My Second Time in Pyongyang

Last April 10 to 17 of 2012 was my second time in Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea. If it is compared to my first time in 2003, I saw many different things, which are improved, in Pyongyang.

More cars, some are fancy cars, and even cabs are on the streets. Lights are on in the nights. Old and new trams operating transforming people from one place to another places. The supermarkets and street vendors are there with people taking a long queue to buy things. Ice cream booths also can be easily found. I tried one and found it delicious.

The traffic lights are on. But still there are traffic polices with blue-white uniform and a stick to direct the cars passing the junctions.

More colors, flags of North Korea and Worker’s Party of Korea flew in many part of the city. I saw billboards of cars advertisement in some points in Pyongyang. In front of the Pyongyang Train Station there is a huge digital screen showing Korean movies and songs.

New houses and buildings make Pyongyang looks more packed then it was in 2003.

People walking while talking on mobile phone are common scenery in the downtown of Pyongyang today. I was told that the North Korea’s mobile system is somehow quite different with the other side of the world’s has. It is not easy for foreigner to buy local number. If you are foreigner and had one, you only can communicate using your mobile with other foreigners. Locals can only talk with locals. Nevertheless, yet it is an improvement if we compare with what it had in 2003.

My Indonesian colleague and I flew Air Koryo’s Ilyushin Il-62 from Beijing, China, April 10. Air Koryo has four Il-62s. That day five flights took off to Pyongyang. Set on runaway at 1.30 pm, our flight was the second. We landed at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang around 3.30 pm in the middle of the rain.

Before departure from the airport to hotel, like the other visitors and as before in 2003, I had to leave my mobile phone. They kept it and returned it to me when my visit is over. Out side the airport, the weather was chilly and foggy. Streets were almost empty amidst the rain.

We were invited by the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (CCRFC) to attend the International Festival Celebrating the Centenary of the Birth of the Great President Kim Il-sung, in Pyongyang from April 10 to 17, 2012. It is a kind of summit or final program after many programs related to the centenary of Kim Il-sung took place in national and regional levels around the world a year before.

Hundreds delegates participated in the even from at least 61 countries as follow Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Colombia, the DR of Congo, Cuba, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Luxemburg, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, the UK, Ukraine, the US, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

All delegates of the International Festival Celebrating the Centenary of the Birth of the Great President Kim Il-sung stayed in Yanggakdo International Hotel. Besides us, hundreds of delegates for the 28th April Spring Friendship Art Festival also stayed in Yanggakdo International Hotel.

Yanggakdo International Hotel is situated in Yanggakdo Islet in the middle of Taedong River of Pyongyang. From the height of this hotel we can easily observe Pyongyang ‘s sceneries, including the Juche Tower and the Ryugyong Hotel that is known as the giant pyramid of Pyongyang.

After managed our luggage in the hotel room at the 25th floor, my friend and me were attended the first meeting in the hotel’s round conference room. The first meeting was about finalizing the whole programs during our visit in Pyongyang, chaired by the Former Spokesperson of Nigerian Parliament Ibrahim Manthu. In that meeting all representatives agreed to title the event the International Festival Celebrating the Centenary of the Birth of the Great President Kim Il-sung.

***

On April 11, 10.00 am, all delegates visited President Kim Il-sung’s birthplace at Mangyongdae. Bucket of flowers was presented to respect Kim Il-sung’s birthplace. Planting friendship tress in the park not far from the house followed this visit. The Chairman of Indonesia-Korea Friendship Association, Ristiyanto, took apart in this program with the other head of delegations.

At the afternoon, I accompanied Ristiyanto to the Headquarter of the Worker’s Party of Korea’s Central Committee in Pyongyang. Ristiyanto is also a Secretary General of Indonesia’s Vanguard Party. There he met Ryu Mong-son, the Head of International Department of the WPK. It was a friendly meeting and at the end of the meeting Ristiyanto signed the Pyongyang Declaration on behalf of Vanguard Party.

According to Ristiyanto, the Pyongyang Declaration’s values are similar to those of the Indonesia’s Vanguard Party.

“One of the Vanguard Party’s belief is a justice and peaceful world. We share this belief with the Pyongyang Declaration,” he said.

One of topics Mong-son shared to us was the Kwangmyong Song 3 satellite’s launching plan. He assured us that it was a satellite that will be taken to the outer space using rockets.

“Our enemies insisted saying that we are about to launch a long range missile. No, the truth is that the rocket carries out the satellite,” says Mong-son.

To give a prove to the world, the North Korea had invited experts from many countries and also hundred journalists from all over the world to directly monitor the launch.

He also mentioned that the North Korea sees that it is a must for them to have a communication satellite and to control it so then Korean people can use it freely. He also said, that having and controlling a communication satellite is one of fundamental sign in protecting the North Korea sovereignty. There are only nine countries that having and controlling their own satellites, and there rest are dependent meaning controlled by the superpower.

“The satellite launching is to show our sovereignty and our ability in copping with the high technology,” he added.

We finished our visit to the Headquarter of WKP before 5.00 pm.

Our next agenda was participating in the International Meeting Supporting the Reunification of Korea, held in round conference room of Yanggakdo International Hotel.

Ibrahim Manthu of Nigeria again chaired this session. The second person sitting in his left side was the Vice Chairman of CCRFC Kim Jin-bom.

I remember that in 2003 I met and had a courtesy call with Jin-bom. He is also the Chairman of Indonesia-Korea Friendship Society and the Chairman of Supporting Committee of World Progressive People.

Some people stood in the podium as speakers, including speakers from Switzerland, Congo, the Philippines, Japan and the US. All of speakers agree to the cause of reunification of the two Korea under the banner of “without other party involvement”. They referred to the Three Charter for National Reunification, which consist of Three Principles for National Reunification, the 10-point Program for Grand National Unity, and the Proposal for Founding Democratic Confederal Republic of Koryo.

All speakers also agreed to the effort in implementing the June 15 Joint Declaration and October 4 Declaration.

They shared a view in looking at, particularly, the US’ hostile policy in reunification cause. For them, the US’ policy toward the Korean Peninsula hinders peace and reunification. They insisted that the US withdrawal from Korean Peninsula is one of basic preconditions in creating stability in the whole region. Therefore, the reunification can be taken into reality.

Eric Sirotkin, an American lawyer and mediator, offered a new perspective in looking at the subject of reunification of Korea. According to him, reunification of Korea requires a change in our consciousness.

“We need not live in the past and perpetuate this state war, but use it as our teacher toward a new way of relating and thinking,” he said.

More bilateral talks between the North Korea and the US are necessary to resolve their state of war, he added. He referred to the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 39/11 of 1984 saying that it placed a sacred duty on the US and the DPRK to eliminate the threat of war.

At the end of the meeting, all delegates agreed to a resolution in working on the issue. Before the meeting was dismissed, Kim Jin-bom took a stand and presented his thanks and appreciation to the support given by the delegates.

***

At the next day, April 12, almost all of participants went to the Mt. Paektu, visited Samjiyon Grand Monument and General Kim Jong-il’s birthplace in the Paektusan secret camp. They left the hotel at 7.00 am and took two planes to reach Samjoyon Airport on the way to Mt. Paektu.

I did not go to the Mt. Paektu. Instead I stayed in Pyongyang and participated in the World Congress on the Juche Idea Celebrating the Centenary of the Birth of President Kim Il-sung. Hundreds foreign delegates were also participated in the congress. They were in Pyongyang specifically to attend the World Juche Congress organized by other committee.

The Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly of Korea Kim Yong-nam attended and gave a keynote speech in the congress. Also sitting on the left side of the main platform’s first row was Madame Ratna Sari Dewi. Besides participating at the World Juche Congress, Madame Dewi also visited Pyongyang for the Kim Il-sung flower exhibition.

Following the World Juche Congress, in the afternoon, we visited the Hana Musical Information Center and the Mansudae Art Studio. I was told that on December 15th, 2011, two days before his death, Kim Jong-il inspected the Hana Musical Information Center. In the Hana we had an opportunity to enjoy an orchestra recording in its well-equipped musical-room.

At the evening, I was invited to a dinner at the Indonesian Embassy. A local staff of the Indonesian Embassy, Mas Tedja, picked me up at the hotel. Trip to the Embassy took around 15 minutes. Indonesian Ambassadro Nasri Gustaman and his wife welcomed me. There I also met Madame Dewi. She came with three of her assistances. Other guests were four delegates from Indonesian Tourism and Creative Economic led by the General Inspector I Gusti Putu Laksana and seven delegates from Surya Vocalia of Semarang. They were in Pyongyang to attend the 28th April Spring Friendship Art Festival.

The dinner finished before 10.00 pm.

***

In the morning of April 13, we had a consultative meeting attended by leading members of the solidarity organizations in Asia and Oceania for Korea’s peace and reunification. The meeting was held in Chollima Cultural House. The Chairman of Pakistan-Korea Friendship Association Javed Ahmed Anshari chaired the meeting. The Vice Chairman of the CCRFC Kim Jin-bom attended the meeting along with some other from the CCRFC.

The consultative meeting agreed to form the Asia-Pacific Regional Solidarity Committee for Korea’s Peaceful Reunification or APSC. This committee is a merge of two previous organizations in Asia and Oceania region. APSC has two honorary chairman and patrons, which are former Prime Minister of Nepal Madhav Kumar and former Foreign Minister of India P. Shiv Shankar.

There are five co-chairmen and ten vice-chairmen, 21 members, three secretary-generals and two vice-secretary generals. Ristiyanto was elected as one of the vice-chairmen meanwhile I was elected as one of the vice-secretary generals.

At the end of the meeting I have an opportunity to deliver the action programs agreed by all participants.

Following the consultative meeting was a TV gathering in Ponghwa Art Theater where some people spoke in front of cameras about their feeling and affection to Kim Il-sung. Almost all of them had met either Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il in the past. Mongolian singers opened the TV gathering. A Spanish team led by the Chairman of Korean Friendship Association Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les y Pérez performed a song. A young Palestinian girl, a daughter of former Palestine’s ambassador to North Korea, told the audiences about her meeting with Kim Jong-il and her affection the North Korea. It was Kim Jong-il gave her name when she was born in 1980s. She also had an opportunity met Kim Il-sung when she was 7 years.

Almost 6.00 pm we moved to Manshu Hill to see the unveiling of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il statues. Thousands of people with flowers in their hand gathered in the platform around 50 meters from the statues.

In the main platform standing First Secretary of Worker’s Party of Korea Kim Jong-un and some of very high-ranking figures in the Korean People Army and the WPK. These very high-ranking figures were including the Chairman of Supreme’s People Assembly Kim Yong-nam, KPA’s General of Organizing Department Li Yong-ho, KPA’s General Director of Ideology Department Choe Ryong Hae, one of Secretaries of Central Committee of the WKP Kim Gi-wan, and Kim Jong-il’s youngest sister Kim Gyong-hui.

I was told that a lady wearing a green jacket who was moving freely among the troops and high-ranking figures in the main platform was actually Kim Jong-un sister. At the end of the event a lady dressing in black showed up in the right side of the main platform, accompanied by the lady in a green jacket. I was told that the second one, in a black dress, is Kim Jong-un’s wife. Unfortunately no names were provided.

In his speech, Kim Yong-nam among other things said:

“The dear respected Comrade Kim Jong-un gave energetic guidance to the efforts aimed at setting up the bronze statues in the shortest time and in an impeccable manner.”

“I avail myself of this occasion to pay utmost respect to President Kim Il-sung and General Kim Jong-il who not only opened up a new era of revolutionary cause of Juche but also dedicated their entire lives to the prosperity of socialist motherland and happiness of people. And to give glory and express profound gratitude to the dear respected Comrade Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of our Party, Army, and people, who makes history by brilliantly carrying on the revolutionary cause of Juche.”

At the end of his speech he asked all the members of the Party, soldier and officers of the KPA and people to follow Kim Jong-un with revolutionary faith and clear conscience, and to safeguard him at the cost of life in political and ideological aspects and support the ideology and leadership of Kim Jong-un with unswerving loyalty.

Kim Jong-un didn’t make any statement during the unveiling session. North Korean TV that evening showed he cried and several times wiped his tears.

That day we ended our program with a banquet for the participants organized by the Korean preparatory committee. The banquet was started at 9.00 pm and taken place in Banquet Hall of the People’s Cultural Hall.

Kim Jong-suk, one of Kim Il-sung younger cousins and also one of Secretaries of the WPK, was chaired the banquet. In the middle of banquet Ristiyanto and me had an opportunity to meet her in persons. She still remembers how Kim Il-sung, after returned from a visit to Indonesia in 1965, praised Indonesia as a hospitable country.

***

First program for April 14 was a visit to an ancient site in Pyongyang: King Dongmyeong of Goguryeo tomb. He was born in 58 BC and died in 19 BC. Also known as Juwong, he led the Goguryeo, the ancient Korea, from 37 BC until his death in 19 BC.

The second program for that day was a visit to the Kim Il-sung Flower Exhibition followed by the visit to Pyongyang International Cultural Center. The last program was to present a bucket of flowers in Mansu Hill at the afternoon until.

***

Sunday, April 15, was the main dish in the menu. We left the hotel quite earlier. We were told the night before that we were invited to a very big and important event in the morning. All participants were asked to dress formally and not to bring any metal material including camera to the event.

Some or might be all participant who listened to this information already had an idea that what was called as a very big and important event was the military parade at the Kim Il-sung Square.

The parade was gigantic. Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un made a speech.

It is said that in the parade North Korea exhibited for the first time some of its new weaponry.

Reading his speech he said:

“Heroic officers of the army, the navy, the air force and the strategic rocket unit of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), and officers of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces; members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards; working people of the entire country and citizens of Pyongyang; the people in the South and overseas compatriots; comrades and friends,

Today, we proceed with a grand military parade to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung, while embracing the greatest national pride and self-esteem.

Today’s military parade, which is unprecedented in the history of the founding of the army, is a grand festival of the winner that has been prepared based on great Comrade Kim Jong Il’s noble intention and direct suggestion to forever glorify Comrade Kim Il Sung’s immortal achievement of building the military and let the whole world know about the splendor of the socialist powerful state.”

He also said that he conveyed warm greetings to compatriots in the South and overseas compatriots, who are dedicating everything to the patriotic cause of the reunification, wealth, power, and prosperity of the fatherland.

“I express gratitude to foreign friends, who are extending their positive support to the just cause of our people,” he added.

To the soldiers and generals he said:

“Commanders and soldiers are all equally valuable comrades-in-arms of the supreme commander. What we trust is not rockets or any other modern arms and equipment, but our loving soldiers. Commanders exist for the soldiers, and the supreme commander also exists for the soldiers.”

At the final of his speech he strongly underlined:

“Let us all unite firmly and fight powerfully with one mind and with one accord, as befitting the descendants of the great leader and as befitting the warriors and disciples of the great general.
The sun flag of the great Comrade Kim Il Sung and Comrade Kim Jong Il will forever flutter in the van of our revolutionary ranks that display only victory and honor and will always encourage and drive us toward a new victory.
Move forward toward the final victory.”

After the parade, we participated in the International Joint Conference Celebrating the Centenary of the Birth of the Great President Kim Il-sung chaired by Kim Yong-nam. It was held at the place where we had the World Juche Congress.

In that event, some delegations presented gifts either to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il or Kim Jong-un. Indonesia delegation presented a certificate of the Sukarno Foundation’s honorary chairmanship given to Kim Jong-il. Ristiyanto handed over the certificate to Kim Yong-nam.

At the evening we had a firework fiesta at the riverbank of Kim Il-sung Square, just across the Juche Tower. The Taedong River from the Taedong Bridge in the south to the Okryu Bridge in north was transformed into a big theater showing a firework and fountain extravaganza performance. Kim Jong-un was among the spectators at the main stage.

***

Monday morning, April 16, the Vice Chairman of the Presidium of Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea gave orders and medals to around 50 participants. Ristiyanto and me were among the awardees.

After that we had a friendship gathering at the Kim Il-sung University. Kim Jong-suk was there, sitting next to Ibrahim Manthu in the first row.

Following the friendship gathering was a courtesy call by Kim Yong-nam. He greeted and thanked all participants for their support to the centenary of Kim Il-sung celebration. After a photo session with Kim Yong-nam and Kim Jong-suk, we moved to the next program, which was a dance performance at the Kim Il-sung Square. The mass dance performance finished before 9.00 pm.

***

April 17 was the final day. We left Pyongyang at 1.30 pm flying with Air Koryo’s Tupolev Tu-204-300. Unlike the day when we arrived, the day when we set off from Pyongyang was a very fine and clear day.

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