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 I have returned from the DPRK

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Zaruka
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PostSubject: I have returned from the DPRK   Sun Jul 07, 2013 10:48 am

I have just returned from my fifth visit to the DPRK. This time I concentrated on the northeast: Hoeryong, Chongjin, Kyongsong, and Rason. I had been to Chongjin in 2011 but the photography was limited. This time they were a bit more relaxed as tourists had been there regularly for two years.

Hoeryong is now open for travel and like many of the smaller cities it is less developed. Coal mining is the predominant industry and slag piles can be seen in the area. I think this year the one change I do see is that people in the northeast are eating better. There are more independent sellers and state sellers on the streets are moving a higher quality of foodstuffs. Ice cream is really popular on the streets of even the smaller towns. Someone has more disposable income.







Sellers near Orang

Planting was going well in the northeast but farming was still taking place high on the hills and erosion remains a problem. The corn, soy beans, potatoes, rice and other crops that I was able to observe close by going into the fields looked good. No sign of mechanization as usual. Petrol is in short supply as always. In the northeast the wood-gas vehicles are the norm.







I finally got into one of the markets. The markets give you an excellent barometer of economic activity. We were not allowed to bring in cameras and I did not mind really but I stayed for several hours pricing commodities. Rice is 4500-5000 won per kilo which is right where the NGO blogs say it is. The price has stabilized over the last year. Corn meal was available but of particular interest was meat. Pork, dog, some beef, chicken, and rabbit were all available for purchase from private sellers. State food seen mostly were finished food products - packaged cookies, ramen etc. The availability of everything was higher than it has been in the past. I purchased worker's clothing, a hat and boots. Even the price in RMB was very cheap. All the vendors took RMB, Euros and USD and had change. These were common people selling mostly Chinese imported goods. I would always be looking for locally produced items but the demand was for Chinese soap and common household products. One curiosity I saw was water bottles filled with home made paint. Every conceivable bicycle part, used, was available. Nails were for sale by the handfull. Homemade tools were found, hand forged by blacksmiths.

We did five factory tours on this trip and these are always fascinating. Any factory tour fascinates me but the DPRK gives you a glimpse into working conditions and a view as to what is being manufactured locally.



The Seafood factory was also incredible to visit. Many of the factories are joint ventures with China.



I would be remiss if I did not post a link to the CNC (Computer Numeric Control) song done by the Bread workers of the Foodstuffs factory of Chongjin. They had talent! See that here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25564641@N08/9162207703/in/photolist-eXCH9k-arUKd4-9rwZJk-asbPg4-9rwZNP

We visited the electronic library in Chongjin and that was interesting. To see the state of computer education in the DPRK this is interesting. They have full internet and they took us to the censorship/monitoring room early in the tour.



See the set here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/zaruka/sets/72157634379591563/with/9161488793/

Rason is the "free trade zone" but the area is not that much different from the rest of the country. The free trade zone just has not lived up to expectations. We did speak to some Russian sailors dredging the harbor and they even did some dredge work for the cameras. The hotels were a bit better but hot water still is a problem even there. Few people go there.

The photos posted thus far are collected on Flickr here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/zaruka/collections/72157634350027991/
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Dear Leader
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Sun Jul 28, 2013 1:51 am

Thanks for all your info and observations, here and the other sites you post at. The Computer Numeric Control song .. really?
I'm still amazed that tourists can come back from the DPRK with so many photos now.  Fascinating look into a country that is so isolated from the rest of the world. It does seem to be slooowly opening itself up a wee bit though.   Interchange can only bring good. Eventually. Hopefully.

In a side note, the new flickr changes make their site more difficult to navigate, in my opinion.  That's progress, I guess.....
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Zaruka
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:13 pm

The rules have not really changed. Tourists in Pyongyang are able to photograph more but there are more of them. You are seeing more photos from Pyongyang and the DMZ. Outside, well same old story.

The good news is I am going back and I will be in Pyongyang again. I have a free ticket to Beijing and I will use it.

They are opening slowly. Change is glacial there but I am seeing a liberalization of the economy on the bottom. I think there is optimism we have not seen before. They are relieved perhaps that Kim Jong-il is gone.
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PostSubject: wondering   Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:38 pm

You think you would have been detained already for being an american.
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Zaruka
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:03 pm

They do not lock you up for nothing. However what we consider something to be locked up for here is not the same there. If you went on a rant against the Kim family they would haul you off and lock you up wither for the duration of the tour or for another few weeks. Rule one is shut up and don't say anything. Think of it as a boarding school with a strict headmaster except they shoot people. It is not the safest place I travel to. Still I do not think they bait you looking for an arrest.
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:14 am

Was the Korean War veteran who was detained recently unlucky or did he say/do something stupid? I haven't seen anything much in the press about the reasons behind it.
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:20 am

There is plenty out there now. There was not much initially. For an in-depth look at this see:
Lankov on Newman arrest

What I know is the following: In 2009 I was near Haeju in the mountains near Mt. Kuwol hiking when a guide told us of the history of the area and the atrocities that the ROK guerrillas inflicted on the local population. This was the White Tigers that Mr. Newman was a part of. To think that he would go back for whatever reason is crazy. To the North they have no concept that the war - the anti-Japanese struggle and the Fatherland Liberation War ended. I know it is hard to conceptualize but that is their view. The Vietnamese welcome back Americans and understand acts of repentance. This is the DPRK and the rules are far different. I would never have advised Newman to go. For him to want to contact anyone in the DPRK that was involved in his unit or in the fighting is insanity.

There are photos of Newman at the reunions of the White Tigers. These are not helping the situation at all.

From their viewpoint this is a very sensitive matter. The tour operator (Juche) should never have allowed this to happen if they had any idea who he was and what he wanted to do.

As an American I am warmly welcomed and discussions of the Korean conflict have been very interesting but I listen. I have met survivors of atrocities and I make no judgement as to them being  untruthful. I am not there to argue at all but to listen and ask questions in the most polite way.

For tourism safety in North Korea see: Wall Street Journal Tourism Safety in North Korea
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:29 am

Thanks for that Zaruka, it explains a lot.
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:33 am

I am not saying it is right. I think he should be released but the back story is at least explaining why. At 85 he should be released for humanitarian reasons. They may be meeting with survivors and they will be televising his "confession." The hostility is still there and they are so insecure about their nation and their position in the world. The more I go the more I get it but the more I go the more I think they have to move forward. They cannot put the past behind them as most nations do.
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:39 am

I absolutely agree. My lunchtime book purchase was : "The Impossible State, North Korea past and future" by Victor Cha so it might make more sense after that.

I have a working knowledge of the Korean War but nothing I have read mentions the RoK guerillas in the North, though General Paik's book has a section on anti-guerilla sweeps in the South.
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:47 am

Victor Cha is a bit too much of a hard liner for me. I am not sure there is a definitive text on North Korea. Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley Martin is throwing every rumor and discounted nonsense into one volume. Lankov is great to read as he at least spent time in the country. I have 46 days in the DPRK all over the country and still I learn more each trip (I am going back for the harvest this year). The Cleanest Race (Myers) has some good theories but I do not like it overall.

The society has been isolated so long that it is unlike any society except rural China 50 years ago and Imperial Japan 80 years ago. Even there I can find real differences. We call it a Confucian nightmare.

Read but keep a skeptical view. When I began going I found half of what I read complete nonsense made up by people who gained financially from their viewpoint. Everyone has an opinion but few know - and I mean even the party members I know on the inside of the country.

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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:03 am

Thanks for those titles. My main interest is in the War and the military aspects, I only bought Cha for light relief.Rolling Eyes 

I'm a historian to trade so I take pretty much everything with a pinch of salt.

I'm trying to work a trip to DPRK and RoK for my 30th wedding anniversary in a couple of years' time.
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:32 pm

Very interesting read, Ray. Thanks for the insight.

I saw that they made him read to their media an apology letter he wrote.



I wonder if after that he will now be released soon?
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:46 pm

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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:47 pm

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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:25 pm

Marine Condron wrote:
Now released.
I like how they "deported" him after making him stay there against his will.
    December 7. 2013 Juche 102
    U.S. Citizen Deported from DPRK

    Pyongyang, December 7 (KCNA) -- As already reported, a relevant institution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) detained and investigated U.S. citizen Merrill Edward Newman who entered the DPRK under the guise of a tourist to confirm the whereabouts of the spies and terrorists who had been trained and dispatched by him, an intelligence officer, during the last Korean War.

    According to the investigation, Newman entered the DPRK with a wrong understanding of it and perpetrated a hostile act against it.

    Taking into consideration his admittance of the act committed by him on the basis of his wrong understanding, apology made by him for it, his sincere repentance of it and his advanced age and health condition, the above-said institution deported him from the country from a humanitarian viewpoint.

=================================

Marine Condron wrote:
Unlike Dear Uncle, who is now banged up.
"accused of mismanaging the economy, corruption, womanising and drug-taking." That could apply to members of the US congress.
    In a process reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984, Jang Song-thaek was ousted from the post of vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission and expelled from the ruling Workers' Party during a turbulent meeting of its politburo.

    Jang, who is married to Kim Kyoung-hui, aunt of the Supreme Leader, is accused of mismanaging the economy, corruption, womanising and drug-taking.

    "Jang and his followers committed criminal acts baffling the imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution," KCNA said.

    "Jang pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scene.

    "Affected by the capitalist way of living, Jang committed irregularities and corruption and led a dissolute and depraved life."

    "Ideologically sick and extremely idle and easy-going, he used drugs and squandered foreign currency at casinos while he was receiving medical treatment in a foreign country under the care of the party."

    It is still not clear whether Jang had been detained or charged with any crime. A picture of him being marched out of a conference hall by uniformed guards was shown on North Korean state television. Kim Jong-un attended and "guided" the meeting, according to KCNA.


    Images of Kim's uncle were erased from a propaganda film rebroadcast by the government and from other official pictures and video footage.

 lol! 
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 10, 2013 12:24 pm

Dear Leader wrote:

I like how they "deported" him after making him stay there against his will.

He had overstayed his visa so obviously a criminal. That and the whole confessing to war crimes thing.


Quote :

Images of Kim's uncle were erased from a propaganda film rebroadcast by the government and from other official pictures and video footage.
How very Stalinist, he is now an "unperson". Which I suppose makes him Un Chang Song-Thaek.
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:41 pm

Marine Condron wrote:
 
Quote :

Images of Kim's uncle were erased from a propaganda film rebroadcast by the government and from other official pictures and video footage.
How very Stalinist, he is now an "unperson".  Which I suppose makes him Un Chang Song-Thaek.
Also Kims un-cle
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:39 am

Well he's an ex-uncle now, never mind an un-cle.
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PostSubject: Re: I have returned from the DPRK   Wed Apr 23, 2014 4:30 am

Zaruka wrote:
Victor Cha is a bit too much of a hard liner for me.
I've just started this and at least he sets out his prejudices good and early and sticks to them.  He knows his audience and tells them what they want to hear.  Some of it is interesting but I doubt I'll get through it all.
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