Special guest writer: M
We set off early for Pyongyang passing endless paddy fields and the occasional orchard of small ginko trees. The southern area is certainly the poorest and the farming life is tough. At one point we saw a group of five or six men pulling a plough by hand using only ropes. On the verges and banks of streams people seemed to be cutting vegetation presumably to eat.
On the outskirts of Pyongyang we stopped at a monument for the reunification, throughout the tour we were told it is the greatest desire to reunify the country and were reminded that it was the US imperialists that stand in the way! It has to be said the North Koreans certainly do big monuments!
The rest of the day was to be a pretty heavy tour of museums one of which we had missed earlier in the trip. First was The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum to the north of the city; we were warned that it would be cold inside and indeed it was. One of the joys of the tour was the lady tour guides who ranged from waifs with shrill wavering voices who seemed to become overawed with emotion at the mention of the name of the great leader to the slightly more cool ones who seemed to be in it for gifts of cosmetics that they received from tour groups. This one was different, younger and quite cheery but none the less scary and, as we were to find out soon, quite mad. Her introduction began with a detailed technical description of the size of the museum and the number of rooms (86 I recall) and then she went on to describe how the museum was a testament to the victory of the Korean people over the imperialist US aggressors. One of our group was starting to feel the cold and the guide remarked that we wouldn't need to be there if the US imperialist aggressors hadn't invaded the country! This left the person dumb struck and then she asked "didn't he agree?" as if it was obvious.
The museum apparently has 50 panoramic video screens and we got to see one depicting the struggle of the heroic truck drivers who resupplied the front lines. It was very seventies with little figures and trucks moving up the valley whilst being bombed; it had clearly taken thousands of hours to build. At the end of the tour we were shown a giant revolving panorama showing the retreat of the Americans in the first big push by the north early in the war. This period came up quite a lot in the tours and the books, but what is never explained is how the battle lines ended up getting pushed back north to the 38th parallel where the armistice was finally struck two years later in 1953.
Outside a group was having a taekwondo lesson.
We arrived earlier this time and so got to see the school children's warm up before the show starts. The children form the backdrop of the show and each has a book; they turn the pages in perfect synchronisation, it is very impressive. During the show they also use the backdrop like a movie screen and project films which is very clever.