Thursday, April 19, 2007

Diary from the Other Side

A BBC correspondent, Charles Scanlon, spent the last three days visiting North Korea in order to see the Arirang Festival. His diary entries are here: Day One, Day Two, and Day Three.

Prof. Larsen will be glad to know that when the performers formed a giant human map of Korea, they did include Dokdo.

The movements of the journalists (two Brits, it seems) were severely restricted, as was their ability to take photographs, film, and dictate where they were going. The isolation seems to be taking a toll as their minders did not speak English (but one spoke Chinese!). However, the tour guides did.

Another interesting tidbit: you can major in Juche at college! And the monument has one block for every day up to the Eternal Leader's 75th birthday. Why 75? My guess: that's how many blocks there were. Also, Kim Jong-il is considered the mother of the nation, and his father the, well, father.

Aside from general strangeness, this tour is another glimpse of the controls placed on foreign visitors, and interesting because they were, in this case, British, rather than American. They do not seem to have visited the USS Pueblo. The North Korean officials seem determined to both impress their guests and strictly control what they see, which is certainly not a surprise. There is a profound effort to communicate North Korean beliefs and ideology to the West, as long as the West makes no attempt to communicate back. Is there something to be said for the North Koreans wanting understanding of their philosophies and goals?

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