Letters From Our Readers...

The most rewarding part of writing a travelogue - no, the only reward you get - is the steady flow of letters you receive after publication on the Web. From hours of sweat you get months of pleasure....

I thought it would be interesting to display some of the feedback we've had. A lot of it is from Koreans, and their responses show that emotions still run pretty high regarding the `Forbidden Country'. Some particularly informative notes are from folk who have visited North Korea themselves, as politicians, journalists, or soldiers. One respondent claims to have fought in the Korean War. Another is currently stationed at Panmunjom and recognized himself in one of the photos!

There's even a flame in there somewhere ;-)

(For safety and convenience, I have elided any personal information except for initials. If your letter is in here and you want it removed, please contact me).

cheers,
Paul (and Rick) Bakker
January 1996

p.bakker@all-in-1.its14.shlgbpge.simis.com


I thought your personal account was very informative - an objective point of view from a curious traveller. Only one thing that might have been stated differently - in regarding your account of "dog restaurant", you stated that Koreans do not think of dogs as pets (or something of that matter). Perhaps in North Korea. In South Korea (at least) dogs are considered pets. But dogs are also considered delicacies, in that only certain type of dogs bred for eating are sold as such. In another words, you would rarely see a full-breed German Shepherd or a Maltese being served a la carte - most likely mutts. KL
Your travelogue was wonderful. If only the rest of the Net had such high quality reading. Thoroughly enjoyable. MN
A truely awesome post. Thank you very much for taking the time to enlighten us. I wish that I too could travel to the North, but my current employer forbids it except in an "official" capacity. Hope all is well with you and your family. BB
Your story is a fresh perspective, since apparently you didn't have a historical background on the war to cloud your sight. Some might wonder why you would not know about the war, but the Korean War is rarely studied in the United States, much less in the free world. HB
Thank you Paul & Rick, we appreciate your detailed account. If any anyone is interested, VNC Travel can arrange trips to North Korea for individual travellers as well as for groups. Contact Joke ter Weele or Kees van Galen VNC.Travel@inter.nl.net
That was great guys! Man the way you described things from what you saw to your guides made me feel like that I was really there. Yes I am Korean, and your insightful and witty travelogue gave me an opportunity to experience the north side. Just wondering, how much was the whole trip? How did you get booked? Please tell me all relevant details! A last question: How do you think a canadian born Korean guy like myself would be accepted there? Do you think that the guides would act any different? GC
paul&rick baker i read with interest your story on travel to north korea as i also made that trip in 1991 for two weeks it brought a lot of memories back i enjoyed my trip which was much the same as yours the circus childerns palace the marayrs cem. ialso went to the top of the juce tower and a most fasenating trip to the mountains north of the city where the great leaters treasures are held at that site i visited which held some of the orginal (supposed) butist documents of marco polos visit to china and korea i also have many pictures and several 8 mm cassets of movies i took while there maybe we could meet and talk sometime that trip still has impressed and i have an interest in all of korea i paid my first visit to korea in 1950 as a solider i went back in 1988,89,90 to south korea and to north korea in 91 ...

if you mahe the trip to south korea go to seoul and take the bus trip to panmungjon i am sure you will get a new perspective pay attention to all the path up to the dmz you will see and feel closer to the war than you can emagine its an erie trip then you can visit the weapons park at young dung po a truely remarkable array of korean war weapons including a t5 russian tankthen it would be on to inchon where i landed on sept 16 one day after the main landing force but still in flames that would be a good start and would certainly leave you with the feeling that the war even tho it is forty years ago is not far away

the north korean solider was ill equipted during the war and much to our benifit for had they been better equiped they would had been quite a chalenge. I found them to be cunning and persistent in battle. They had a cause and were in my opinion a puritan warrior. by that I mean no holds barred, there were no conventions except to overcome the enemy with any means possible. They are fierce and very agresssive. the south korean was different and it is still hard to describe. they seemed in 1950 to not be agressive and would be willing to stand back and let the wart happen. I guess what I want to say is I was there to help the south but at times I felt I was there to do what the people would not do.that makes one feel a bit used. I do not know if that would hold true today for on my two trips to south and north I certainly see two armys that could wage war and it would not be a pleasent one.I really hope a war never occurs simply because I have a lot of feeling for the peoples of all of Korea and have friends on both sides of the demarcation line.

I think the perspective from the south is quite interesting after vewing Panmungjon from both sides. I would advise any one to veiw both sides and all the historic retoric before coming to an opinion on the situation in Korea. tg


You foreigners have no business talking about or making fun of either Koreas - North and South. Korea has been a victim of superpower (Russian, American) greed and politics. When the Koreas reunite, and kick out all neo-colonial, American assholes we will again emerge as the power we once were in ancient times. Then you wont be making fun of Korea, and its culture. KJ
Hi! I just read your description about North Korea over the World Wide Web. Pretty interesting stuff, and I saw some parallels with my own sojourn in South Korea. I was there to study Korean at Yonsei University for a year and a half. Seoul also has its share of dog restaurants, which serve 'boshintang'. Never tried it myself, though.

Although apparently North Korea is big into big socialist monuments, South Korea has its own share. For example, there is the Independence Memorial, which a USAF friend stationed in Korea calls the "I hate Japan Museum", as it is devoted to graphically displaying the brutality of Japanese colonialism in Korea. Of course, my Japanese friends were shocked; what else to expect when Japanese kids are taught that WWII wasn't Japan's fault? Also, in Seoul, there is the War Memorial, next to the UNC/USFK headquarters at Yongsan.Pretty interesting.

About the DMZ: I went with a friend in the Army through the Yongsan Travel Service, so I only payed US$10. The reason for the dress code, the guide said, was that the North Koreans take pictures for propaganda purposes, so it won't do to wear inappropriate clothing.

Well, speaking as someone who lost his maternal grandfather in 1950 (I'm 23), I hope that reunification comes and that the North Korean regime disappears as quickly as possible. TK


I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your article, keep up the good work, I'll be looking for future articles, MJ
I read your travelogue and truly enjoyed reading it. Some Koreans can be very xenophobic. KJ might be classified as one of that type. But then, after 45 years of futile attempt to demolish Korean culture by Japanese, the overprotectiveness of its culture is one of those backlash effect. In any case, thank you for offering to the rest of us what it is truly like in North Korea. BTW, you didn't see any sign of food riots as many media seem to suggest, did you?

Honestly, I am jealous. Being a Korean-American, I can not travel to North Korea freely without considering the consequence of such travel when I wish to get a travel visa to South Korea. I heard stories of some Korean-Americans who did venture to North Korea and who are having problems getting a South Korean visa due to the South Korean government's suspicion of espionage by those Korean-Americans. Thus, for now, I must rely on third party's tales and travelogue such as yours. Since there aren't that many travels to North Korea (especially with the anniversay of Kim, Il-Sung's death and the subsequent closing of the border once more...), you can imagine how difficult it is to get such an objective and honest view of life in the North as yours. Please do continue to contribute more of what you found and experienced in North Korea as many in SCK such as myself find what you say, fascinating (regardless of those few flamers). DK


It was a facinating article... Too bad that North Koreans are going thru economic difficulties. As a Korean-American (My father was born in NK.), I sure hope to visit NK before she becomes too westernized. Hope United States opens up the full diplomatic relationship with NK, as she did do Vietnam. I know my father would love to visit his homeland during his life time. DJ
Your comments were very interesting, informative, and entertaining. The more I learn about the Korean War - the more I want to learn as my Father was there from 1951-53. He never talked about it. So, it is interesting to read others accounts - from then and now. Thanks for sharing your travel experiences on the 'Net. GP
Excellent photos. I'm originally fron N Korea and your photos are the very first positive image (vs. war photos!) of my old country. YK
I would first like to thank you for your effort to share your trip to the slightest detail. HI! I am as you can see a korean(south). A student in chung-ang university in Seoul. Being a Korean it is easier for me to make love to Maddona than it is to take a guided tour around NK. And ofcourse the eager to do so is just as much. Readding your travelogue has releaved some of the curiosity that has been pressed in me for many many years. In Korea about once a week there's a program showing Clips of North Korean television. You could hear the same Exited(?) voice of the narration. But this and other north-korean related imformation is filtered though thick Censorship and the imformations are mostly political. Only about 15 years ago north-Koreans were drawn as wolves in army uniform and KIM IL SUNG as a FAT PIG. Censorship has become much more loose and is getting more loose everyday. So back to the point, we do not hear much about the everyday lives of the N.Koreans. And our knowledge of the culture of theirs is almost none. Your writting showed a bit of what a eagered.

Reading your travelogue, I was very surprissed at your understanding of Korea as a whole. It seems to me that you know koreans more than any foreiner I know.

At one time is was even forbbiden to collect north korean stamps. It's hard to send mail when your country is the last country inthe planet being in the middle of a cold war.(just my thought).I think this country is still on the cold war situation.

Sometimes there are North Koreans who escape to the south. years ago these people were reguarded as heros.They would appear on TV and teLL STORIES about the North. Infact there's one lady whoes whole family came to the south attending in my school. there's always a bodyguard beside her. Now most of them live a pretty normal life since the relationship between the south and north has gotten much better compared to the OLD DAYS.

I would die for Pictures. But could not send you a scanner.

Thanks again for the writting, and.... Will there be a sequal? JA


Thank you very much! I'm going to ftp and look at the photos. Thanks again. You don't know what type of feeling such photos evoke to a Korea-born American like myself. If it compares in any way to your enjoyable, cynical, and funny travelogue, I'll enjoy it tremendously.

I enjoyed finding out more details about your trip. I hope I can take a similar trip to North someday, under a more favorable situation. You are a psychologist? Wow. How perfect. You must have been able to observe their everyday action and able to analyze whether most of them truly believe in this Kim, Il-Sung, Kim, Jung-Il cult persona in a way a religious person believes in God or whether they all know some propaganda hype and are just going along for the ride. What do you think? T


It is a great pleasure for me reading your story of NK. I am very impressive and surprising. I had never read about NK. We have not information of NK. However, I had been learned in element, middle and high school about NK, including thier ideology, education, life style, especially military training and so on.

All of the Korean (South) think that It is a tragic event divided into North and South Korea after the War of 1950. Although IS-Kim may be great leader in NK, he is a person who raise the Korea War. He is must take the blame for this event, as you know. In children times, I heard from my parent how the Korea War is terrible! My parent home is NK.

We also feel pity for North Korean who suppressed their lives under the watching with each other. Have you heard the 5 house watshing system? This system is observation with each other the units of 5 house. And I heard that a trip can not free without permission from govenment. Therefore, they could not enjoying their lives.

I sometime seen Pyongyang in TV news. As I know, Pyongyang is a artifical city made by communist and one of the clean city in the world. Everywhere you go, IS-Kim is decorated as great leader. He is like God. Only him, for my great leader ...... This ideology is called "Juche Sasang". This ideology is only exist in NK. I believe that this will be collapsed in the world. As you said, I'd like to exprience NK before it disappears forever. I;m sure that someday will come, I can go. YK


I am a new WWW user (just signed up today), but as someone who just returned from his third trip to Pyongyang in July and is paid to read the daily propaganda (and news reporting) that comes from both North and South (no, I don't have any security clearances or top-secret information), I found your account to be quite amusing and your observations numbingly (and amusingly) accurate. I think it's even more enjoyable to read if you've been there than if you haven't! Our group had the misfortune to be trapped with each other in our own personal fleet of Mercedes a nd were housed in a Guest House all week(the price one pays for being an 'official' guest), so we missed some of the more adventurous and spontaneous moments you mentioned, including the "sweet meat" restaurant, as the literal translation goes in North Korean parlance. I'm hope you'll agree with me, however, that North Korea ultimately won't be in that bad a shape economically--all they have to do is break open the piggy bank and open up those gifts received by the Great Leader for auction at the world's largest garage sale! I'm sure Christie's would jump at the opportunity to have exclusive rights to this auction. . . only a garage sale at Graceland could possibly do better! SS
I am C from South Korea. I read your article with great impression and interest. Your articles was so detail and real that I thought I myself was traveling North Korea with your and your friends while reading it. I scrap your writing and show it to my journalist friend and he asked me to ask you if it is okay for him to put your article in his newspaper. My friend know little about internet and if he get positive answer from you through me, he wants to ask his boss about his opinion. My friend, like me, was surprised that only a western tourist - most of whom are not interested to North Korea - have such knowledge and about north Korea and their situation. Please write back as soon as possible about your opinion.
Enjoyed your trip report very much, what a fascinating journey. How did you get hooked up with the tour in the first place? What did it cost? Many thanks for posting this, it was quite enjoyable. RS
Wow! What a fascinating travelogue on North Korea! Thank you for posting it, as well as all the great pictures.

I publish an on-the-rough bimonthly travel magazine called Big World, and in it there's a column called "The Virtual Traveller" that's all about travel resources on the 'net. Would you mind terribly if I posted some information about your travelogue?

Or, perhaps, you'd be willing to let us publish parts of the travelogue itself? I think it would be of great interest to many of our readers, who really seem to like tales from out-of-the-way places. And North Korea, it would seem, is about as out of the loop as one can get!

In any case, thanks again for posting your trip report. Hope to hear from you soon! JF


Enjoyed your article, nothing seems to have changed in the DPRK. At least one thing you tour guide told you about Panmunjom is true, there is a dress code for visitors from the south. Were you not subjected to Pam Sul? Does the larger than life version still exist in Kaesong? Although the UNC Forces in Panmunjom serve a twelve month tour, it appears that the DPRK forces serve a lifetime tour. I've seen the same officers and enlisted personnel in pictures taken this year and last year that I remember from my tour in the early 1980's..

Pamsul is 'snake wine'. A bottle of decanted rice wine has a live snake placed into it and is then resealed. The snake assumes a vertical postion with its nose in the small pocket of air at the top of the bottle and dies. It is said to have a variety of medicinal properties including an aphrodesiac. At any rate it is frequently used in a rite of passage in various military units. This involves eating the snake and drinking the wine (the scales stick in your teeth!). During my tour I saw a black and white photo of a perhaps 1 meter high bottle containing a dead snake that I was told was kept in Kaesong as a tourist attraction. My senior Korean interpreter, who had been born in Kaesong, had also seen this photo and had been told this story by a variety of North Koreans.

No incidents to parallel Captain Pak's murder of two U S Army Captains (posthumously promoted to Major)(infamous tree cutting axe murders) or the destruction of one of my predecessors voice boxes by a karate chop in 1975 occured duiring my tour. The most significant occurence was the defection of a U S Army private (Joey White) in September 1982. This unfortunate young man had formed a close personal relationship with a young Korean girl (perjorative Yobo). The relationship was not going well and he became depressed and believed that things would be better in the North. Much to the surprise of everyone familiar with the DMZ (land mines!) he managed to walk through the DMZ and surrender. He was subsequently transported to Pyongyang, taught to recite a litany of praise to Kim Il Sung, and appeared two days later in a television program from the great hall of the people paying homage to the great leader. In a unprecedented action about five months later the DPRK notified his parents that he had drowned in a swimming accident. (Normally westerners who 'defect' to the north are never heard from again, although persistent rumors allege that they are used in English language training. At least one was used as a star in a children's markenship training video. (the target of course - no grafhic violence)

Were I to visit the DPRK I would have to do so by circuitous means as I would violate United States law by doing so. It could be done by applying for a visa from your country for example, although Sweden or Switzerland would be better venues. It would be unwise for me to assume that North Korea would not figure out who I was since by terms of the Armstice I was required to identify myself by full name in my first meeting with my North Korean counterpart, Major Yun Ki Suk. Technically, I was part of the armistice commision, and not the guard froce, and therefore could roam throughout the 'Peace Village". When I did visit the Pan Mun Gak (the building from whose steps you took your picture)(I took photos from the same vantage point) or wander on the north side of the 'line' it made our guard force fearfull for my safety. In fact I was chastised on several occassions for doing so. However, were I not to routinely exercise my right to do that, that right might have disappeared!

Your assumption of why a dress code is enforced is correct. The use of photos in ridiculous ways has been the subject of many meetings over the years. I can remember having been shown photos of UNC guards holding their genital area, showing nude centerfold pictures, and giving the 'finger' to NK guards. On the other side of the coin I have seen photos of the same actions on the part of the North.(absent nude centerfolds of course!). They learned quickly all the insulting gestures used by the western world and used them on every occasion when tourists werer not present. If the opportunity presents itself, take a tour of ROK. The contrast is dramatic. I believe that you would enjoy yourself immensely. JS


I discovered your very intersting story this morning and I just finished reading and have decided to express my appreciation for the very informative and interesting story. Let me introduce myself to help you understand where I am coming from. Our family left S. Korea about 20 years ago when I have 15. I have been educated in the field of engineering and international business. I am currently running my international trade business in Southern California which is where we currently reside. I always had keen interested in the information about N. Korea because I was born and grew up in S. Korea and both my parents left N. Korea during the Korean War and they both left many families and relative behind. Unfortunately, none of us had a chance to visit them. Even though we now are US citizens, because we were born and raised in S. Korea, if we visit, we will be treated differently. Your group sounds like a very adventurouse group of people. If I foreknew about your trip, I would have volunteered to go with your group. SB
A relative newcomer to the arcane delights of the Internet, I was digging for topics that might interest me and asking Netscape to go look for items related to said topics; it didn't take me long to get down to Korea, and then to North Korea -- where I found your March '95 travelogue.

My compliments, Paul. Your piece was refreshingly bereft of the normal stereotypes that pepper most writings on North Korea, it was interesting, insightful and informative. It certainly made ME want to visit, and I have been there five times, the most recent visit being in April this year.

All of the trips have been memorable in their own ways, but I suppose the highlight must have been getting up close to Kim Il Sung on his 80th birthday, April 15th 1992.

Not that I am any kind of admirer of that monster nor of his creation. North Korea is an aberration, a hideous triumph of sick minds over weak ones, the world's most enduring and most all-encompassing human rights abomination. But there I go sitting on the fence again, huh?

In any case, I have read many stories of first-time visits to N.K. over the years, and I really think you did a good job. As you might have guessed, the Koreas are a subject of great interest to me, so I'd be more than pleased to hear any other notions you have on this fascinating part of the world. R


I read the article that you wrote about North Korea. It is very interesting to me because I am a young man live in South Korea. First of all I give you to thank to write about NK's social aspect. We can't go in to the NK and as if we have heard about NK's news but it is served by SK's government's news. I hope you have a more trip and to write about NK's truth we don't know yet. Have a nice day. ND
I read your article on your visit to North Korea and I must say that I have throughly enjoyed it. I was educated in Korea (South) during the 70's where the economical and diplomatic race of two Koreas and personal leadership competition between Kim Il Sung and Park Jung Hee was at its hottest. I, as a schoolchild, was fed with probably as much propaganda as my counterpart in the North. The threat of North Korean Re-Invasion (they invaded first, didn't they?) was used time and time again to keep people on edge and continuously supporting the military based government. Entering the 80's with the South clearly thinking it has won "the Race", became more sympathetic towards our starving brothers in the North. I was studying in America during the mid 80's when flurry of U.S. citizen Koreans began to visit the North. When they returned, they made testimonies everywhere. Their sentiments varied. Some felt sympathetic because it was our brothers who were suffering there. Some felt superior and looked down on those peasants. Some thought that the whole situation was amusing and joked about things they'd seen there. But you see, they were all Koreans. From the time when I grew up, I knew how the Koreans felt about "the other side" And that's why your article was refreshing. It was honest and well, casual. I wish I could visit there like you did. But I can't. And if I ever do, like the most Koreans who visited there, I would just be totally overwhelmed with the emotion and I will not be able to enjoy the place like you did. Thank you for that great read. L
This travel log "Pleas bow to Great Leader" was very interesting. I do hope your trips in future would always bring such infomative logs to those of us on the Net. PH
I loved your description of the trip to North Korea. A great piece of reporting. In a similar vein, you might consider a visit to Burma (or should I say Myanmar). I was last there in 1977 and had similar (though less complete) time warp qualities. Anyway, thanks for your efforts. MG
Hello. I am impressed by your trip to North Koreal. Since I am a Korean (south), I concern about our country's reunification. I think your trip is very valuable to each side of Korea. Because we, South Korean, can see North Korea by the western view point, and some ( I hope, many) North Korean can also see the west. Do you think North Korea is ready to open their border soon? BH
I just read your account of the trip to North Korea, and I enjoyed it. It was fascinating to read about a trip to such an isolated place like North Korea, especially for a person like me who enjoys travelling.

I'm a Korean-American who lived in Seoul before moving to the U.S. at the age of 7. Currently I am a freshman at UC Berkeley.

I would love to visit North Korea one day.

Yes, you're right when you say it's such an experience to visit a place which has existed without outside interference, still under the Stalin idealisms.

I'm sure your trip to Korea would've been better if you had the chance to interact with North Koreans besides the tour guides. It must've been a strange experience for you. Hearing of N. Korea always reminds me of the novel 1984 with "Big Brother" watching over everyone. It's a scary image, where people's every moves are dictated by this one person who has become a deity. It's sad, but by this point reunification of the Koreas is impossible...it's simply not a good idea. The N. Koreans have become too brainwashed.

Well, I just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed reading about the trip. YA


Absolutely one of the most interesting accounts I've ever seen on North Korea. I lived in South Korea for two years as a missionary. In that time I was able to become fairly fluent in Korean. To this day I am still fascinated with the fact that there is another Korean country in existence that nobody ever sees. I would absolutely love to participate in a whirlwind tour of NK. JS
I read your article with great interest, since I was born not far from PyongYang in 1933 during Japanese occupation. In the last page, you have "RISING SON," which should be corrected as "RISING SUN." If you have information about how to get N korean visa, I would appreciate your letting me know

You are wondering if the life in Korea was any worse during Japanese occupation than it is in N Korea today. Yes, it was worse, much much worse.

1. Japanese took away all the rice harvested in Korea,

2. They drafted many young Korean men to work in mines, factories, etc. in Japan, and many young girls to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers,

3. Koreans could not speak Korean; they were forced to speak Japanese. I was punished for speaking Korean when I was a 4th grader. Koreans were forced to change last names. My last name was 'Matsumoto.' DL


Hi. I'm a chief edit in korean publishing company, XXX I read your article about N-Korea and enjoyed a lot. So I tried to find your other articles about Poland, ect. But I failed. I'm just a beginner in WWW.

I want to read all of your travelogues and check the possibility of publishing t hem in S-Korea.

I'd appreciate if you send them to me(include HanGul version about N-Korea. It's broken in my PC).

I can give you 5% royalties on the first 10,000copies sold, 6% thereafter, and U S$2,000 in advance after making the publishing decision.

I'd appreciate your fast answer. OK


I am lucky boy.because this is the first time to meet a north korean. i am christian(TONG IL CHURCH)and university student. if possible connect together. i'm very happy now . we are same blood. Don't you think about so? have a nice day!
I am a freshman of Korea University. When I was surfing the web, I happened to read your travelogue to North Korea on the WWW.

It was the most exciting travelogue I have ever read. Although I heard about North Korea many times, your story was exciting than stories from Korean newspapers.

Did you guys really eat a dog? Was it delicious? I thought Americans never eat dogs. As for me, I don't eat dogs and I am against eating any pets including dogs!

At the end of the travel, when you told the guide that you would post the travelogue on the 'net', did the guide understand the 'net'? I am very curious about that.

I know your father fought for Korea 45 years ago. I respect your father for that. Thank you for posting the exciting story on WWW.

Have you ever been to South Korea? If so, did you post a travelogue to South Korea, too? If so, please let me know the web site! DK


Enjoyed your travelogue to North Korea. If you ever travel to South Korea, let me treat you to the South's version of "boshin tang" (dog soup). JG
i am a korean student at hanyang univ. your story is very impressive and interesting . i appreciate your wonderful work.

we,korean people,are forced to hate NK! we do not even know how nk people live. every korean MUST read your story!!!! of course , your are just tourists. but how wonderful story! i smiled,laughed off when i read dog-meal story. many photos make me happy! because every information on nk is sensored by SK gov. your story is very nice,hot! national security law (very notorious law) disable all infomation to spread over.

but who could stop internet! your story make me think about my brothers in nk . forceful seperation of korea is the tragedy of korean people. korea never be like germany, if war happen, i must go to war! i have been an airfoce soldier of air denfese army since 1992. evrey korean men must serve in army for 3 years. unification starts only when each other are familiar but sk and nk gov. force every men to take guns!!!!!!! i have nice oppurtunity to get something that i forgotten. you tell the story i listen and want to say "thank you very much" F


I enjoyed your travelogue on your March 1995 trip very much, having visited North Korea in 1989 as a Canadian representative (not govt. supported!) to the World festival of Youth and Students. Canada had a delegation of about 70, the US about 80 (mostly young communists and United States Students Association), and Cuba had about 600. There were numerous other countries involved for a total of over 10,000 people. It seems that little has changed since I was there - the pyramid hotel was near completion, North Korea was about to begin production on its own car, and the propaganda was terrible. I think the propaganda was perhaps worse while we were there given the large international audience they had and the need to show off the country for the North Korean people's benefit. Did you get a chance to visit Kim Il Sung University? I went through the main library's card catalogue (no computerized system - surprise) to see what journals/books were coming from outside Korea. Pretty slim picking. I was allowed to see one of their computer rooms which held ancient computers. Meanwhile the daily english-language conference paper was stating that North Korean scientists had just discovered cold fusion.

I found the propaganda quite frightening while I was there. All we heard was "Korea is one." We were there not long after the Tianneman Square massacre and several countries tried to arrange peaceful protests (as there was a Chinese delegation there). The North Korean security police went to great lengths to see that no protests took place, and even brought in a thousand dancers to fill the square where a large protest was to be held. My own delegation, which was to attend the protest, was suddenly whisked away to a banquet and then the keys to the bus were "lost."

Despite all this I found the Korean people to be open, friendly, and very curious about Canadians, and I would love to go back some day. After returning to Canada I took a Korean history course which gave me a better understanding of the country and its people.

Anyway, it was wonderful to read about your trip. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for North Korea and like to keep up on what is going on there. CJ


Hello. I saw your article about "North Korea" through internet. I wonder if there is any way to communicate with anyone in North Korea through internet from U.S. If you know someone who has internet access in NK, please introduce him/her for me. I am very very curious about North Korea. Hope to hear good news from you.... BR
I recently read your report about your trip to N.Korea last March. While the country facinates me, it does so for a slightly different reason.

As you can proably tell from _my_ e-mail address, I am stationed in South Korea with the Army. However, I am a sailor, and I am stationed in Panmunjom. I believe that the picture identified as "nkor21.jpg" is of me.

Needless to say, a picture of myself from the North side of PMJ is rare indeed. I am very interested in obtaining a copy of that picture. An extra copy of that picture would be greatly appreciated.

I am willing to reimburse you for any inconvenience this might cause.

I am respectfully, XX


Just read your DPRK travelogue, and enjoyed your good-humored but unpatronizing attitude toward the Korean people. I have been a resident of South Korea, and observer of both Koreas (so far as is possible), for about 25 years, but have never gotten more than 100 meters or so into the North, into Panmun'gak, while covering North- South political talks years ago for ABC News (U.S.). Your effort was particularly impressive, considering your professed lack of previous expertise on things Korean. I'm recommending it to a number of friends. Well done! KK


It was quite interesting article even to me, a Korean. It was also quite informative. I have been dreaming to visit North Korea, the ot her side of my homeland without much luck. I greatly appreciate once again for this article, being informative, and also quite objective, candid to describe North Korea.


hi well written art. it describes perfectly whats going on in the north. we are frequently there 1 time per month and it is no fun at all. what are you doning there and who is your boss since he apparently does not agree with your story and comments.


Paul Bakker / "P. Bakker ITS/14 " p.bakker@all-in-1.its14.shlgbpge.simis.com
The opinions expressed above are my own, not my employer's.