering for a photo, May Day


One of my travel companions was in high demand
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Old 05-08-07, 09:25 PM   #6
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Cool.
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Old 05-08-07, 09:35 PM   #7
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Army jeep and mural


Cherry blossoms with Triumphal Arch and Ryugyong Hotel


Funfair! We went on a roller coaster, which was utterly terrifying: the seatbelt was two pieces of rope that you had to tie yourself.


View from Juche Tower


Juche Tower up close


Monument in front of Juche Tower, with Ryugyong Hotel in the distance (I became a bit obsessed with the Ryugyong Hotel...)


In front of the Monument to Party Foundation. In addition to the hammer and sickle (or hoe), there is the writing brush, representing the intellectuals. This, so the story goes, was an addition by Kim Il Sung himself. The Hammer/Hoe/Brush logo, the symbol of the Korean Worker's Party, is everywhere. Interestingly, there are actually two other parties, but we were told that they operate on a "friendship" system, rather than an adversarial one. Take that as you will...


Out at the seaside now, near the city of Nampo. This woman is wearing a traditional Korean dress. I was a bit worried about restrictions on taking pictures of people, so don't really have many pictures of them from the front.


Kim Jong Il at the West Sea Barrage, built to prevent flooding and for irrigation purposes.


I couldn't resist. The framing is a bit off, but there you go.
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Old 05-08-07, 09:42 PM   #8
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This picture made me LOL

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Old 05-08-07, 09:46 PM   #9
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By the way, mods -- could you put a "56k beware" warning on the thread title? Thanks...



We weren't allowed to take many pictures of the countryside, but I did manage to get this one. The village is fairly typical of many we saw that day. All had communal wells out in front, and no electricity. Other villages we saw were noticeably poorer (houses in much rougher shape), but we couldn't take pictures of those. There were also villages that had clearly been recently renovated, and looked quite sharp.


Mural in front of the American Atrocities Museum. A sobering place, but it was hard to tell what was fact and what was exaggeration (edit: or outright fiction). Over the course of the trip, we heard several times that the General MacArthur-led UN troops ("troops of the US imperialist aggressors and their satellites") had used biological weapons during the conflict -- I'm not so sure that's true. What is true is that a staggering number of bombs were dropped, and that a lot of these involved napalm. That stuff is nasty enough on its own without any biological weapons too.


At the Liberation monument in Pyongyang, Ryugyong Hotel (of course) in background


Liberation monument


Liberation monument


Liberation monument


Pyongyang by night from my window


Pyongyang by night from my window -- I find that all the apartment lights having the same colour looks eerie


Juche Tower and May Day stadium at night (also from my window)


Our guide at the Great Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War) museum

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Old 05-08-07, 09:53 PM   #10
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White Rabbit! Nice pictures.
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Old 05-08-07, 10:00 PM   #11
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Wrapping up here...


Pyongyang streets, from Grand People's Study Hall, a sort of huge library / lecture hall place that's open to the public (if they have time off from work to visit it, that is...). I had heard a lot about Pyongyang's streets being "deserted", but they seemed full of people to me. There were few cars, but that's sort of to be expected. Not as many bicycles as I would have expected, but I imagine there are restrictions on bike ownership.


Scarily talented kids at a Children's Palace in Pyongyang. We were told that children go to school in the mornings, and go to these "Palaces" in the afternoons for extracurricular activities like painting, music, and even computers.


More kids performing. They like their accordions.


More...


Mural at the Children's Palace


Girls playing outside the Children's Palace


Girl outside the Children's Palace, with Juche Tower


Relay races


Fairly typical bicycle, with rim generator light. Newer models have hub generators. Bikes in the DPRK (North Korea) are in much better condition than their Chinese counterparts.


Terrible picture of me, but good picture of guides. In front of the Beijing - Pyongyang train in Pyongyang station.



And that's about it. Hope you enjoyed them!

Actually, I have hundreds more photos, but haven't had time to go through them all! All in all, it was a fantastic and fascinating trip that really put a human face on the country for me. I would have loved to have been able to take more photos, but it was not always possible to take pictures of things that I found interesting, or even beautiful. I would absolutely encourage anyone interested to visit -- and Americans are occasionally allowed to visit on somehwat shorter trips (there are a few such trips this year).

I will try to post a longer travelogue at some point, but will more likely do that on my own web site and post a link here.
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Old 05-08-07, 10:27 PM   #12
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out-freaking-standing!

i can hardly wait to get to the east. thanks!
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Old 05-08-07, 10:33 PM   #13
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Awe. Some. Thank you so much for sharing these, gb, you have had a unique experience! Wowzers.
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Old 05-08-07, 11:19 PM   #14
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Thanks, guys, I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. It is definitely an interesting place. Strangely enough, it was more of a shock coming back into the "real world" than going there in the first place. I suppose that's because I was expecting North Korea to be very different, but wasn't really thinking about the change on the way back. China is always loud, but North Korea is so quiet that it seemed even more so when the train crossed into Dandong, the massive Chinese border town.

So should I be worried that I'm already looking at itineraries for other trips to North Korea?
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Old 05-08-07, 11:25 PM   #15
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Dear Leader thanks you for your patronage

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us
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Old 05-09-07, 12:58 AM   #16
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Very fascinating. There's so much we don't see of N. Korea here in the western hemisphere. I'm glad to see, contrary to my perceptions from the news and other reading, that there is culture in that country.

I'd be interested to here a little bit about what your trip was for and how it went.
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Old 05-09-07, 01:05 AM   #17
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Very cool pictures. Having the courage to take ANY photos there is impressive.From what I've heard and read,officials don't take too kindly to folkes taking photos there.
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Old 05-09-07, 01:31 AM   #18
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It's not like that at all -- and in some places pictures are even encouraged. They are very sensitive, however, of pictures that could be seen as presenting a bad image of the country overseas. Also, military stuff is an obvious no-no for security reasons.

The thing that's important to remember about North Korea is that it is like it is for a reason: Kim Jong Il is, and Kim Il Sung was, very rational. Much of Korea's history has been a story of trying to remain strong in the face of massive, powerful neighbours, and the current system of government is in many ways a continuation of that tradition. And when you read about MacArthur's plans to bomb the Chinese-Korean border with 34 atomic bombs, and to lay down a layer of radioactive cobalt that would have prevented the Chinese from entering the war (one source here) -- in addition to the degree to which the UN/US forces absolutely flattened the country -- it's easier to understand their paranoia.

I'm not defending the Kim dynasty BUT it must be said that, especially in the years immediately following the Korean War, when the North led the South in redevelopment, Kim Il Sung's government did an amazing job of building a country from zilch.

Anyway, the point of this is that it's quite OK to take pictures, just not everything
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Old 05-09-07, 02:22 AM   #19
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Thanks qbcb, great pictures. Please post the link if you write a travelogue on your web site.

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Old 05-09-07, 07:38 AM   #20
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Wow, looks like a fantastic place to live.
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Old 05-09-07, 09:08 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbcb
It's not like that at all -- and in some places pictures are even encouraged. They are very sensitive, however, of pictures that could be seen as presenting a bad image of the country overseas. Also, military stuff is an obvious no-no for security reasons.

The thing that's important to remember about North Korea is that it is like it is for a reason: Kim Jong Il is, and Kim Il Sung was, very rational. Much of Korea's history has been a story of trying to remain strong in the face of massive, powerful neighbours, and the current system of government is in many ways a continuation of that tradition.
And when you read about MacArthur's plans to bomb the Chinese-Korean border with 34 atomic bombs, and to lay down a layer of radioactive cobalt that would have prevented the Chinese from entering the war (one source here) -- in addition to the degree to which the UN/US forces absolutely flattened the country -- it's easier to understand their paranoia.

I'm not defending the Kim dynasty BUT it must be said that, especially in the years immediately following the Korean War, when the North led the South in redevelopment, Kim Il Sung's government did an amazing job of building a country from zilch.

Anyway, the point of this is that it's quite OK to take pictures, just not everything
I'm sure you're aware that MacA was a General that understood the concept of 'Total War', and although his methods may have seemed barbaric, they probably would have worked. Instead, he wasn't allowed to do that, the Chinese (Soviet-backed) Communists did enter the war, and Korea became the battleground.

It's entirely likely that, after the Inchon invasion and the liberation of Seoul, the North Koreans would have been pushed out of S. Korea, and the war could have ended then and there. With the invasion by the ChiCom's, it forced MacA's hand, and you can't blame him for wanting to limit American and UN casualties but utilizing an effective tool of war (the atomic bomb).

Great pictures, by the way. You have a great eye, and it's a tremendous education to see how North Koreans live. But BostonFixed...I'd never want to live there.
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Old 05-09-07, 09:44 AM   #22
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Wow, looks like a fantastic place to live.
Yeah, communism is wonderful...lol
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Old 05-09-07, 09:54 AM   #23
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Cool! I'm glad you had fun!
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Old 05-09-07, 09:56 AM   #24
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Gbc, Thank you so much for your post and pictures. You are sharing a part of the world with us that few of us in the West will ever visit and that is presented to us in a very one sided way. I really enjoyed the pictures of the children. It was much different than what I expected North Korea to look like.
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Old 05-09-07, 09:58 AM   #25
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Funny...the pictures of the children are exactly what I expected them to look like.
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