Day 5: End of a journey

When I woke up the next morning, it was time to depart the country. About half of the other YPT tour participants signed up for a longer 7-day version of the tour and while I’m sure it’s wonderful to experience DPRK’s natural beauty, I had had enough. The blind cult-like reverence for President Kim Il Sung and Leader Kim Jong Il was taking its toll on me. I was tired of trying to figure out which questions were appropriate to ask and which were prohibited. For example, someone else on my tour asked the simple question of what year was Kim Jong Un born (1983 or 1984?) and the tour guide’s response was “We don’t talk about that and don’t ask again.” What’s the big deal? They are obsessed with Kim Il Sung’s birthday and it’s even a national holiday.

Pyongyang

Pyongyang

Before leaving the DPRK, I took a photo of my visa card because it was about to be taken away from me. Most visitors to the DPRK are issued a separate visa outside of the passport so there is no record of the trip on the passport itself.

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In conclusion, here are some of my final thoughts and observations:
-I would never be able to survive there because I love meat too much
-The fashion there is the same as 30 years ago. The photos we saw showed that people have been wearing the same things for a long time.
-Speaking of fashion, it’s a fairly conservative society. Jeans are seen as a sign of Western influence and are not worn. Women generally wear skirts but trousers are ok. Women tend to wear conservative clothing with shoes that I think are a bit inappropriate (lots of sparkles, super high heels).
-In the spirit of indoctrination, Kim Il Sung can’t just be Kim Il Sung. He’s always referred to as “President Kim Il Sung.” We can’t just be from the US, we are always “US Imperialists.” There are qualifiers for many phrases.
-North Koreans wear pins with President Kim Il Sung and Leader Kim Jong Il all the time. These pins cannot be obtained by tourists.
-DPRK loves to associate numbers with architecture. For example, this monument bearing President Kim Il Sung’s last signature is 9.9m wide at the widest point to represent the day of his death, 9/9/94.

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The monument is 4.15m tall because he was born on 4/15. There are 82 magnolias are the bottom of the statue because magnolias are the nation flower and the President was 82 years old when he died. This type of numerical representation is everywhere.
-North Koreans have a genuine desire for reunification of the Korean peninsula. I hope one day, the two sides can work it out.

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