Visiting North Korea during the Era of Kim Jong Un

In recent news, North Korea has prepared to launch a satellite into space. However, this move has been met with much antagonism by the United States because it seems to defy the motions of the United Nations should the satellite be a move to test missile technology that would one day send threats of nuclear warfare. The BBC’s broadcaster, Damian Grammaticas, who is based in Beijing, China, gained permission to enter North Korea at the time of this controversy, symbolic of the transparency with which the North Korean authorities intended to launch the satellite. In his BBC article, Grammaticas relates that the North Korean authorities wanted to launch the satellite in commemoration of the hundredth birthday of Kim Il Sung, the founding father of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Throughout his article, “Exploring North Korea’s Contradictions,” Grammaticas describes his impressions of the North Korean landscape. Visiting the countryside outside of Pyongyang, Grammaticas emphasizes the emptiness of the roads and the bleakness of the empty shop windows as he exits the city. Of the city itself, Grammaticas relays, “Being here, in the world’s last Stalinist state, feels like being transported back in time. North Korea often looks like a place marooned, a survivor from an age when Soviet republics, with their strongmen rulers, were common.” He then continues the article with a explanation of the preparation Pyongyang’s people made for the celebrations that would enliven the next few days – city repairs were made, flowers were assembled, roadsides were cleaned, images of Kim Il Sung were hung throughout the city, plans for the launch of the satellite were being settled. Continue reading

Kim Jong Il: DEAD

No matter where you were in the world today (December 19, 2011) you probably heard about the death of Kim Jong Il. North Korea’s official statement is that Kim Jong Il died of fatigue on Saturday, December 17th at 8:30 am on a train. For me, I was at work when I first heard about it. I work at an NGO in South Korea that deals specifically with North Korean issues and we keep close tabs on any new shifts within the rogue country, such as keeping an eye on the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) television station, the North’s official source of news. And it’s thanks to this careful observation that we were able to hear about the death of Kim Jong Il, “the Dear Leader.” Continue reading