A young Chicagoan's strange erotic journey around the globe
When entering North Korea, they don’t put a stamp in your passort but instead give you one of these in exchange for it. The government holds onto your passport for the duration of your stay.
Inside of the tourist card. They don’t even let you keep this thing. You must give it back to the authorities when exiting the country to get your passport. It’s as if they don’t want any proof you were ever there.
All tourists to North Korea have to go through a tour company – most of which meet in Beijing before entering the country as a group. Whereas many people cross the border to the DPRK via train, Americans such as myself are not allowed and can only enter via airplane.
The DPRK from the plane. North Korea receives about 1,500 Western tourists a year in addition to thousands of Asians.
I went with Young Pioneer Tours and if any of you out there got sack enough to go to the DPRK, I’d recommend their services.
Pyongyang – The structure on the right is Juche Tower and in the distance beyond the Taedong River is the large and in charge Rungnado May Day Stadium.
Other side of the river on a brighter day
Pyongyang skyline with the 105-story, pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel lurking in the distance
Started in 1987 then halted in 1992 when North Korea ran out of money, the Ryugyong Hotel has been dubbed by Esquire as “The Worst Building in the History of Mankind.” The hotel is finally expected to open sometime during mid-2013.
The Yanggakdo International Hotel situated on Yanggak Island in the Taedong River. Although it is okay to wander around the premises, guests were not allowed to leave the island without being accompanied by a North Korea guide.
Flashy lobby of the Yanggakdo. The bar where I got blackout hammered a couple times is just to the right of here.
Random art around the hotel
Missing something? The elevator at the Yanggakdo does not stop on the fifth floor. Rumours speculate that this floor is used by the authorities to spy on and montior the guests’ every move.
Channel 10 up in my hotel room – All propaganda, all day.
The cheering masses on channel 10. “We love you supreme leader! Have my baby supreme leader! I’d die for you supreme leader!”
My first taste of the omnipresent Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung propaganda and streetside shrines.
Statue near Kim Il-Sung Square
The Grand People’s Study House. The main library of Pyongyang and “centre for the project of intellectualising the whole of society and a sanctuary of learning for the entire people.”
The Grand People’s Study House is big enough to house 30 million books but foreign publications are only available with special permission. However, the average Joe – or Kim I should say – can read all they want of the 10,800 documents, books and “on the spot guidance” written by Kim Il-sung.
Large-scale street painting of Kim Il-Sung getting on his writing tip
North Korean honkytonk?
There is a shitload of women in the North Korean military
It’s hard to believe coming from the USA where everyone has their own opinion on everything and people do whatever they want whenever they want, but weird propaganda shit like this with people cheering on the regime actually takes up entire building sides and it is EVERYWHERE.
DPRK’s favorite father & son lookin’ sharp
Mansudae Art Studio. With the exception of one or two billboards showing off North-Korean-made cars, advertisements are pretty much non-existant in the DPRK. Instead it’s just painting after painting after painting of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il looking heroic and glorified.
There he is! God’s gift to man! Let’s hear it for supreme leader Kim Jong-Il! YAYYYYY! A close-up of the building-side in the picture previous.
Other art studio building with Kim Il-sung on it
Even Kim Jong Suk, mother of Kim Jong-il and wifey of Kim Il-sung gets repped in the streets.
Kim Il-sung gettin’ his fuckin’ Teddy Roosevelt on
There was a line to take pictures in front of the supreme leaders on horseback where many people had laid a bouquet of flowers at the statue’s base out of respect.
One of our government-appointed guides, Mr. Kim, and the rest of our group taking a mandatory bow out of respect as…
…a kid named Tom from our group laid a bouquet we were pressured into purchasing at the base of the statue.
The horses on which they sat had strange genitals. It’s kind of like a pe-gina…like half-penis half-pussy or…I don’t know what the fuck that thing is.
Inside Mansudae art studio in Pyongyang. I can’t remember the exact figure, but this painting had been on sale for something outrageous that no one would ever pay – like 100 million Euros or something.
Group of Koreans taking time to admire the flowers. In the DPRK, I learned that there are two types of flowers named after the supreme leaders – the kimilsungia and the kimjongilia. The latter flower symbolizes wisdom, love, justice & peace and is designed to bloom every year on Kim Jong-il’s birthday – February 16.
Yeah, they fuckin’ WISH the harvest was this good in North Korea
A bro smokin’ a butt and reading a book. As of June 2012, the smoking rate in DPRK of those over 15-years-old is 52.3%. As a gift to our North Korean guides, we were even advised to bring cartons of foreign-made cigarettes.
Gearing up for a harsh North Korean winter
Pots of kimchi atop each woman’s head?
“Dear Leader” being admired as he stands with arms akimbo
Tianchi, or “Heaven Lake,” which sits on the border between China and North Korea as it would appear during the winter months
Picture of the Great Leader with a young, yet still round-in-the-middle, Kim Jong-Il at the art museum. When I was in North Korea and being told about the never-ending catalog of accomplishments racked up between these two gentlemen, I felt as if I were being read Chuck Norris jokes. “When The Great Leader does push-ups, he doesn’t lift himself up, he pushes the world down.”
Photo of Kim Il-Sung knocking out Sonny Liston in 1965
At Mansudae art studio, these women sit in a room all day sewing recreations of of old pieces that have started to fade.
Old dude that sits (or they keep) in a room all day painting murals for tourist groups that come in and out
Statue of a boyhood Kim Il-Sung at the place of his birth. Judging by all the tourists there, it’s a standard and absolutely necessary stop for every visitor to North Korea.
Recreation of a humble straw-thatched cottage that was often found in Korea before “liberation” near Kim Il-Sung’s birthplace.
Statue of Kim Il-Sung’s mother, Kang Pan Sok
Woman in traditional Korean garb as she leads us through Kim Il-Sung’s place of birth
Guide leading some young men to Kim Il-Sung’s birthplace to teach them of his humble upbringings and heroic story
DPRK soulja boys having band practice in the park and, oh boy, did they need that practice.
Young delegates wearing the red neck tie of the Korean Children’s Union (KCU)
Pick-up soccer game at a Pyongyang schoolyard where, naturally, “The Great Leader” looks on with a smile
You know, under normal circumstances in America if there was a group of strange foreigners standing on the edge of a schoolyard taking photos of children there’d definitely be a problem, but I guess it’s okay to do as tourists in North Korea.
Gettin’ swole doin’ pull-ups in the schoolyard with some of the ever-present propaganda right there to inspire the children to fire out more reps
Throwback classroom presided over by a portrait of a school-age Kim Il-Sung
Kids sweeping up dead leaves around their schoolgrounds. In the DPRK it is each citizen’s responsibility to keep their area clean – homeowners sweep the street by their houses, shopkeepers pick up by their stores and schoolchildren tidy-up the school. I don’t know what type of penalty is inflicted on those who fail to maintain their space, but the system seems to work as I didn’t see very much rubbish on the streets of North Korea.
If you look closely in the windows of the school, children are cleaning in there as well.
Although I’m sure they maintain responsibility for keeping their own spaces clean, I saw a lot of women doing yardwork in public places to keep them looking tidy. Whether these positions are paid or their responsibility as citizens is unbeknownst to me.
Women pulling weeds in the park
Kids sipping on well water which is said to make you considerably younger. It actually works! I saw one guy drink too much from this fountain of youth and revert to no more than a puddle of his father’s semen right there on the sidewalk!
Streetside mural of a young Kim Il-Sung braving the conditions on his heroic trek to Manchuria
Park – not a Korean guys name “Park,” but an actual park
I don’t know if every guy in a green Commie uniform had been in the military or if they’re just standard issue to citizens there, but those Socialist threads are quite common in the DPRK.
Whole mess of green uniformed guys on bikes as seen through the bus windshield
They didn’t give us an opportunity to photograph this beast up-close so here’s a drive-by action shot of the Ryugyong Hotel.
A cartoon depiction of a young, interracial homosexual couple eating ice cream in speedos and giving the thumbs up about it on an air conditioning unit
The USS Pueblo, a boat formerly belong to the US Navy captured by North Korea on January 23, 1968. Although officially still considered active by the US navy, the USS Pueblo is now docked along the Taedong River and serves as a North Korean museum.
Our guide through the ship museum. When we first boarded, we watched a video describing the event from the DPRK perspective that had no shortage of reference to us “imperialist American pigs.”
On January 11, 1968, the Pueblo left Japan on a mission to intercept and conduct surveillance of Soviet Union naval activity in the Tsushima Strait and to gather signal and electronic intelligence from North Korea.
Normally when riding so dangerously close to enemy territory, large amounts of sensitive material are not carried by weakly armed spy ships. However, the Pueblo was teeming with sensitive information and even though they had over an hour before being boarded by the DPRK to destroy all the files, only a small portion had been discarded in time.
Sailor on guard. 82 crew members of the USS Pueblo were held for 11 months after being captured by the DPRK for entering their territorial waters. The US claims to have never crossed into North Korean territory from international waters. One member of the US Navy was killed during the capture.
While held captive, the US naval crew were sent to POW camps where they were starved and tortured. The treatment allegedly turned worse when the North Koreans realized that the crewmen were secretly flipping off the camera when posing for staged propaganda photos.
Following an apology, a written admission that the US had been spying and an assurance that they wouldn’t spy in the future, 82 crew members were released to South Korea across the DMZ on December 23, 1968. In the “confession,” which was only written to ensure the return of the crew to safety, Commander Bucher keenly wrote that “We paean the DPRK. We paean their great leader Kim Il-Sung.” North Korean officials failed to catch the “paean”/”pee on” pun.
Pyongyang street scene. The sign on the right indicates a stop on the Pyongyang Metro.
Instead of relying on lights and signs, the flow of traffic in North Korea is controlled by the robotronic directioning of sharply dressed traffic girls who stand in a painted circle or on a rounded platform set up at the center of major intersections.
We were told by our guides that government officials hand-pick the most beautiful women in the country to be traffic girls and if you see an ugly one, that she must have a father who has a high position in the military. I don’t know where traffic dudes fit into that theory…gay government officials perhaps?
Blow my whistle, baby
Crappy, through-the-dirty-bus-window picture of Pyongyang Railway Station.
In the forefront of this photo are the tracks and wires of Pyongyang’s cable car system. This seemed to be the most common form of transportation for the Average Kim in Pyongyang resulting in block-long lines to board the thing and outrageously packed cars as it buzzed along.
However, the Pyongyang Metro seemed to be quite popular among the Proletariat as well. Here’s our North Korean guide Suyeoung standing in front of Pyongyang’s two-line subway map.
The Pyongyang Metro is based on metro networks in other communist countries, is over 350 feet underground, fitted with steel doors and can be used as a bomb shelter during times of war. Here’s a view of the seemingly never-ending stretch of escalator.
The aesthetically pleasing Yonggwang Station
Train rollin’ into Kaesong Station. The Pyongyang Metro is one of the cheapest in the world and costs the equivalent of about 3 cents to ride.
We were not allowed to handle the money to pay for our own train tickets but I think the official exchange rate is like 900KPW to 1USD. Pictured is some currency my buddy Gavin managed to get his grubby mitts on during our time in the DPRK.
The Great Leader keeping a watchful eye on his people at Kaeson Station – “Kaeson” meaning “Triumph.” Whereas most stations are named after themes from North Korea’s revolution and not actual places, the Kaeson stop is appropriately located at the Arch of Triumph.
The subway walls of Kaeson station are entirely covered in huge mosaics – at least 12-feet-tall – of Socialist propaganda.
“Yo, Great Leader – you da fuckin’ man, dawg! Keep up da good work!”
“We’re not worthy of being rogered by you, Great Leader!”
“It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A!!!”
“Great Leader! Great Leader! Of course it would be an honor for you to sleep with my wife…but maybe you think we could kill this cow afterwards and eat it? We’re kinda starving out here…”
Built to commemorate the Korean resistance for independence from 1925-1945, the DPRK’s Arch of Triumph is modeled after France’s Arc de Triomphe – only bigger.
At 197ft tall and 164ft wide, the Arch of Triump was built to honor and glorify Great Leader Kim Il-Sung’s military resistance in the Korean independence movement and was inaugurated on his 70th birthday.
Park across the street from the Arch
All success at winning medals in the 2012 Olympic Games was attributed to new leader Kim Jong-Un.
A ginormous mosaic near the Arch that illustrates Kim Il-Sung’s triumphantly glorious homecoming in 1945 after he single-handedly liberated Korea from Japanese occupation
Although it is quite obvious the road is being paved by these workers right here…
…I saw plenty of more ambiguous projects being carried out by green-uniformed citizens around the city. Possible gas line installation?
Education in the DPRK is universal and state-funded resulting in a supposed yet very respectable literacy rate of 99%. At the same time, however, all North Koreans must take bullshit classes dedicated to “The Great Kim Il-Sung,” “Communist Morality” and “Communist Party Policy.”
Painting in the hallway of the school with children worshipping Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung. According to KBS WORLD Radio, “All North Koreans were taught at school that they were clothed, fed, and nurtured in all aspects by ‘the grace of the Chairman.'”
Another hallway painting. According to KBS World Radio, “The entirety of North Korea’s institutional documents including the constitution, labor laws, land laws and educational theses were authored by Kim. All publications, including newspapers, magazines, school textbooks, and academic texts, were prefaced by ‘words of instruction’ from Kim.”
Just as the leaders hang neatly placed over the chalkboard in every classroom, KBS reports that “a portrait of Kim was to be placed in all homes while ‘places of worship’ including 35,000 statues of Kim were erected throughout the nation….Methods used to instill this cult of personality included fabricating symbols, creative history and indoctrination.” So as the “Kim Il-Sung, First Man on the Moon” picture suggests, anything could be taught to the people and expected to be believed without question.
Student band performing just for us, rocking out at the school. These kids could play.
Awkward-ass ring-around-the-rosie game our tour group was coerced to partake in
Me throwing up a peace sign with some Korean school kids
Yet another overbearing tribute to the Communist republic
One night we went to a Pyongyang amusement park where we got wasted while smashing into North Koreans on the bumper cars. Apparently at this place they had a “foreigner first” policy and we got to cut everybody right to the front of the line for every ride.
Article about the amusement park supposedly written by the child pictured: “‘You are the honored guests of the dear respected Kim Jong Un,’ said the workers with a smile, patting us on the back whenever we got onto the amusements. While I was riding the Z-Force, I pinched myself to see if it was a dream. The guide told me that Kim Jong Un tried the amusement three times to confirm its safety…”
King Long – bus brand or DPRK Commie porno actor?
Juche Tower along the Taedong River. Although this is most likely untrue, Kim Jong-Il is credited with designing this tower which was completed in 1982 for Kim Il-Sung’s 70th birthday and contains exactly 25,550 blocks (365 x 70) – one for each day of the Great Leader’s life.
Juche Tower as seen from Kim Il-Sung Square. This structure is presumed to be modeled after the Washington Monument but, like their Arch of Triumph compared to France’s Arc de Triomphe, the Juche Tower is about one meter taller than the Washington Monument.
Picture of an old-ass picture inside Juche Tower with both the Great and Dear leaders in it
Socialist statue near Juche Tower. The Juche Idea is a principle based off Marxism that was revised by Kim Il-Sung to include self-efficiency, self-reliance, nationalism and a belief that all things Korean should come first.
Statue right in front of Juche Tower with the usual Communist sickle and hammer but with the North Korean addition of a paint brush to represent the intellectual workers as well as the farmers and industrialists.
The wall of friendship plaques at the base of Juche Tower.A lot of different countries are represented here and they all seem to support the Juche Idea. The only question is are they real or are they forged?
The Monument to the Foundation of the Workers Party
Built in 1995, this beast was erected to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Workers Party in North Korea.
Relief on the inside of the monument
This is basically what a stop at each monument looked like. Oftentimes there was a traditionally dressed Korean guide woman who spoke no English but would tell all the facts to one of our 3 Korean guides who’d relay the facts to us.
The sickle, the hammer & the brush each stand 50 meters tall – one meter on each tower for every year since the 1945 inception of the Workers Party?
More bas relief from the interior
Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery that looks out over Pyongyang from Mount Taedong
Each grave is marked with a bronze bust made in the likeness of the deceased and the higher up your plot is on the hill, the more important you’re considered in DPRK history.
If I remember correctly, the small, one-line indicator on the back of the grave indicates the spouse of the deceased.
As the case was back at the art museum, we had to buy flowers, lay them out and bow out of respect here as well.
The view of Pyongyang that the martyrs will enjoy for all eternity
Strange boat restaurant we lunched at on the Taedong
Locals fishing nearby, possibly for a meal? Random fact: Due to years of malnourishment, North Korean men are on average 1-3 inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts.
Kids getting in a little bb-gun target practice at a park near the river. I’m a bit disappointed to see they weren’t shooting at cartoon renderings of ugly, hook-nosed American soldiers as I’d seen pictures of online.
Unlike at the Arirang Mass Games which were flawlessly coordinated, North Korean aerobics groups need to tighten up their routines. They looked a bit sloppy out there in the park.
Art on the exterior wall of The Grand Theater in Pyongyang
Restaurant near the theater where we sat and chilled until the start of the production. The furniture there looked like it had to be at least 60 years old.
Here we saw an opera supposedly written by Kim Il-Sung that I’m pretty sure was supposed to represent North Korea’s struggles via song and dance.
As it turns out I was quite hungover during this play and fell asleep for most of it, but I heard from other members of my tour group that it was hard to follow because of the language barrier and all the slapping of women throughout the performance didn’t really seem to make any sense.
At 807,293sq. feet, Kim Il-Sung Square is the 30th largest square in the world. The Grand People’s Study House is pictured on the right.
Kids rollerblading in Kim Il-Sung Square. The square can hold approximately 100,000 people and is a common gathering place for rallies, dances and military parades.
Last night in Pyongyang – dinner at a fancy BBQ duck joint…
…followed by the bar. Gettin’ totally fucked up, flippin’ people off and talkin’ out your ass in North Korea probably isn’t the best idea but a good-ass time was had by all…I think, I can’t quite remember for sure though – DOH!
“Pizza Toast” Rather unappealing late night snack option #1 to soak up the booze after drinking at Yanggakdo Hotel
Or the even more questionable wasabi-flavored chips as option #2. Pick your poison.
View of Sariwon, capital of the North Hwanghae Province
Mosaic on a buildingside with both the South and North Hwanghae Provinces highlighted
Geobukseon, or “the turtle ship,” was a type of large warship used by the Royal Korean Navy during the Joseon Dynasty from the early 15th century up until the 19th century.
The turtle ships belonging to their inventor, Admiral Yi Sun-sin, came equipped with at least five different types of cannon and with a dragon head at the boat’s front that could shoot cannon fire and flames from the mouth. In addition to deflecting arrow fire, musket shots and incendiary weapons, the shell-shaped decking atop the boat is said to have had iron spikes to deter enemies from trying to board it during battle.
Sariwon has a population of about 310,100
Hilltop pagoda overlooking Sariwon
Kids on bikes
Sariwon street scene
Little bit of the city from the hilltop pagoda
Little bit more of the city from the hilltop pagoda
Panmunjom, Kaesong & the DMZ
North Korean countryside while heading south to Kaesong as seen from the bus
Same deal – different spot
Rural-ass mountain town with support beams from a seemingly incomlete bridge spanning the lake down there near the bottom of the photo
Along with some other people, I was taking a few pictures of these rural farmhouses as we passed before our guide Mr. Kim got really pissed off about it and spat, “No pictures! This is the forefront of our counrty! Do you understand!?”
I guess this is part of the poverty they don’t want outsiders seeing
More farm homes
Traditional Korean-style building in Kaesong
Tree-huggin’ bros from my group trying to link arms around a massive trunk in Kaesong
Another traditional building
Bowl of Dog Soup from Thongil Restaurant in Kaesong. I didn’t buy this shit because it cost 5 Euros a bowl but I did try a bite from the person next to me. The taste was fine, but the texture of the Lassie-meat was all slimy and gross.
Me and my Australian bro Gavin buttchuggin’ beers at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
The DMZ that serves as a buffer between North and South Korea runs along the 38th parallel north as was agreed upon in the Korean Armistice Agreement signed on July 27, 1953. It is 160 miles long and is the most heavily militarized border in the world.
Two DPRK soldiers manning a door at the Joint Security Area (JSA)
The JSA is the only portion of the DMZ where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face. In the background here are two American soldiers standing guard, looking over at us wondering why a bunch of white jerk-offs are getting wasted at the DMZ in North Korea.
It was said to us that the two guards face each other at the border here so they make sure that neither they nor the third guy will defect to the south while the third guy, with his back to the enemy, keeps watch for any civilians trying to get out.
Sunset from the concrete wall at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
From the concrete wall at the DMZ you can look through telescopes down to the South Korea side of the border…
…or just fuckin’ hang out and smoke cigarettes with colonels in the North Korean army.
After the DMZ, the party continued at the Korean Folkcustom Hotel. With us is our DPRK guide Suyeong who I’d have to say was the most strict of the three assigned to us. When eating meals, she’d come up behind me, grab the chopsticks from my hand and instruct me on the proper technique regardless of the fact that I had already been successfully shoveling food into my yap and just plain old could not pick up food when using them the proper way.
Fellow travelers showing some love
Me and my man Pak – our third guide – gettin’ fucked up at the bar. Check out “Chapter 12 – Culture of Surveillance” under “Life of a Manchild” for more information on this guy.