Archive for January, 2012

Beauty and Grace at the Arirang Mass Games

It’s not all about high kicking sexy military girls and mass flip card human mosaics at the North Korean Arirang Mass Games; experience the more delicate side of the games with the following set of photos showcasing the beauty and grace of North Korean women in their traditional Korean chosŏn-ot dresses.

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea


Dancing Maidens at the Arirang Mass Games

Young North Korean maidens dancing in an orchard……

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

and then the nightmare begins!


Old Fashioned Girls

Children's Palace Pyongyang, North Korea

Performance at the Pyongyang Children’s Palace.

Commented on my Flickr“I like this picture, there is a certain old fashioned style in the colors, the postures…..”

I took over 5,000 pictures in North Korea.  The best pictures stood out immediately, many I couldn’t do anything with, and then there were those I discovered later – pictures initially overlooked in the huge file but somehow later to capture my eye and ultimately my heart.  This picture is one of those.  Initially missed but quickly to become a cherished  favorite.

I agree with the above commenter, there is just something old fashioned about North Korea and this picture sums it up perfectly – that’s why I love this picture!


Koryo Dynasty Tombs

A visit to the Koryo Dynasty Tombs outside Kaesong, DPRK, North Korea.

Kaesong Tombs

Kaesong Tombs

Kaesŏng Tombs, North Korea


The Northern Side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone

Approximately 250 Kilometers long, 4 KM wide, and running roughly along the 38th parallel, the Korean Demilitarized Zone continues to be the most heavily militarized border in the world.  Most people visit it from the south but I am one of approximately 300 Americans who have visited it from the North.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

North Korean guard at Panmunjom, DMZ.

The trip to the border region south of Kaesong was the first activity on our week long visit to the DPRK. The DMZ would also be our first chance to test our preconceptions for what our visit to North Korea would be like:

We were marched (you know it’s serious stuff in North Korea when you are marched around as we were also later to do at the Kim Il-sung Mausoleum/Kumsusan Memorial Palace and the International Friendship Exhibition) – didn’t really expect that but since I went to military school I was ahead of the curve.   Pictures we took would NOT be instantly scrutinized and deleted, our military guides smiled and were very friendly, we would NOT be able to give South Korean soldiers profane finger gestures, we would NOT instantly be arrested for giggling about Kim Jong-il (our guide would blush in concern that we were giggling over her English usage, not the ‘Dear Leader’), and “the DMZ is the one place in North Korea where you ARE  free to take as many pictures as you want” rule was severely tested by my 10 pictures a second Sony A55 – I was warned to tone things down.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

The DMZ was also our first full on introduction to North Korea’s alternate historical reality.  What we know as the ‘axe murder incident‘ was simply explained away as a misunderstanding when an axe got innocently thrown over a fence – no mention of murdered US servicemen.  Desire for peaceful reunification was talked up while anti American propaganda was pointedly avoided, but the alternate historical reality crept back when all of us tourists were  sat around a table used during armistice talks.  Our guide enthusiastically named off North Korean officials and where they had sat, but when asked who had sat in my seat, the guide dismissively answered “some American aid or secretary” – hmmmmm, my seat was at the head of the table on the American/South Korean side.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

Soldiers marching at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Pointing out the DMZ line

Tour guide Ms. Kim pointing out the DMZ – photo by Kinabalu

Demilitarized Zone Guide

Local guide at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

North Korean guard at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

North Korean guard at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

North Korean guards at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Sign Language Tour at DMZ

Sign Language Tour at DMZ

The Korean War and the DMZ explained in sign language by tour leaders of a group of the hearing impaired.

Jordan Harbinger at the DMZ

Jordan Harbinger points out the Northern side of the DMZ.


Traffic Girl Style

A peek at the details of the Pyongyang traffic girl uniform.

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK

More Pyongyang traffic girl photos below – all from our 20 min. escorted walk in Pyongyang.

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK


Peaceful Unification Propaganda at the Demilitarized Zone Northern Side

Peaceful Unification Kaesong Propaganda

“Let us pass on the united country to the next generation!”


After School Pyongyang in Black and White

Two young girls walk home from the Pyongyang Children’s Palace.

Pyongyang After School


Guard Duty Pyongyang

Interesting set of photos showing a woman with rifle on guard duty in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Female Guard

Female Guard

Pyongyang Gate


DPRK (North Korea) Special Cuisine – Petroleum Clam Barbeque


Post 101

Is this really post 101?

At An American in North Korea I have tried to post something new and original on a daily basis. For the most part I have succeeded – but damn have I been busy lately!  My ship is coming out of dry dock and I have been run ragged getting her cleaned up and ready for sea again.

Unfortunately I am also starting to run out of original material and photos to post. But  don’t worry!  I still have some ideas for when things quiet down and there is a Spring trip to the DPRK being planned!

Taedong River Traffic North Korea

Posting a picture of the North Korean maritime industry as a reminder that no matter how crazy and busy things get on my ship I always have something to be thankful for!


10 of the world’s ugliest buildings – CNN

Hotel of Doom

North Korean Hotel of Doom - photo by Joseph A Ferris III

CNN fluff web article on the world’s ugliest buildings:

1. Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korea’s long and hideous Communist dictatorship has simultaneously heaped misery upon its people while offering the rest of the world several moments of unintentional hilarity.

This 330-meter pyramid/spaceship/sci-fi villain’s lair-themed concrete edifice is a prime example of the regime’s hubris. Erected, apparently, as a riposte to South Korea winning the right to host the 1988 Olympic Games, the impoverished North ran out of cash for the project in the early 1990s.

After a 16-year hiatus, construction began again in 2008 at the behest of an Egyptian investment group and the hotel is slated to open next year in time for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sun, the country’s late “Eternal” President.

This is a development that will surely herald the emergence of Pyongyang as a heavyweight tourist destination –- in the same alternate reality this monstrosity was conceived, that is.


Mass Gymnastics

North Korean girls perform mass gymnastics at the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea1

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea


Favorite Moments in North Korea

Joshua Spodek helps rekindle memories from our trip to North Korea with the following posts:

Toward the end of our week in North Korea I asked all my travel group-mates what they considered their favorite moment of our trip and why.

Part 2, Part 3

My favorite moment was learning that the sailor who led the tour of the USS Pueblo was a member of the original boarding party of the ship. I felt he had communicated a message to take what we had learned there and use it to help promote peace, a different message than most of the government-promoted messages. Learning his role made the message feel more genuine – Joshua Spodek

Tour of the US Spy Ship Pueblo

Tour of the US spy ship Pueblo given by an original crew member that participated in its capture – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


Hello Kitty in North Korea

Young boy in Pyongyang, North Korea with Hello Kitty bag and his sister’s socks!

Hello Kitty North Korea