So a few days ago it came to my attention that over the course of his six-year stay in China, my roommate has actually made multiple visits to North Korea. After ascertaining that he’d taken a bunch of pictures, my immediate reaction was to ask him to let me write about them. This made him very, very uncomfortable. Finally after a lengthy discussion of what I would or would not be able to say (his name, for instance), he finally — graciously — capitulated.

We'll start things off with a shot of Pyongyang, taken from the foreigners-only hotel, which is one of the tallest buildings in the city.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, is yet another shining example of the (John-Stewart-identified) phenomenon by which one can tell the inherent maliciousness of a country simply by looking at the number of positive adjectives affixed to the front of its name. See Democratic Republic of the Congo, People’s Republic of China, etc. I am pretty sure that everyone already knows that ol’ NK is not a republic, much less a democratic one, but I have it on good word that the country does actually contain some people. Who incidentally would probably prefer to not be contained by said country, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Korean Arc de Triumph. The dates are when Kim Il Sung (Kim Jong Il's dad) left to fight Japan, and when he came back. The Arc stands 10 meters taller than the French one because -- lets be honest -- even North Korea wants to make France eat some humble pie now and again. Can we really blame them?

Speaking of Kim Il Sung going to fight Japan, this is a picture of the two guns that he took with him which, like everything else the original Dear Leader touched, immediately became huge propaganda symbols. The picture was taken at the Mass Games, an annual celebration which features thousands of dancers. Also 20,000 middle school students holding up little squares of color, which is how the pictures in the background are assembled. No joke. Look carefully.

Lets talk North Korean tourism for a second. The country is technically open for tourism now, but it’s pretty limited. Only about 2000 westerners visit a year, and for the most part you have to do it via flying through China. There’s nothing stopping people from the States from going, surprisingly, but there just aren’t any flights there from the states yet. Only three flights go to Pyongyang from Beijing every week, but it’s really not too difficult to catch one.
Once you get to Korea though, a few things become apparent that make it clear — this isn’t like tourism anywhere else. The only way to go to the country as a tourist is to be part of a registered and DPRK-recognized tour group. Which means you are escorted at all times — legitimately, you cant ever just leave the hotel and wander around — as a measure to keep you from talking to locals, doing journalistic stuff, etc. Oh and the currency they use isn’t tradble; you can’t exchange your USD/Pounds/Renminbi for NK won. Which means you can’t buy things at local shops, and instead have to shop exclusively at a select number of stores run by the government near that accept only foreign currencies where locals aren’t allowed to shop.

DPRK Airport. It's cool guys, Kim Il Sung has it covered.


Also kinda funny -- the country is almost completely devoid of traditional consumer advertisements. Instead there's just political propanda absolutely everywhere. The characters in red aren't even the name of that building, but rather say something that, if you are a Korean friend of mine, I'd love for you to try and translate and put in the comments if you could. Would be a huge favor, thanks!


EDIT: Resident badass and Korean Mr. David Lee was nice enough to translate: “The propaganda statement reads something along the lines of “Let us protect and support our great comrade Kim Jong Il with our political ideology and our lives!” North Korean people speak a slightly older and weirder version of Korean so it isn’t exactly accurate but you get the gist of it. The word for the protect and support part in Chinese characters is 擁衛 if that helps you any.”

While we're on the subject of Propaganda, can we talk about Kim Il Sung for a second? This is his Mausoleum, one of the most holy places in the country


To go see Kim Il Sung in his mausoleum, you have to wear your best traiditional dress if you're female, or your communist schwag if you're a dude. Moreover you have to -- and this is a rule that always applies no matter where you are or what you're doing -- wear a pin with Kim Il Sun's picture on it at all times. Am serious.


Even Kim Jong Il has to wear a pin of his father. The man is worshipped like a god.


Text: “My great nation. My motherland, forever prosper.” – David

These two guys had flowers created and named after them. They’re called Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia respectively. This flower display I think is found at the end of this really pretty subway.

De-Militarized Zone, the border between North and South Korea. Clinton said it was the scariest place in the world. The two obnoxiously blue houses are where the two sides go to have meetings and sign summits and stuff.


Reunification (North/South) monument, and traditional Hammer and Sickle communist monument with the addition of the Brush, because the DPRK is hella cultured like that.

One of the DPRK main highways. In what is certainly a nod to Seinfeld, the lanes are just so spacious!

Just dance, it'll be ok, da da de doo, just dance...

USS Pueblo. Only US military ship under the control of another country. They took it in the 60s, held 84 marines there for a year while torturing confessions out of them, and killed one. They now parade people through it for propaganda reasons...


To lighten the mood a little bit, here's some DPRK middle schoolers dressed as chickens and eggs. Also at the Mass Games (where, incidentally, no games are actually played. Just lots of acrobatics and propganda...)


Left is the flying horse that could never find a rider from traditional Korean folklore. Turned into a symbol of development after the wars of the 20th century to represent how Korea must view its attitude towards the world — for every one step forward that the world takes, Korea will ride the horse and travel ten. On the right is the Juche tower, representing the predominant political philosophy of the country. It means/stresses independence and self-reliance, and was critical into how Korea was able to adopt and assimilate communist views into its cultural tradition.

~~~~~~~

You know what's cooler than North Korea?
Nicolas Fucking Cage, that's who.
That's right, this post is the official announcement of the second Cage Match. Will be posting something about it on our homepage shortly. We already have the tentative new movie list selected; check it out:
99min – Valley Girl (1983) BACKUP
103min – Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
100min – Zandalee (1991)
98min – Red Rock West (1993)
98min – Deadfall (1993)
101min – It Could Happen To You (1994) BACKUP
111min – Trapped in Paradise (1994)
98min – Snake Eyes (1998)
114min – City of Angels (1998)
121min – Bringing Out The Dead (1999)
125min – The Family Man (2000)
134min – Windtalkers (2002)
116min – Matchstick Men (2003)
122min – Lord of War (2005)
96min – Next (2007)
124min – National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)
122min – The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (2009)
109min – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

Now, last year, it became apparent that there are very few people stupid enough to brave 30 hours of Cage — happily, two of those people just so happened to be my roommates Ben Segal and Geoff Hill. What’s more, it turns out that thirty hours simply just wasn’t enough. So we’re doing it again. Bigger, badder, better. For Cage, these latter two naturally go hand in hand.

We’re gonna make this one as big as we can. Looking at places like LR2 for venues, even now. Will start soliciting donations for Amnesty again soon. Anyone is welcome to come and join us, as ever. It’s going to be fucking incredible and you know it.
April 1-3.
Get. Excited.

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