2014 From Pyongyang With Love

After 1,5 hours flying from Beijing of China the Air China CA121 gently touched its destination: the Kim Il Sung Airport in Pyongyang of DPRK. April 14, 2014, it was my fourth visit to the North Korea.

The arrangement of my visit to the DPRK was made more less a week before I arrived in Pyongyang. I was sent by the Indonesia-Korea Friendship Association to meet Korean friends in Pyongyang to discuss the forthcoming plan of the international e-seminar that will be held in Jakarta in commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of Kim Il Sung.

The e-seminar is planned to be held late in June of this year. Since in Indonesia June is also known as the month of Bung Karno, for his was born on the 6th and death on the 21st, we would like to propose the seminar will be held in accordance with the commemoration of Bung Karno.

At the airport I was welcomed by two of my good friends, Mr. Pak Yong Gun, the Secretary General of Korea-Asia Pacific Exchange, and Mr. Hwang Sung Chol, the acting Secretary of the Korea-Indonesia Friendship Society.

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They took me to the An San Guesthouse, next to the Pothonggang River in Pothonggang District. The guesthouse was a part of Pothonggang Hotel until couple years ago.

Painted mostly in green color, the guesthouse is located inside of a park. It has two small ponds and a rounded-shape restaurant on the top of one of the ponds. There is also a tennis court next to the gate at the riverside.

From the courtyard we can see the Ryugyong Hotel in the northern side across the river. Shining, it is standing like a ready-to-be-fired rocket, some say. But for me the 105-story hotel is simply standing confidently and proudly as the pyramid of Pyongyang.

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That afternoon I walked down the road along the Pothonggang River with Mr. Park. Willow tress are everywhere along the bank of the river, and can be found easily in Pyongyang.

I was told that the river is one of famous fishing places in Pyongyang. Patiently dozens of men were sitting and waiting until their hooks eat by unlucky fish.

One of the fishers, answering my question in Korean that later translated into English by Mr. Park, said that there were too many fishers in the bank of Photonggang River on that day. That was why he didn’t get enough fish, he said. But he didn’t show me a hindrance look. He kept smiling and waiting.

I and Mr. Park also shared our opinion to some international issues, including the current tension in the East Asia following the China gesture in building up its military capacity and the way the US responds to the China’s maneuver.

Seems like the US is very worried and doesn’t want to lose its influence in the region. To handle the China military issue so far the US has invited two of its allies in the region, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Last year, the US sent State Secretary John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Tokyo to meet the Japanese’s Prime Shinzo Abe and promised will allow the Japan if she would like to remove the Article 9 from its Constitution.

It is the article that doesn’t allow the Japan to build regular military forces after the country was defeated in the end of WWII.

Thus, couple weeks ago President Barack Obama of the US had a meeting with both of President Park Geun Hye and the Japanese’s Prime Abe in Den Haag, Netherlands.

Nevertheless, bringing the Japan and the ROK to the very same table to share interests and strategies is really not an easy thing. There is a strong negative sentiment among the two countries and their people. Seems like the Korean people will always look at the Japanese as a former colonizer who did so many bad things in the colonial era.

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I am standing in front of the Ice Rink, one of the city’s landmark. It was opened in 1982 and is the biggest ice rink in North Korea.

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As we were trying to find a coffee shop, we entered Changgwangsan Hotel. But we ended up to the small store at the corner of the street. I observe that the number of this kind shop in Pyongyang becomes more and more every time I visit the city.

As long as I remember, when the first time I visit Pyongyang, it was in 2003, I didn’t see any of this kind of shop. The shop like the one above sells snacks and beverages. Mr. Park bought a cake and a bottle of water for me. Next to this shop is another shop selling flowers. I was told that this kind of shops are owned by cooperative institution.

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Taxi in Pyongyang.

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The next day, April 15th, I visited the native house of Kim Il Sung in Mangyongdae. I also drunk the water from the wheel not far away from the house. Some say, if you drink for three cups of its water you will have a very good life. I had only one cup.

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From Mayongdae, I went to meet Mr. Ho So Won in his office in Ryonhwa Street, Central District. He is the new chairman of the Korea-Indonesia Friendship Society. At the same time he is also the Vice Chairman of DPRK Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries and also in charge for Asia, America and Africa regions.

I met Mr. So in my previous visit in Pyongyang. He was also there when last year I met Mdm. Kim Jong Suk, the Chairwoman of DPRK Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.

Before Mr. So, the Chairman of KIFS was Mr. Kim Jim Bom.

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I met Javed Anshari of Pakistan in Koryo Hotel with some other friends from Thailand. They were there for the Juche conference.

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From the top of Juche tower.

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From the top of Juche tower. The green down there is a cab. I was told that just at the end of last year, Pyongyang introduced this new cabs to the people. During my last visit, I can easily see this cab. In one junction our car was waiting in line next to the cab with exceed passengers. Fiver person were sitting at the backside. They opened the window and were laughing once the looked at me.

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In the afternoon I visited the historical area around Taedong Gate. It is situated in the western side of Taedong River, Taedong Bridge in the south and Okryu Bridge in the north. From Taedong Gate we can see the Juche Tower in the eastern side of Taedong River.

The Gate was built in the 6th century during the Koguryo kingdom and served as the east gate of Pyongyang during that period. Next to the Gate are Pyongyang Bell and Ryongwang Pavilion. The Ryongwang Pavilion is said as one of the places where we can see eight most beautiful sceneries in ancient Korea.

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I was interviewed by Rim Ok, a journalist for Korea Today. I took this picture when she was taking the Korean translation from Mr. Park. Rim Ok was in the Ryongwang Pavilion when she looked at me and decided to interview me for some comments about Pyongyang and the North Korea.

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Pyongyang dwellers took picture of the firework by their mobile phones. I  think the number of mobile phone in Pyongyang is much higher than my last visit in July 2013. Seems like every one has a mobile phone now.

There is also a counter selling local sim card in the airport. I didn’t know that until I was told in the airport before leave Pyongyang to Beijing. I saw some westerners who just landed in Pyongyang bought the local sim card.

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The next day, April 16th, my first schedule was to visit the Kimilsung Flower exhibition. Above is my picture with female soldiers . And below is my picture when I was writing an appreciation comment.

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Our car was heading to the Kumnung Tunnel on the way to the Dolphinarium in the Rigna Islet. On below, you can see the spectators waiting for the dolphins performance, and two dolphin kissed the ball up in the air.

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From Dolphinarium we visited the Worker Party Founding Memorial Tower in Munsu Street. This is the picture that was taken from the middle of the circle.

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Above is a picture taken from the back side of the tower, showing a man with three little girls walking toward the tower. IMG_1239

I am standing in front of the Kaeson Youth Park in tje west foot of Moran Hill. The mural behind me depicts a mass rally when for the first time Kim Il Sung showed up in front of Korean people after the defeat of Japan, October 14th, 1945. In his speech Kim Il Sung asked all Koreans no matter their backgrounds to work together to build the country.

Below is my picture with Kim Il Sung Stadium in the background. The Stadium originally was built up in 1926. During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s it was very famous. During that era, when there was only one Korea, the soccer team from Pyongyang and Seoul played several matched in this stadium.

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The Gaeseonmun or the Arch of Triumph. Was built in 1982 to commemorate the Korean war against the Japan from 1925 to 1945. It is 60 meter standing and 50 meter wide.

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A taxi crossing the Arch of Triumph. Gaeseonmun.IMG_1309

Pyongyang Wall, on top of Moran Hill, national treasure no. 1 in DPRK.

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April 17th was my last day in Pyongtang. In the morning I visited the Victorious Fatherland Liberation Museum in Pyongyang and Pueblo Ship.

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