Tag

asia

A North Korean Shopping Mall

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This is the eleventh in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here It took me nearly a week to realize why Pyongyang felt so much like a stage set. It wasn’t just the marble monuments and the enormous public buildings, the empty ten-lane streets and the weird scarcity of people. It was the almost total absence of shops. In all our bus rides through the city, I’d...

Child Stars, and the North Korea Spy Ship Incident

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This is the tenth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here Any propaganda tour of Pyongyang is bound to include a visit to the American spy ship Pueblo, captured by North Korea in 1968. To most people 1968 is ancient history, the distant past. But the North Koreans are still gloating over it and the international incident it caused. Our site guide was a grizzled old...

Inside the North Korean School System

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This is the ninth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here One of my creepiest experiences in North Korea was a tour of a primary school. Our bus pulled into an empty, cheerless concrete schoolyard, and we were marched up to the principal’s office. I had immediate flashbacks of all the times I’d spent in the office as a kid, and the string of suspensions I...

You’ll Never Guess What Kim Il-Sung and Jesus Have in Common

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This is the eigth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here Any trip to Pyongyang involves extensive tours of the city. It’s North Korean’s showcase, a vast stage set carefully designed to promote the myth of the Fatherland and the success of Kim Il-Sung’s Juche philosophy. Our first stop was a house said to be the birthplace of Kim Il-Sung. It was a poor...

What Do You Give a Dictator Who’s Got Everything?

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This is the sixth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here The International Friendship Hall is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. It’s an enormous marble Korean-style building constructed to house all of the gifts given to Kim Il-Sung, from almost every country in the world. Many of these gifts were from heads of state (the most elaborate being...

Faking Enlightenment in the DPRK

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This is the fifth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here After another horrid hotel breakfast we were taken to visit a Buddhist temple in the mountains. It was said to be very old, but detailed questioning revealed most of it to be a concrete reconstruction. According to the North Koreans, the original temple was destroyed by the “American imperialists”...

A North Korean Field Trip

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This is the fourth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here One day I took an overnight trip from the capital of Pyongyang. A field trip of sorts. It was the only time we were permitted to sleep someplace other than our hotel, locked down on an island in the city. We drove on a smooth, wide multilane “tourist highway” that begins in Pyongyang and ends at Mt...

Tokyo Pose

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A few more notes from my recent trip to Japan (and then we’ll get back to North Korea)… Today I’d like to talk about one of the coolest cities in the world, a place where I lived from 2000 to 2002. Tokyo is a vast urban sprawl that spreads to engulf neighbouring cities and towns faster every year. The current population of the metro area is approximately 28 million. It bears...

Sumo Size Me

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My apologies for the long delay since my last update. I’ve been in Japan for the past couple weeks and just returned home. We’ll get back to North Korea very soon. But first I’d like to share with you a few images from this last trip… Let’s begin with sumo. I got hooked on sumo while living in Tokyo between 2000 and 2002. As a martial artist the technical aspects of...

Getting in to North Korea

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This is the first in a multi-part blog on North Korea… Many readers have asked about my time in North Korea. Why did I go? How did I get in? What was I thinking? I’ll start at the beginning. It was August 2001, a month before 9/11 changed the world forever. I was living and working in Tokyo. Summer vacation was coming up, and I planned to visit a friend in Indonesia. The problem is...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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