A Dispatch from Pyongyang
September 8 2012 – September 15 2012
I’ve felt like landing at the other planet where I were allowed 'living off the grid' a short period of time (8 days) in the past life (1970s) at the present time (2012).
I am a junk, I’m as stubborn as a garbage bag that Time can not decay...
The Metropolitan City of Pyongyang
Preface: Don’t shoot the messenger
With a gumption and gusto to challenge the conventional wisdom and massive propaganda against the one of the axis of evil nations, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I, without prejudice, antagonism, or love of communism, have embarked ‘a Once in a Lifetime Journey’ on the eight-day NGO group tour of eleven participants, whose heads were chock-full of the horror stories of gulag, starvation, dictatorial and inhumane sovereignty, etc.
I was a one and only Korean-Canadian participant who was born, cultured, and educated in the South Korea, and, most importantly, had once lived briefly as a teenager under the jurisdiction of North Korean regime when the People’s Army in 1950 swarmed over the most of the southern section of South Korean territory during the Korean War.
Since I was the most knowledgeable among the tour participants in Korean history, geography, culture, and other aspects of life, and fully bilingual in both English and Korean, other participants (all were white US citizenry) appeared to have a wishful thinking that I function as an unofficial interpreter or a ciceroni, even though we had two official North Korean guides assigned throughout the tours.
Therefore, I, from the beginning of our tour, declared clearly: “Don’t make any misunderstanding about me. I am one of the tour participants as you are and you do not expect any help from me when you need a translator or interpreter, period.”
However, I was, constantly and persistently, pestered to function as an interpreter by a Jewish yenta whose flaring nostrils vibrate uncontrollably like a burro when she was reminded by me repeatedly of the fact that I am not her James or a house Negro. (You have to be a patient listener in the group tour since the ever-present chatterbox in the group cannot talk to the wall, but needs at least one nodding respondent to take a fancy about one’s conceit.)
In essence, I simply wanted to play a role of a messenger, no more or less other than a story teller that spins a yarn…even though I shared blood, genes, culture, language, habitats, and other essential things with both North and South Koreans.
During the brief stopover in Seoul, South Korea, I witnessed the rampant process of ‘de-Koreanizing’…a Korean in blood, color, and physiognomy, but a pseudo-American in facial features, in taste, in words, in songs, in opinion and in wisdom.
History and memory are both dead. Consent to Americanizing is manufactured and propagated with a tool called the “Han Wave”, a devilish and neo-colonial product of the syncretic culture, a hodgepodge of mongrel, ghoulish, risible, and crass slapsticks that sadly ridicule South Koreans themselves.
On the morning of departure to Beijing, South Korean Daily Newspaper printed a story that these days in Pyongyang there are many Northern women wearing a mini-skirt and high-heel shoes, which is a sign of Northerners admiring and emulating the Southern fashion and culture. (It was a shameful and naked lie that Northern Girls love to wear the miniskirt...I have not seen even one girl wearing a skirt above their knees during my entire trip.)
Now, let us jump into the lake of Chosen and get hold of a mini-skirted Northern lady.
But remember that I am only a messenger.
Please don’t shoot the messenger.
If you don’t like my story, you go there by yourself and find whether I tell the truth or not.
Author’s note: I sometimes write my diary as if I write a roman-a-clef in order for readers to get familiar with the actual scenes that they could never envisage in reality, because you, the readers of my diary, might not be able to form a mental image of various scenes in the soi-disant “Hermit Kingdom”, since you are not cultured or programmed to be able to figure out the naked reality where the Northerners live.
Inside the Subway Station in Pyongyang
Day One: A Historical background in Korean peninsula in the 50s and beyond
During the coffee break before the boarding time at the Beijing Airport, I offered a concise/laconic/succinct briefing about the Korean history to our tour group that consist of four men/seven women, with half of them Jewish origin.
As Americans are notoriously ignorant of world history, geography, and culture, I began to describe the history that Korea was once a united country under the Japanese colonial occupation until FDR offered Joseph Stalin to divide Korean peninsula in two when they met at Yalta just before the Japanese surrender in 1945.
In other words, I emphatically wanted to educate our tour members that Americans walked into Korean peninsula in 1945 not as a liberator but the military occupiers just replacing Japanese colonial masters.
In addition, I re-affirmed the historical fact that the US Military Governor ordered to abolish the Korean Provisional Government that was already established by the people in the South and brought in their comprador/puppet Dr. Sygnman Rhee from Princeton New Jersey, crowning him as the President.
Sygnman Rhee was a house steward for Uncle Sam who trained him a factotum intellectual that was well versed in Western culture and married with a Caucasian woman of an Austrian origin whose love convinced him that he is a white man.
Rhee was speaking his native language, Korean, with accent and intonation that‘s not familiar with native Koreans as if he’s a half-Korean and a half-American.
Though Rhee was a Korean by birth, he has also become the ‘ultimate other’ by choice, after just three decades of foreign residence in the US. (after four decades of foreign residence, I still speak Korean language with precision and without an accent.)
Rhee was such unpopular and repressive in his first two-year presidency before the Korean War that people rose up to overthrow his regime numerous times.
And Rhee employed massively the former Korean collaborators to Japanese Empire as his executioners who massacred thousands of people in the military campaigns against the revolts that obviously solicited and invited the North’s attempt to unify Korea militarily once and for all.
I attempted to tell the historical truth that the soi-disant ‘August 15 Liberation’ from the Imperial Japan did not bring about the sovereign/independent state for Koreans, instead new neo-colonial overlord disguised a democratic liberator moved in to replace old master…the South Korea began a puppet state (the regime of Syngman Rhee), then a vassal state (Gen. Park CH), followed by a neo-colonial, satellite state and client state (present Republic) to be palatable to the hegemonic American Imperialism.
The South Koreans have become a gaggle of Apes that worships blindly an imported God, Jesus, fights greedily over the bowls of rice, jettisons massively its faltering indigenous culture, and emulates blindly an enchilada of Western concepts with abandon.
I realized immediately that I had a problem with our tour delegates…they did not get the message that the United States of America was a culprit to cause the separation of people and land in Korea from the get go.
The US Government wanted to establish the military foothold in the Korean peninsula in preparation for containing Soviet and Chinese influences and for perpetuating its hegemonic neo-colonialism in the former colonial territories in the Pacific and Southeast Asia region.
They said no, no, and no such thing could possibly occur because we were the one that liberated you, Koreans, and other Southeast Asians from Jap’s colonialism as we were doing the same things in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria liberating people from the dictators and offering them a democracy now.
History shows that our efforts to bring a democracy to all over the world were too numerous to catalogue completely. (The late Gore Vidal once quipped that ‘democracy’ becomes a nonsense word in the US.)
At this point, I made up my mind that I should not involve with any discussion, argumentation, or judgment call during our tour period in the North… in order to avoid any unpleasant or awkward situation, I had to build the firewall around me, assuming that one or two members of our tour group might be a katsa (a case officer) or sayanim (a resident helper) from the Mossad, CIA, or DIA. (It is well known in the intelligence community that there are thousands of sayanim for Mossad around the world who play many different roles; a car sayan who helps Mossad agent rent a car without a routine documentation, an apartment sayan would find a safe house for a katsa from Mossad without raising suspicion, a bank sayan, would get you money in the middle of night, and a doctor sayan would treat your bullet wound without reporting to police.)
Therefore, my interaction with other members trickled down to the point where I solely observe and evaluate by myself independently the people, social milieu, and the system analysis in the North.
On the plane, I was surprised to find that there were so many tourists from the European Continent…Belgians, Netherlanders, French, Russians, Polish, Hungarians, even some Africans, Japanese, and Pakistanis or Indians…Americans were no where except our tour group.
Frankly speaking I was not pleasant or comfortable but somewhat subdued and in deep pen-see even though I was holding a stand-alone entry visa, as I entered into an unknown territory where I might be perceived as a South-Korean-born reactionary whose entire life was devoted to the ideological services to the US empire. (The North would not place a welcome mat before me if they knew that I worked for the South Korean government during my early career in the 70s.)
We landed at the Airport located about 30-minite ride from the Capital City, Pyongyang, where there were no ramp facilities and we were taxied by a trolley-bus to the main building.
Surprisingly, the entry and custom clearance went through in a breeze without any hitch and we were greeted by Mr. Kim and Miss Lee, both gregarious young 20ish interpreters,
and Mr. Han, the 30ish driver who would be with us entire period while traveling around the country. (It’s also a fun to compare the immigration/custom clearance between the US and North Korea…a browbeating, Doberman-pinscher US agent toting a side-arm at the border post in the freedom-loving and the most democratic nation on the globe versus a friendly, smiling, courteous, and unarmed well-wisher in the most oppressive nation on the planet.)
However, I’ve felt like landing at the other planet where I were allowed 'living off the grid' a short period of time (8 days) in the past life (1970s) at the present time (2012).
I mean it is not too gross, offensive, derogatory, or overstated to term the societal ambience in present North Korea as if we were living in South Korea in the 70s.
We were immediately ushered toward an immaculately-cleaned tour bus that’s too large to accommodate an eleven-member delegate from the US NGO in San Francisco.
The NGO has been sending their delegates all over the world for decades…Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Palestine, Iran, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, North Korea, South Korea, etc.,…in order to educate people about how we, individually and collectively, contribute to global problem and then to suggest ways in which we can contribute to positive change locally and internationally.
We were not traveling for voyeurism or rubbernecking as most of the group tour tends to trot around, but offering the participants an opportunity to journey to other countries to examine a situation firsthand to see beyond what is conveyed by the mass media and to learn about unfamiliar culture, tradition, mores, and other essentials, meet with people from all walks of life, establish meaningful relationship with people from other country.
On our way from the Airport to the Hotel Y where most of foreign tourists stay during their journey, our bus shared the multi-lane highway with an ox-cart carrying piles of wood and a horde of bikers and pedestrians rushing for home after work.
Our bus barely made 50 miles an hour not because of traffic jam but a rough surface of the asphalted roadway.
When we entered into the city center of Pyongyang, not many vehicle traffics but a few tandem-trolley bus powered by electricity clogged the six-lane boulevard that lined with well-maintained trees, shrubs, benches, and high-rise apartments, but no commercial buildings and stores whatsoever such as shopping mall, supermarket, factory outlet, convenience store, bakery, coffee-shop, food cart, pet-shop, or lottery-sale windows.
You absolutely don’t have to worry about colliding head-on with cell-phone reading pedestrians or bumping into the path of dog-walkers...no pet animals, neither stray nor pampered, dog, cat, turtle, fish, or parakeet,
No neon-sign board or sales-pitch placard demands my attention.
The streets were Spartan, austere, plain, and settled calm with people walk along the way home or lined for a bus ride home.
No crooning buskers, hat-in-hand pan-handlers, mini-skirted street-walkers, begging/tear-jerking/infirm pensioners, wailing ambulances, fire-trucks or police cruisers.
No one appears to be different from others...most of them wear the same attire, shoes, hats and carry the same style shoulder bags.
We were in the center of a metropolitan city (population: 3.5 million) with serene, calm, settled, and trash-bins/carbon-monoxide/crime-free ambience.
The ever-present, sparkling and conspicuous are the two paralleled iconography: the amicably smiling portraits of Grand Marshals: Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, underneath the signboard demanding people to act with deadly gravity:
1. Let us protect our beloved leader Kim Jong Un.
2. Let us keep up our ‘Military First’ Policy.
3. Let us kick the US Imperialists out of Korea.
Prior to departure to North Korea, our tour group had received a series of intensive educational bulletin from the coordinator of the NGO about the over-all situation in North Korea in particular and Asia Pacific region in general.
We were fully aware of the political system in the North that the country has been run by Kim family since 1945 as a Kim Dynasty.
However, contrary to the popular theory that Kim Family runs the Dynasty, the Worker’s Party in the North Korea has been the one and only organization that control both military and civilian apparatus firmly and exclusively.
Without the loyal support from the Party apparatchiks, Kim Family could not have lasted a minute in holding the regime tightly under their control for over half a century.
With a female county commissar, the Korea Worker’s Party
Day Two: Jaw, Jaw is much, much better than war, war!!
On Sunday, we took several and uneventful junkets according to the official itineraries onto the various sites: the Kim Il Sung Square, the National Cemetery for the Patriots, The Revolutionary Square, and one of restaurants designated for the foreign tourists.
During our luncheon break, one of our group asked Mr. Kim, the male guide, whether she would be allowed to attend the church service, by saying that she, as a Catholic, never missed the Sunday service since she became a Christian.
Mr. Kim appeared to be totally nonplused and confused by her request, suggesting that the Northerners would spend their Sunday for a rest to be ready for coming week’s assignment that was given by their greatest leader, Kim Jong Un.
I found that Mr. Kim and the Catholic lady live thousands miles apart in one hand and think as if they were the same species in other perspective...I did not see them apart from each other but stand on the same pedestal where their cultural icons are shown in a different iconography: one in Jesus Christ worshipped by the billions, and the other in Grand Marshals followed by just 23 millions.
They are a product of their own cultural evolution based on memes analogous in many ways to the biological evolution based on genes...the term memes refer to a replicator of cultural information that transmits to other mind.
According to the Oxford Professor, Richard Dawkins who coined the word, the examples of memes are tunes, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, deities, concepts, ideas, opinions, theories, practices, habits, dances and moods which propagate within a culture.
Some suggested that memes evolve by natural selection—in a way very similar to Darwin’s biological evolution—on the premises that variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance influence their replicative success. For example, while one idea may become extinct, other ideas will survive, spread, and mutate, for better or worse, through modification.
In this perspective, neither Mr. Kim nor a Catholic Lady was wrong or sorry not to meet the demand of others...we are the victim of our own faults that we manufactured, operated, and fulfilled in the course of our life.
If Mr. Kim were born and brought up in the Western cultural environment, he would surely have been immersed with the same memes that a Catholic lady got pummelled by Christian deity and worshipped Jesus in his entire life, and in vice versa, a Catholic lady were becoming a political commissar to devote herself absolutely toward the “Self-reliance” policy of the North Korea.
Some contend that memes most beneficial to their hosts will not necessarily survive; rather, those memes which replicate the most effectively spread best; which allows for the possibility that successful memes might prove detrimental to their hosts.
Memes do not always get copied perfectly, and might indeed become refined, combined or otherwise modified with other ideas, resulting in new memes.
This illustrate clearly how I have metamorphosed from the life of a capitalist pig to an enlightened contrarian...I was born, educated, programmed, employed, and functioned as a lackeyed puppet to serve my totalitalian boss in return for a luxurios, greedy, and selfish life-style that I had chosen to enjoy my entire life.
When I was given a chance to look back my past life and to reflect it with a help from a unique cultural perspective, I did not hesitate to make a change toward an unconventional path and go the roads less traveled by others. (I became a Chomskyian.)
In other words, I, unlike other immigrants, had a capacity to pick, absorb, choose, and modify the various memes in the new world but did not copy them perfectly...and make it refined mine.
In Christian parlance, I was born again!!
The more I travel, meet, talk, and engage with others who do have a contrary ideology against me, the more I feel that so-called Westerners do not hold the earth exclusively on their palm to formulate whatever they like, no matter whether they are rich, civilized, powerful, educated, internet-wired, tablet/cellphone-crazy, or Kangnam-styled.
And the only remedy to solve the conflicts among us is not to argue, fight, or kill others, but to understand, accommodate, and facilitate the methods to alleviate or minimize the impact of the conflicts among us.
That’s why we, the tour group, were here to stay, see, feel, experience, and understand bodily and spiritually about others who are living in the realm of totally different cultural background.
In other words, jaw, jaw is much better than war, war!!
The Pioneer Boy/Girl Group
Day Three: the Political Commissars and Joe Blows
In our civilized and democratized Western world, there are a horde of the North Korean experts—journalists, pundits, anchor persons, think tank researchers, mandarins, academic professors, ex-CIA officers—who boast that they know what’s going on in the political arena at the Kim Dynasty.
However, most of them even have not had placed their foot on the tarmac of the Kim Il Sung Square, but read, sitting in a cubicle, the articles and news stories others wrote about and came to the one-man rule myth: the Kim is the supreme leader who leads the country single-handedly and wields the power arbitrarily...that is, Kim is one and only a King, Emperor, Evil, Executioner, Dictator, as if Jesus is one who saves or destroys us.
And we, civilized and programmed ‘Sheeple’, nod sheepishly and oblige to believe that these experts were the accredited lecturers/informers/experts and we accept their theories without any doubt.
But the fact of matter is that in the real world, no individual could attain an absolute command post and dictate one’s edict arbitrarily without significant assistance from a category of people called ‘nomenklatura’, the administrative, military, economic, cultural, and intellectual elites who benefit from the regime and therefore endeavor to keep the system intact.
In other words, there should be an enchilada of various entities that are manned by cadres, professionals, handlers, and other functionaries whose roles are essential in order to execute the edicts or maintain the ideologies like ‘Juche’ (self reliance), ‘Sun-kun Movement’ (Military First), or anti-US Imperialism.
These functionaries in the North are called “commissars” appointed by the Worker’s Party...village commissar, county commissar, provincial commissar, military commissar...they are ultimately responsible to execute and maintain the modus operandi with precision and no civilian or military personnel challenge or oppose their direction.
The Worker’s Party is the final sayer and arbiter to make a decision, to correct the mistake, or to implement the policies...the Kim is simply an icon as a Jesus in Christianity.
It’s not terribly important how Kim is personally thinking, acting, talking, or dancing...it’s not a one-man show but all choreographed according to the Party lines that were made behind the thick curtains in the Party Headquarters.
And then, who are these Commissars? And how were they picked up and crowned to be Commissars?
On early Monday morning, we were taken by our bus to the huge compound where a row of buildings, dormitory, playground, gymnastics room, was surrounded by thick forest in the suburban area.
And we saw a gaggle of young students, boys and girls, with a special uniform and red mufflers fluttering around their neck...they were just getting off the limousine bus with a heavy loads of various luggage containing snacks, clothes, books, sleeping bags and other essentials to stay in field.
A team of brightly sharp-eyed boys acknowledged us silently with a ‘Hello, How Are You’ nod...I immediately felt and noticed that they were the candidates for the Party Commissars for the next generation!!
These youngsters belong to the Young Pioneer Group that are picked by their fellow students and teachers and housed for the special trainings for weeks every year until eventually chosen by the Party to be manned the posts to follow what the Party orders.
I was told by our tour guides that there are just over 1.5 million Party members among 23 million people. And I personally met and talked with just one Party member during our entire tour. (Mr. Kim, our guide, wished that he’d become eventually a party member so that he’d have a more comfortable life.)
After lunch, we were heading for the City of Wonsan, a harbor city located by the east seaside 250km away from Pyongyang.
During the three-hour drive on the four-lane highway, we were amazed to witness that there were more broken-down vehicles by the roadside than running cars on the road...several military jeeps and coal-powered trucks were languishing away on the side of road, a grease-monkey soldier laboring under the bonnet while a platoon of soldiers squatted on their knees with cigarette butts in their hands.
A huge dump truck belching a plume of black smoke rumbled through the pockmarked surface with abandon.
We did not see any tow-truck activities, let alone a Triple-A guy to rescue the immobilized cars.
There were more pedestrians walking along the highway than moving jalopies...young, old, girls, soldiers, farmers, house-wives, and a team of workers with shovels on their shoulders.
They did not look like traveling long distance but visiting their neighbor villages or marching toward their daily assignments because they did not carry any luggage or lunch pails.
I saw a single, young girl walking alone up the hill with a handbag dangling on her back...if a girl with the same age dares to walk alone in the highway in anywhere USA, you surely end up a carcass thrown by the passing car after being raped by civilized, enlightened, democratized, human-right aficionado, the MR. USA.
Along the highway we only saw one large city and no villages were in sight during the trip, except several checkpoints manned by a policeman or a military personnel with a light side-arm.
Our bus passed through dozens of tunnels on the road where the camouflaged sentry boxes were manned by the People’s Army soldiers and every entry to tunnel was equipped with the tank barrier concrete walls ready to block the passage.
At the rest stop on the road, we located no villagers or wanderers but a couple of shop girls to attend the gift shop and tea house.
The girls, as the service girls in restaurant, wear the traditional costumes that cover the full body length including the shoulder, legs and sleeves, showing a pleasant and gregarious demeanor with a big smile. (They look as healthy as a horse.)
They reminded me of the Korean old saying suggests that a man born in the southern part of Korea is built figuratively better than the man born in the north, while a woman in the northern half of Korea is more beautiful and attractive than a southern-born woman.
Up until now, we have not met or talked personally with any Joe blow Northerners whose identity was not introduced by our tour guides...as a one and only bilingual tourist in the team, I have had multiple chances to strike a conversation with a passerby or the shop girls, but I never engaged with them in Korean language whenever there were our tour group around in the vicinity...that is, I was not there as a native Korean but a Canadian!!
However, as a former South Korean, I have felt that I could read their emotion, feeling and heartbeat without saying a word.
For me, I did not have any complaint about the lack of personal contact that most of our tour members lodged on our guides; I did not have to talk to the Northerners...I knew immediately as soon as we arrived in the Airport and passed through the streets of Pyongyang City, I felt that I was taken aback to the years of 1960s and 1970s in the South Korea when and where I had studied, worked, and lived in almost same environs.
And I came to a conclusion that the North and South Korea are far apart in every aspect of life for over a half century and they do not share any thing any more culturally, spiritually, economically, financially, and even figuratively and linguistically. They were totally disengaged, disconnected, and disenchanted from eath other.
The Kindergarten in the Co-op Farm
Day Four: The Potemkin Villages
In every guided tour, the ‘Potemkin’ village is a must place to be included in the official itineraries and ours was not an exception...when we arrived at the co-op farm near Wonsan City, the area where a row of houses, offices, and school buildings was vacant and no sign of human activities...except the sound of organ playing on the kindergarten site where we were scheduled to visit.
A 50ish lady with a neat and clean dress greeted us with a cordial manner took us around the compound and facilities that were surrounded by spotless and garbage-free garden.
The lady sheepishly explained us that most of the co-op members are on an assignment to take an excursion to the neighboring town for meetings.
Later, we were led to the kindergarten playground and joined with a gaggle of boys and girls who made a circle to dance and sing.
Some younger kids were squatting by the railings and watched us with showing no emotion whatsoever...they showed no sign of vigor, curiosity, cheerfulness, or alertness, but bored, tired, and lack of desires to do anything kids want to play.
The scene kept remind me of my kindergarten years when I was led by a house-maid who pulled me on a tricycle...wearing a bright yellow jacket with a bow-tie and leather backpack swinging on my back.
The kids showed an obvious signs of stunted growth due to the lack of nutritional diet that I had not seen in the streets of Pyongyang City.
I felt sad and uncomfortable when I realized that these kids eventually end up in a category of Joe Blow/canon fodder class in the coming generation. (As a capitalist, I bought a temporary comfort by donating, personally and sub rosa, a few hundreds greenbacks for the acquisition of extra food for the kids, after all of our tour members boarded up the bus for departure.)
Lastly, the lady invited us to her house located on the perimeter of the co-op ground that has three-bedrooms with a family room, kitchen, and out-house.
Her home was spot-clean but frugally equipped with hard floor, desks and ever-present portraits of the Grand Marshals. No desktop or laptop computer, cell-phone or home phone, electric cooker, coffee-maker, toaster, water-purifier, washer or drier.
One thing I tried and failed to locate was a trash can, drum, or facilities to hold or keep the waste matters...
Except in our hotel room, there were no ways we may dispose our trashes in the street or the place we visited...in other words, they barely create garbage or have got nothing to trash but to reuse it or make it bio-degradable.
In this sense, the North Koreans were the most environmentally friendly people around the world and saviors of the planet ultimately.
The second ‘Potemkin’ village was the Maternity Hospital in Pyongyang City... as in the Hospitals in Canada, this huge Maternity Hospital did not have a billing Department.
From towels, baby food, medicine, and other essentials for the delivery of babies to the accommodation, transportation, or any medical procedures, the state pays all the costs.
It’s true that the medical equipments were somewhat outdated and old-fashioned, and doctors and nurses were not trained as if we, the Westerners, enjoy utilizing their state of art skills.
However, they don’t have to worry about whether the penniless mothers may not get the treatments in the Hospital. All are taken care of by their Great Leader, period.
In this sense, we should have built their Potemkin village more vigorously in our capitalistic society.
When I realized that there was not a single panhandler, homeless or obese people, young or old, in cities, streets, or at the social gatherings to be found, I wanted to theorize that the whole North Korean society must be a ‘Potemkin’ Village!!
You may keep beggars and homeless people out of sight by kicking them out from the city limit as we habitually do in our Western civilized society...but we cannot possibly do incarcerate the obese people in prison because they are too many to keep them out of sight in the cities, say in New York, Chicago, LA, Paris, London, Seoul, Tokyo, etc.
But how could the Kim Family keep these obese people out of sight from all over the country?
Reality is that there were no fat men in North Korea to keep them in the concentration camp! They don’t have a luxury, time, or lifestyle to become fat, overweight or obese people...because they have to walk, walk, and walk, all day, all seasons, all years, and all life until they finally kick the bucket! The North Koreans don’t have to spend hours of time on a treadmill to run like a squirrel in a barrel to keep shape like a human being...
In this sense again, I realized that we, civilized Westerners, are over-fed, over-nourished, over-indulged, over-pampered, and over-weighted in entire life producing tones of waste foods that we could share with the hungry people around the world.
Now, let’s go to the May Day Stadium where the monumentally choreographed mass gymnastics display proudly how North Koreans live a life under the shadows of two Grand Marshals.
The Arirang Mass Games
Day Five: The Arirang Mass Game
The mass game in the May Day Stadium was absolutely a pinnacle of our journey in the North Korea...a synchronized performance of gymnastics, acrobatics, and dances that 100,000s of youngsters honor and praise the image of their Great Leaders, the Worker’s Party of Korea, the People’s Army.
The Games were recognized by the Guinness World Record as the biggest event of its kind in 2007.
Every spectators including all foreigners in the arena were ecstatic and in hallelujah mood, joining with every moves and changes of scene that made them crazy about the performances.
The performances were in no way described accurately without watching the games with your own eyes.
I have no other ways except praising it fantastic, awesome, magnificent, marvelous, sensational, incredible...the scenes I ever witnessed the performances of youngsters, the backbone of the North Korea.
I will bet my precious ass that no country in the world could train their youngsters in a fashion as the North Koreans employ to formulate the games.
If they were taken to the Yankee Stadium and allowed to show the performances to the American people, a majority of American spectators would either shudder in fear of their dynamics or praise in honor of their agility, acknowledging that their cheerleading performances before the major games are an infantile gaga-ing to stir up the senile audiences.
I definitely could say that you would be very sorry if you die before seeing their performances .It’s much, much inspiring and awesome game than any sports events in the West. And I wouldn’t hesitate a minute to visit again the North Korea for their mother of all games.
A briefing officer at the Pueblo Spy Ship
Day Six: De-Militarized Zone and Pueblo Spy Ship
DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, 250 km long and 4 km wide, the most heavily fortified no-man’s land.
When we were taken there after two and half hours of bus drive along the almost deserted highway between Pyongyang and Kaesong, the southern part of South Korean compound was deserted with no sign of human activities like the ghost town in the forest...only the northern side was bustling with hundreds of tourists from all over the world.
After a routine inspection over the hut where the armistice agreement was signed, we settled down for sometime at the Conference room on the demarcation line to relax and reflect over half century of tit-for-tat occurrences in the area...the fact of matter is that it’s not a talk, arbitration, or negotiation between North Korea and South Korea...it’s always between North Korea and the United States of America, draped under the false flag of the United Nations. The South Koreans have always been played a role of the puppet directed by their overlord, USA.
In other words, the South Korean officials do not have a dictionary to describe an affirmative ‘NO’ to their master, USA, in the affairs on the Peninsula, while the North exclusively stands alone against their enemy, an 800-pound Gorilla...with a little or no geo-political consideration in terms of the China/Russia relationship.
The North Koreans appear to be enjoying immensely to show off their prized catch in 1968, the Pueblo Spy Ship, permanently moored in the beach at the Daedong River that meanders the City of Pyongyang...it became a must site to go and hear for all North Koreans, children, soldiers, citizens, country bumpkins, or foreign tourists about the incursion the Spy Ship has made into their territorial water and Lyndon Johnson’s abject apology in order to getting the captured crews released.
It was an ironic to see the Spy Ship moored in the same place where the US General Sherman incident occurred in 1866...an armed merchant ship was destroyed and crews killed when the US attempted to open up Korea to trade and the Christian missionaries.
It’s also hilarious to hear that the US District Court Judge in 2008 awarded $65 millions in damage what the litigation-crazy American crews filed against the North Korean Government for torture and maltreatment during the captivity. (Forget about Abu Ghrail, Guantanamo, or Bagram. In the US Prison in Florida and Texas, the inmates were routinely savaged by dogs, electrocuted with cattle prods, and burned by toxic chemicals.)
The core problem for Americans in general and our tour team in particular appears to me that they are living in a ‘victory culture’ totally oblivious about the historicity of the US imperialism...wrapped themselves around with the blanket of the slogans; America, the good, democracy, freedom-loving, and righteousness: we are always doing a good thing, always altruistic in every move for the sake of democracy and benefits of others, and others are evil, if they don’t follow our orders.
Despite the constant predictable sloganeering about freedom and democracy, the US has always been more concerned about preserving corporate interests and a hegemonic domination of power, with an ideology that is unyielding and destructive.
Entire peoples and nations around the world have been ruined and exploited. This is why people around the world hate USA, not because of a vague dispute with a vague concept like freedom.
When the North Korean said “We ain’t gonna follow your order!”, arming themselves with the nuclear arsenals, Uncle Sam employs a variety of tools to harass, sanction, attack, and eliminate the North.
You may find the antithesis in the following article against the typical mainstream argument that the North Korea should abolish their nuclear capabilities and ‘say Uncle’ to the US imperialism
The night scene in Pyongyang
Day Seven: The Samson Option
I have written the following article in October 2006 after I read the NY Times article that the US intelligence groups predicted the demise of the North Korea in 5 years.
Since my article, two nationalistic leaders who have tried and failed to join the Nuclear Club have been murdered unceremoniously and miserably (Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya).
In the sea of neo-colonial nations in Asia, the Kim Dynasty remains one and only authentic, genuine, and bona fide sovereign nation as countries like Cuba, Venezuela, , Bolivia, Ecuador, Iran, and Zimbabwe.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) finally succumbed to the Western Power recently, and Aung San Suu Kyi will play a role of a mama-san in the global brothel, selling out the vast field of the pristine forests to the salivating Octopus, Wall Street.
“Samson said; let me die with the Philistines…so the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (Judges 16:4-30)
1. The Perception Gap
For the month of October this year, there has been vociferous gaga among nations over the nuclear test of the North Korea that panjandrums of pundits, scholars, anchorpersons, and analysts of every colors pitched in their high opinion about what to do with the pariah state.
In other words, the Western mass media constantly tell us how Americans see the nuclear proliferation in the Far East region in their own perspective and the same outlet rarely tell us much about how others living in the region see it.
The gap between perceptions on the issue is so enormous that people are confused and misinformed of the situation that might develop into the nuclear brinkmanship and eventual nuclear conflagration in the Korean peninsular and vicinity.
For the better understanding of the situation, we have to wear two pairs of shoes from both sides on the equal footing, the US and the North Korea, not like the Western mainstream media that propagate and spin only the one-sided story from the US government, depicting the North Korea an unstable, irrational, and rogue regime ruled by crazy man, Kim Jong-Il.
Now let’s begin putting ourselves into the Uncle Sam’s shoes…
The United States want the North Korea to stop immediately the nuclear programs, because the regime of Kim Jong-Il is one of the axis of evil that threatens the world peace. In addition to economic sanction against the North Korea, Uncle Sam immediately exercised the piracy on high seas under the PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative) that violates the international law, and the US Defense Secretary strongly demanded his counterpart from the South Korean Government that the South should take part in the PSI operation against the North, that is, the US want their lackey regime joining to escalate in war footing against their Northern brother.
In sum, the US determine this time not to engage in peaceful negotiation but to bring about their ultimate objective of another “regime change” operation against the sovereign country as they exercised, for years, against many countries numerous times around the world, various Latin American countries, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al.
From North Korea’s perspective on the other hand, its nuclear program is a fundamental element in their national defense and security.
Therefore, there is little likelihood that Kim Jong-Il would give up the weapon of last resort.
Just for a moment imagine what you would do if you were put in the North Korean shoes…for them, scrapping the nuclear program is like throwing out the life jacket from the typhoon-wrecked vessel in the middle of the ocean that would be one and only tool to save them from drowning in the sea of enemies, Japan, South Korea, USA et al.
Would you give up one and only bargaining chip before sitting down with the 800-pound gorilla with megatons of nuclear, hydrogen, and chemical bombs who has been historically harassing, sanctioning, shooting, bombing, killing, and “regime-changing” at will the poor and weaker nations around the world?
Thinking from more rational perspective, you’d be quite easy to comprehend why the North Korea decided to possess the nuclear bombs, if you turn your attention toward the Israeli decision to become the member of the Nuclear Club in early 60s when Israelis felt its survival was on the line. (The media rarely compare Israeli situation with North Korea’s because they for decades conspired to remain silent on Israeli’s nuclear arms.)
The Israeli Government in early 1960s adopted the Samson Option as their basic defense policy against the Arab enemies, realizing that nuclear weapons are one and only equalizer in order to survive in the situation encircled by Arab Muslim nations.
“Never Again!” reasoning that Holocaust occurred in part because Jews in Europe did not resist became a zeitgeist that Israel would never be passive in the face of its enemy attack even though they face total annihilation.
2. The Samson Option: 1st Edition
The Samson Option refers to Samson’s choice, the Biblical namesake in Judges 16:4-30, who brought down two main pillars of a great temple when he was cornered by the Philistines, killing both his enemy and himself.
The basic defense policy of Israel since its birth was to build the strongest military power in both conventional and thermo-nuclear arms, and it would not hesitate to flex her muscle when dealing with her neighbors, Arab countries.
According to Seymour Hersh, the author of “The Samson Option”, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in the 60s pondered about the Dimona nuclear programs the practical ones because the Dimona project was costing upward of $500 million a year, more than 10 percent of the Israeli military budget.
He was initially worrying about the money not being spent elsewhere: “I don’t have the money for it. How many children will go without shoes? How many students will not go to university?”
But for Ben-Gurion’s eye, the Father of Israeli State, “the nuclear project was holy”, assuming sacred dimensions…and the American Jews, from the billionaires to the father of H-bombs in the US, led a secret campaign for the Israeli to acquire the atomic bombs, raising billions of dollars and providing the nuclear technology.
Above all, it was an undeniable fact that the US, Great Britain, and France were conspired to provide Israelis with materials, money, technologies, and acquiescence, in order to position a teeny small Jewish nation a nuclear gendarmerie in the region.
Ever since Harry Truman’s support of the birth of Israel (there is an episode that two Jews delivered two suitcases of cold cash, 2 million dollars, to the Truman campaign train), the US government, Democrat or Republican, turned the blind eyes on the Israeli nuclear ambition and behaved like a cat that swallowed the canary when they were pushed to the limit.
During the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Israeli defense was in danger of total collapse by the invading Arab forces, the Israeli Government threatened both Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon with the use of nuclear weapons against the Arab countries.
In the Gulf War in 1991, the US Government had provided the Israelis the batteries of the Patriot Missiles against the incoming Scud missile attacks by Saddam Hussein, fearing that the Israeli Government might engage in pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Iraq.
On the issue of Iranian attempt to develop the nuclear capabilities, it is rational, putting in terms of the Samson Option, to think that Israelis strongly feel compelled to strike first, before Iran has the ability to make its own first strike.
In sum, the fact that the nuclear capability empowered the Israel providing the leverage in regional conflicts has offered an attractive logic for other countries considering the nuclear option: the United States has never attacked a country with nuclear arms.
3. The Samson Option: 2nd Edition
Since Israel was known a country holding the nuclear bombs in the basement, India and Pakistan officially declared to join the Nuclear Club, making total eight countries membership nation.
For Kim Jong-Il North Korea, it is apparent and logical to join the Nuclear Club that would guarantee to protect them from the Yankee harassment and insult.
It is bizarre to see why the Western nations cannot understand the North Korea’s situation while they can understand the fear that forced Israelis to hold the nuclear option.
In case of Pakistan, Uncle Sam initially regarded it as a rogue nuclear state when it test fired missiles capable of carrying the atomic warhead with North Korea’s Rodong technology.
It is also known fact that the North Korea had acquired the bomb making techniques from the Pakistan in return for exchanging missile technology, designating both Pakistan and North Korea the violating countries of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).
Pakistan is a great friend of Uncle Sam, getting billions of military aids from the US and North Korea became an evil nation that threatens the world peace.
Imagine for a moment that Kim Jong-Il does not have nuclear deterrence against his enemies…the street of Pyongyang flares up frequently, at Uncle Sam’s whim, with cluster, napalm, and 500-pound bombs lobbed by Tomahawk missiles and a squadron of B-52 bombers launched from the Guam Air Base.
Imagine for a second how many North Korean men, women, and children would perish without any recourse to counterbalance the barbaric and cowardly bombing raids.
One does not need to imagine the scenario in case the North Korea with a lack of nuclear capability…the world already and abundantly experienced how Uncle Sam punished the weak countries at random in order to shape world in his own image.
Now, is there still anyone to rebuke Kim’s rationale holding the nuclear bombs in his bosom while accepting Israelis Samson Option?
In essence, the Samson Option adopted by various weak nations upset the cold war model for nuclear strategy…during the Cold War, the more you hold nuclear weapons, the more you have power and deterrence against your enemies.
Not any more!
You don’t need piles of atomic bombs to deter the enemy attack but how and when one or two bombs strategically position to strike and disrupt the core area.
Ariel Sharon, an Israeli General and ex-Prime Minister, once said: “Arab may have the oil, but we have the match.” (Since January he is in a vegetative coma state peeing and pooping in his pants devoid of his arrogance and chutzpah.)
Kim Jong-Il brags: “We don’t have a luxury of cell phone, I-Pod, or HD TV, but have an A-bomb to take you to Inferno together.”
However there is a slim hope that we, if logical, sane, and reasonable, could prevent any nation to initiate the suicidal attack, since the Samson Option requires preparing for the total annihilation of the launching nation.
Kim may behave like a sewer rat, but he still has a choice of biting you when you corner him with no escape route.
On the other hand, Kim is poised, contrary to the Western media spins, no threat of launching the Samson Option on its neighbors, Japan and South Korea unless he feels otherwise no other choice.
How a nation that cannot feed its own people three-meals-a-day could engage in a war against the enemy whose conventional and nuclear arsenal could annihilate the whole population on the earth?
Don’t let the spin-doctors (the stupidity of Mr. Cho-Joong-Dong in South Korea and the arrogance of the Neo-Con warmongers in US) dictate your life!
Sanctions and other efforts, like “Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” US imperial diplomacy, to isolate the North Korea are not the most effective way to deal with nuclear-armed “madman”, Kim Jong-Il.
I tell people you only live this life once, whether you are an American, North or South Korean, Jew or Japanese! We all are on the same boat.
The choice is with us…and jaw-jaw is always better than war-war.
Let us resume talking again.
Peace! Insh Allah! Shalom!
The last thought: the only way a country like North Korea or Iran can protect itself from US attack, other than full-scale obeisance, is to acquire nuclear weapons. That is precisely why the US and Israel are so eager to ensure that the Iran does not have a bomb.
The trolley bus in the street of Pyongyang
The Friday night dance party for the University Students
Day Eight: I’m as stubborn as the garbage bag that time cannot decay...
Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe): When the United Kingdom once condemned of his authoritarian policies and alleged racist attitudes as being comparable to those of German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, Mugabe responded mocking the UK's claims by saying that "I am still the Hitler of the time. This Hitler has only one objective, justice for his own people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people, and their right to their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold."
Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan) : on his perceived image as an impotent leader in thrall to the US Administration, he said he was willing to shoulder insults in return for US assistance: “Me, a Puppet? My God! If we were called puppets or I am called a puppet because we are grateful to America, then let that be my nickname.”
Park Chung-Hee (South Korea ): “I have the mindset and spirit befitting a Japanese subject and am willing to give my life for Emperor.”
Military Dictator/President made a pledge of allegiance written in his blood to the Japanese Emperor in 1939 when Korea was in colonial thrall of the Japanese Empire.
Hundreds of thousands of Koreans have collaborated with their Japanese masters and volunteered to fight in the war against China and Southeast Asia for the Japanese Imperial occupation during the WWII.
When new neo-colonial master, Uncle Sam, replaced an old colonial master, Japs, General/President Park again pledged his allegiance—not with his own blood, but with his Sheeple’s blood this time—to new overlord by dispatching the thousands of the Korean soldiers to the killing field during the Vietnam War.
Now South Koreans are about to reinstate Military Dictator Park posthumously as the Father of South Korean Prosperity as they are poised to elect his daughter a next El Presidente.
Juche Ideology (North Korea): The three fundamental principles are 1. Political Independence 2. Economic Self-sustenance 3.Self-reliance in Defense
The Koreans used to bemoan about their predicaments by saying that the shrimp (Korean peninsular) whose back gets broken in a fight between whales (China, Russia, Japan, and now Uncle Sam).
Three principles are the common factors that all the colonized people wanted to achieve in their endeavors to be free from the hegemonic powers of the Western imperialism.
A poet/song-writer/singer, Leonard Cohen croons in a sentimental style: “I am a junk. But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags that time can not decay. I’m still holding on...Sail on, Sail on. Sail on...”
The North Korea through the lens of the obese and fat Westerners is obviously a junk...and the garbage man (the West) wants to haul out the junk as soon as possible, but time can not decay the bag and the junk keeps sail on, on, and on...but how long?
I find no merit, goodness, worthiness or national wishes to get North and South re-united to One Korea at this stage.
They are as foreign to each other as a Yahweh in Torah vs. a Jesus in New Testament.
They are as distinctive to each other as an athletic grown-up vs. an over-fed Mama-boy.
The truth of matter also is that there is no possibility, let alone probability to see two regions re-united in any fashion as far as there remains the US occupation forces in the peninsula. And everyone knows that Yankees will never leave voluntarily...but a delusion lingers on especially in the vassal state, South Korea, that the two Koreas may be re-united while carrying the US Imperial Army on their back.
Now the South got the permission from the Obama Administration to extend their missiles to reach far up the Chinese mainland and to increase its payloads to carry heavier bombs...Yankees want to use the peninsula a stepping-stone to bridge the Pacific Ocean for ultimate target, China.
Is the nation really sovereign or independent if it needs the permission from others in order to have a weapon for the national defense?
Isn’t it bizarre to hear a rationale that the Occupied pays their Occupier billions of dollars for the costs of the Occupation with their blood money?
It’s a waiting game...Americans and their puppet, the South Koreans, wish the North Koreans revolt against the Kim Family joining their over-fed club...making 23 millions de-Koreanized to become an ape-faced South Korean! (You have to work like a dog before allowing you to join the club and it’s a big mistake anticipating that the Northerners would become a yes-man to kowtow to the Southern puppet for American overlord.)
And China would never allow the North Korean regime to fall apart becoming a satellite state of the US Empire that lurks across the Yalu and Tumen River.
The mass game to praise their Great leaders
Postscript: Chinese economy has been bottomed out
On the returning flight to Beijing, I was seated with Gino, a Belgian physician who was traveling with his daughter...he explained to me that the purpose of his trip was to teach his young daughter how the communist system makes people suffering from economic predicaments to political oppression.
I explained him that communism has got nothing to do with economic situation in the North, by adding an episode as follows:
“Suppose you were living in the island with your daughter surrounded by your neighbors who are determined to kill you and your daughter, what would you do?”
His answer was: “fight to death till I secure my family to live by arming myself to the teeth. It doesn’t matter whether I could not afford to have extra clothing or three meals a day.”
I re-affirmed his answer by saying that you don’t mind to lose your freedom for the sake of acquiring security... in other words, survival is a priority...his answer: “Exactly.”
The North Koreans have done the same thing as exactly as Gino would do to save themselves from the US imperial threats to destroy their country for over half a century by arming with the Nuclear arsenals that have cost enormous amounts of money and resources to acquire the technology, raw materials, and endeavors.
In the process of getting the Nuclear Bombs, the Northerners suffer immensely and continuously from the retarded economy to the political hardship that the US has been inflicting upon them in the forms of political, economic and financial sanctions, various embargoes ranging from energy, resources, and technologies.
After hour-long discussion, he thanked me that I let his brain function more wisely and wake him up from the one-sided stories by the mainline media in the West.
On arrival in Beijing Airport, I could see a screen of thick smog appeared in the sky that you could hang your hat on it...the first sign of the capitalist maladies that sick, maim, and slowly and eventually kill us...
In the ‘Soho’ commercial district in downtown, there were a row of high-rise buildings where most of the retail stores were not occupied and not a silhouette of human activities was detected at all.
It appears that the economic development has outpaced the human capability to respond with the massive capital infusion in every corner of the City. A majority of Chinese people does not seem to have a dynamic intelligence to meet, challenge, accept, and absorb the excessive inroad of the global capitalism.
However, they were not in shock, awe, or panic mode, but with wait, see, and somewhat carry-the-day attitude, the typical, conventional, and long-lasting Chinese characteristics.
Chinese are more pragmatic than idealistic ready to choose economic prosperity over democratic system...the real issues in China are about the economy and prosperity, not the dissidents, ethnic revolts, or thick smog in the City.
When I raised the issue of one of the dissidents in China, a Chinese laughed and remarked: “you may think this issue with the same degree of concerns that the Americans entertain in the mainstream media about the incarceration of Leonard Peltier or Mumia Abu Jamal.”
Regarding the ethnic issues like Tibet and Uighurs, he raised the voice and asked:” If Hawaiians want to separate and re-establish their own sovereign country, would you, Americans, are happy to comply with their request?”
Chinese appears to think smog issue comparable to the traffic congestion in Beijing...it will disappear naturally when people get sick of cars and start to walk or bike again as they used to do.
Chinese firmly believe that the North Koreans are their friends and valuable neighbors no matter what others say.
Chinese would hold the Northerners tight on their bosom as comrades and partisans as they used to fight together against the Japanese Imperial Army in the 1930s.