Life in North Korea – Part 7
Life in North Korea.
27 June 2017.
* (For the previous part, click here: Mt. Kumgang North Korea – Part 6)
The doorbell of my hotel room in Kumgang, North Korea, went off at 06:00.
The front desk sent someone to my room door to wake me up because the telephones in the hotel do not work…
Breakfast. Bus. Life in North Korea and off to Mt. Kumgang…my group of seven Chinese tourists and I…
North Korea is really beautiful. One would never think of North Korea as a gorgeous place because the general masses are more likely to think of war and nuclear missiles when the name of the country triggers images in their heads. However, the DPRK is green and lush. The ocean-side is a very pretty blue and the mountains are wonderful.
Along the road are dots of soldiers every couple of kilometers, keeping everything in check. They hardly even acknowledge our bus, but on occasions when they do, they salute us as we pass. Other times at the rare check-points, Kim, my North Korean guide, has to get off the bus and show them his credentials.
One can sympathize with North Korea, as they have been in a constant state of war, either physical or mental, from 1905 until today.
Life in North Korea has been 112 years of battle.
In 1905 the Japanese colonized Korea and the Koreans spent the next forty years fighting until they eventually freed themselves in 1945. There were five years of peace and then the Korean War began in 1950 and carried through until 1953.
There has been a ceasefire since 1953, but there is a constant threat of war and the DPRK is always mentally prepared for it to once again break out. These conditions are normal to the North Koreans so they do not know any different, but somehow it must be tough on them.
I find the women in South Korea to be more attractive than the North Koreans and I wonder if that has to do with the mental life in North Korea and possibility of war that eventually shows up physically…
Life in North Korea means that Kim, and every other North Korean, wears one of two red pins. One of the pins has the images of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on it, and the other just has Kim Jong Il. Every single North Korean wears the pin as a part of their identity. Everyone. I asked Kim if he has extras at home, to which he confirmed. I asked him if it would be okay for me to have one of his pins. He told me that it would be impossible for me to get one.
I offered Kim my sunglasses that made him laugh so much for one of his pins.
I offered him my belt that he liked.
Kim told me, “I can not trade. We North Koreans wear the pin over our hearts, because that is where President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il live.” I was not even allowed to take a photo of the pin. They truly love their Great Leader (Kim Il Sung) and their Dear Leader (Kim Jong Il) with devotion. I have never seen people who are so passionate about their leaders anywhere else in the world. I asked him about Marshall Kim Jong Un, and how North Koreans feel about him. Kim said that the country loves their newest leader.
Kim and I left the Chinese tourists behind on our 90 minute hike up Mt. Kumgang. Age worked in our favor. It was a very beautiful hike and there was no one else on the mountain. We stayed at the waterfall at the top for some time and hiked back down to wait for the Chinese to reach the top and return.
Kim and I drank local beer as we waited on the Chinese.
When I paid for the beer with Chinese currency, I was given back some change in Chinese yuan, but when they did not have enough they gave me back a US $5 note. I found it pretty bizarre to be given American money in North Korea. I also find it peculiar to get change back at once in different currencies. Trying to double-check the accuracy of your change is pretty tricky when you are dealing with three currencies, two of which are supposed to make up for the combined change together of the original currency price in a money that you are not even allowed to handle as a foreigner. I found it easier just to mentally assume that the North Koreans are not cheaters. The locals seem to have little use for money in their governmental system anyhow…
There were two North Korean waitresses taking care of customers at the table where Kim and I were seated outside. At the table next to us were a couple of North Korean men in their 30s, eating and drinking beer. I could see both of the waitresses looking at me, but only one of them was brave enough to come and interact with me. We had a small conversation in English and she asked my country and my age.
After building up her courage, the other waitress came to look at me and say hello.
I shook her hand and introduced myself, and then she ran away giggling.
It was really sweet. Kim told me, “I think you like chat with girls!” I told Kim that I really like him, but that I was hoping to trade him off for three North Korean girls. It made him laugh… When the Chinese finally got back down from the mountain and we went to leave our table, the shy waitress said to me, “See…see…see you again!” and let me take a photo with her. It is not easy to get North Koreans to be in photos.