My Kim Il Sung pin and on the train to Dandong

Trip Start Oct 18, 2007
Trip End Sep 09, 2010

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Flag of Korea Dem Peoples Rep  ,
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It was our last day in North Korea and the nigth before we had received a special present, an original Kim Il Sung pin! In North Korea everyone wears a pin of Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il, or both. Most people wear the Kim Il Sung pin, because he is still the most respected.

During our week in North Korea we had asked our guides about the pin and if it was possible to get one, we were first told this wasn't possible as we had also been told by the tour organiser in Beijing. But after a few days we were asked if we really wanted the pin, of course we said yes! To receive the pin we would have to write a short CV and why we had come the country and what we thought of their leaders.

On our last night in Pyongyang we heard that it was going to happen! A representative from the ministry of tourism came to our hotel and in a seperate room he told us the importance of the pin to the Korean people and that it was very important to treat it with respect. He more or less told us not to sell it or give it away to anyone no matter how close a friend. After that he pinned the pin on our clothes. It was a very special experience because it is not often that tourists can get their hands on an original Kim Il Sung pin.

The next morning we left early for the train station. The train was comfortable and we met some interesting people. There was an Indian couple that had been working at the embassy in Pyongyang for the last 3 three years. They were now transferred to Switzerland, quite a difference! They told us that they had been free to travel within Pyongyang but it had not been possible to really get to know any Koreans. Life was mostly on the compound with the other embassy people. It was interesting to talk to them for a while.

The views from the train were also nice. Every little town has a stele stating the immortality of Kim Il Sung. It is a copy of the big one in Pyongyang. The train stations all had a picture of him facing the rails and in many fields are placats with slogans.

At the border all our luggage had to be checked by hand and we had to fill in some forms again. They checked all my photos but didn't delete any, it went quite relaxed and we arrived in Dandong early in the evening. You cross the Yalu river from North Korea to China and the difference cannot be bigger. Suddenly there are neon lights everywhere, traffic jams etc. Eventhe bridge that connects the two countries shows the difference; the Chinese half is decorated in lights and the North Korean side has no lights at all.

It took a little time to stop asking for permission to take photos, it was great to have my freedom back!
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