When talking to my friends about my involvement at MOU and the situation on the Korean peninsula generally, the question “where did you find that?” comes up quite frequently. This series therefore aims at sharing some of the rather unusual and interesting information about North Korea that goes beyond generally streamlined articles that can be found on CNN, BBC or Spiegel. I also hope to provide at least some new insights and links for people who have dealt with North Korea more extensively.
1) The forbidden railway: Vienna – Pyongyang
This blog by Helmut Uttenthaler documents how he and his friend Oliver travelled more than 860km by train across North Korea. They were able to freely travel from Tumangan to Pyongyang without government minders, which—to the best of my knowledge—is the only documented time that this has happened. They were therefore able to secure unique footage and also interact with ordinary North Koreans. As such, this blog is extremely interesting because you know that everything you see and read (apart from the official part of the journey took place once they arrive in Pyongyang) has not been altered or modified in any way, shape or form.
2) Orchestral Maneuvers in the North
This short film documents the visit of the Munich Chamber Orchestra to Pyongyang. The trip has been organized by the Goethe Institut Korea in order to foster cross-cultural exchange. It is very refreshing to see a documentary about North Korea that is not directly or indirectly aimed at politics but rather highlights how similar people actually are when they share a common interest.
3) Norway to North Korea and North Korea to Norway
Morten Traavik is a Norwegian artist who regularly travels to North Korea and organizes rather unusual cultural exchanges. He famously lent five North Korean music students a CD of Take on Me by A-ha, which they practiced for just two days. During an interview, he later said that these students were among the best he has ever encountered and the video became a YouTube hit with more than 2 million views. Equally important, this cultural exchange is mutual and Morten Traavik has since arranged a trip to Norway for these five students and two North Korean directors, who taught 250 Norwegian border guards to create a similar event to the famous Arirang Mass Games.