I interviewed Joe, who had been living in South Korea before visiting North Korea, about the experience at the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery, since it was such an emotional experience. At this point we are in a park just below the cemetery, which is on one of Pyongyang’s highest points, I believe.
He talks about how surprising it was to be given such deference in the face of North Korea’s social and economic situation.
The country is full of contradiction, though it also reveals contradictions in other places, which contributes to why I find visiting there so educational.
At the time we recorded this video, Pyongyang was holding its grand parade as you’d expect North Korea to do. Foreigners were relegated to a fun state-fair like show. I’m not sure how the North Koreans doing it felt, since I expect they would have preferred to attend the grand parade.
(By the way, the celebration for foreigners was on the same field as the first Ultimate Frisbee tournament in North Korea I played in the year before).
A few words on food and North Korea
At some point I had to comment on how well they fed us there versus how fewer than ten years ago about ten percent of the population died from hunger and hunger-related problems (while the North Korean government was Hennessey’s largest customer of cognac).
I can think of reasons that make sense to feed foreigners while their people go hungry — tourism must be very profitable for them, even if they feed us plenty; they want the world to believe they are healthy and wealthy — but you can’t help but stop and think.
I can’t say much more than others have said before, but you can see food in North Korea.
You can also hear the usual autocratic, state-centered music in the background. What music we heard sounded only like that, with the one exception of some country music at the library.
North Korean march music and women marching to it
At the celebration for foreigners they put on what looked to me like a state-fair type show, with kids performing and, here, marching music and women marching to it.
It looks to me somewhat hokey and contrived, not genuine. But, as with nearly everything in North Korea, well-choreographed. It felt to me like watching Lawrence Welk.
This performance was nothing like the Mass Games, but in the same style, though without the incredible feats of acrobatics or huge numbers of performers.
You may recognize the location as Kim Il Sung Square, where we were meeting and joking around with regular people just the day before.
Here are some stills of the marching band:
What we didn’t get to see
Here’s what went on that we foreigners didn’t get to see:
But we did get to talk to people who did see it on the way out.
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