Skooter reporting 07/28/12
My British friend Jess, is a math teacher in an International School in Jeddah, K.S.A. He went on with his story that his group of 15 travelled on a five-night tour with Koryo Tours, a well- esteemed company run by UK filmmaker Nick Bronner, who has made several documentaries on the DPRK, he said looking at me probably to find out if I’m not bored. I said, “go on, go on”, gesturing a hand. We arrived in style via North Korea’s national airline, Air Koryo, onboard a 1970s model Soviet plane, with wallpaper-like decor and patriotic music playing in the backdrop to set the atmosphere. He said, he began to select a reading material, the Pyongyang Times, where Kim Jong-un’s youthful face was on the front page alongside articles that were impenitent in their anti-American and Japanese posture; in the centerspread of a glossy magazine it shown a military parade showcasing nuclear missiles. We had not even yet above ground, and already the trip was living up to my lofty expectations.
After turning over our passports and mobile phones to our North Korean guides upon arrival, it was evident that this was not going to be a run of the mill holiday. As the tour bus drove to our hotel, we excitedly took in our first sights of the “forbidden land”. Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK, has all the typical signs of a workers’ paradise. You could see inspiring propaganda murals of Socialist realism art, shrines to the supreme leaders, grand Stalinist-style war monuments, ascetic high rises and a great quantity of DPRK and communist flags. And surely the city is improbable to receive any nominations as the world’s prettiest, there are some attractive views, particularly along the scenic Taedong River.
Before he could continue, I took the last drop of my beer and he too finished his. Dropping our mugs on the table, he eagerly went on. Speeding past the dull rows of concrete buildings, it took a while to realize there were no shops or restaurants. Our guide, he said, explained that businesses in North Korea are unconnectedly signed, and a blue symbol above the door indicates what items they sell. Sure enough, I soon saw a store with a small blue shoe logo on an otherwise unremarkable building. Further down, I noticed a blue chicken and egg graphic. You’ll be surprise to see the showroom for North Korean’s car manufacturer, Pyeonghwa Motors, was concealed in a building with mirrored windows, he said clacking his tongue. Then he raised one finger in the air as if he had forgotten something and blurted, the only shop our tour group was allowed to enter was a Western-style department store full of Chinese goods and very few shoppers. Jess lightly laughed for the first time.
To be continued…