Greetings from North Korea

Crazy interview with an American guy who visited North Korea.

Everywhere you go in Pyongyang, the skyline is dominated by a huge 105-story concrete pyramid, the Ryugyong Hotel, which looms over the city like the pyramid-shaped Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984. It was intended to be the world’s tallest hotel, but it turned out to be structurally unsound, so it was never completed. It’s been standing there, abandoned, since 1992. It doesn’t appear on any official maps, and nobody ever talks about it, because it’s such a horrendous embarrassment.

The most memorable thing about Pyongyang, though, is the total darkness that descends at night. Because electricity is in short supply, there are hardly any lights at all — a couple of bulbs here and there, and the headlights of passing buses. People are out and about, but all you can see are the dark shapes right beside you. Back at the hotel, you look out the window and there’s just nothing. It’s like the whole city was just swallowed up.

[…]

We visited a kindergarten in Rason to watch a performance by the schoolchildren. While we were waiting for it to start, we had a look around. On one of the walls was a painting from a popular North Korean cartoon series showing a cute forest animal hunched behind a machine gun blasting away at his enemies. Some of the children’s drawings were posted on another wall in the hallway. One showed a North Korean tank running over enemy soldiers, and another showed a North Korean jet shooting down enemy planes. Next to them were typical childhood drawings of balloons, birds, and bunny rabbits. The contrast kind of twisted your gut.

The rest is plenty weird and tragic.

[Christina Larson @ Foreign Policy via the Browser]

[image via Dear Leader]
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September 29, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.