The Land of Theatre
So Kim Jong-Un apparently wants to move North Korea to the real world and a summit is planned for June in Singapore. A real achievement for Trump diplomacy and proof of one of Einstein’s (misattributed) sayings “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. But currently, North Korea and the real world are like oil and water as travellers’ and defectors’ tales show:
- The smiling little man we see on TV inspecting his troops has another face with his own people tortured and imprisoned, typically three generations of the family concerned. He is much less tolerant of any criticism than his father and grandfather.
- The real Pyongyang underground has not been used for years. When you visit this railway you will see the happy workers get of the train and go off to work singing, all played by actors.
- One reason for the underground not being in regular use is the critical shortage of electrical power, easily shown by any satellite photo of North Korea. This lack of electricity can have its amusing side. In Pyongyang, a journalist realises he has forgotten something and in spite of strong protests, goes back to his hotel which he finds blacked out completely – none of the lights or lifts work.
- Later, he walks past a place which is noisy and you can smell the alcohol. Journo offers to buy his minders a drink? No thank you. Two drinks? Still no thank you. Someone has passed out on the grass outside the bar but minders deliberately obstruct the view, so no picture can be taken.
- The three hostages recently released tell of torture and screams. A hostage’s body returned to the US shows the same treatment.
- The ultimate white elephant the Ryugyong Hotel, currently the tallest unoccupied building in the world was designed originally as the world’s biggest but subsidence, lift shafts that don’t line up plus a list of other faults, keep it closed.
- On the plus side, the climate is similar to the UK, informants tell me of the country’s beauty but herded around like sheep, few visitors get to see this.
- As recently as 2015, North Koreans are starving with 2 in 5 malnourished and its minimum recruitment height for the Army is 142 cm (56 inches or 4 feet 8 inches) is the lowest in the world.
- And some of your Made in China products are actually Made in North Korea, but shipped to China first. The pictures you do see of North Korean factories show supervisors in starched aprons and smiling workers in brand new uniforms – pure theatre.
So will these two cultures actually coalesce? We all know oil and water do not mix normally but many of us have used something where they do – it’s called emulsion. Let’s see if someone creates a political one after the June meeting in Singapore.