Archive for June, 2012

Pyongyang Pop Gun – 2012

Back in the old days, North Korean citizens could vent their hate, frustrations, and propaganda whipped national fervor, by heading down to the local fun fair and testing their aim with a pop gun against posters and painting of the US boogieman soldiers and servicemen.  These days the anti US propaganda posters and paintings have all been taken down (at least where foreign tourists venture), but North Korean locals still enjoy going out to practice their aim at their local fun fair.

Pyongyang Street Games

Pyongyang, North Korea Games

Pyongyang Street Games

Pyongyang Street Games

2011 visit to the Pyongyang pop gun stand.


Girl with Local North Korean Currency

North Korean Girl with Currency

Portrait of a girl with local currency Pyongyang, North Koera- photo by Joseph A Ferris III


Pyongyang Traffic Girl Of The Month

I recently discovered that two of my pictures have the honor of being selected as the Pyongyang Traffic Girl Of The Month for May and June 2012 over at PyongyangTrafficGirls.com – it’s a fun little site that honors some of my favorite girls, check it out while my picture for June is still profiled up on their main page!

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK

June 2012 Traffic Girl of the Month.

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

May 2012 Traffic Girl of the Month – photos by Joseph A Ferris III

And while messing around at PyongyangTrafficGirls.com I came across this absolutely precious kindergarten musical traffic safety skit.


Vehicle Billboard Advertisements

North Korea Auto Advertisement

North Korean Capitalism or Propaganda?  Original post here.


Nampo Chollima Steelworks

The Chollima Steelworks, a North Korean showcase heavy industry site located outside the west coast city of Nampo, was recently opened for tourism and we were among the lucky few to make a first visit.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Painting of the Chollima Steelworks – all photos on the post by Joseph A Ferris III

A historically important site, Kim II Sung and Kim Jong-il made many visits, the Chollima Steelworks is an impressive complex with wide boulevards, rail infrastructure, grand propaganda murals, and imposing buildings.  Being amongst the first western visitors, instead of the ubiquitous local guide, we were greeted by a large group of officials and representatives of the steelworks who shuttled around the complex in large black luxury sedans.  Of course they showed us the local museum dedicated to the visits and on the spot guidance of Kim Il sung and Kim Jong-il, but the highlight of our tour was our access into the steelworks itself with a close up inspection of a functioning electric arc furnace on the production floor.

This visit to the Chollima Steelworks was part of the new Heavy Metal Tour add-on package offered by Koryo Tours.   Also included in this tour was our visits to the Nampo glass factory and the Hamhung fertilizer plant.  We had unrestricted photography access to each site, other groups had their visits restricted to a bus ride through the parking lot with no photos allowed.  These groups had shadowed us at times and were continuously in trouble with their guides for breaking photography regulations – for the best access it pays to follow the rules set by your guide!

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Entrance to Chollima Steelworks.

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Our guide Ms Han and the local guide in front the Chollima Steelwork’s Kim II Sung mosaic.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Chollima Steelworks representative.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Chollima Steelworks representative and worker.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

As we did not venture too far onto the factory floor hard hats and safety gear were not provided for us.  On close inspection you can see only about 50% of the workers have hard hats on.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Chollima Steelworks production floor.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Chollima Steelworks production floor.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Close up of the electric arc furnace.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Electric arc furnace in wide angle.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Chollima Steelworks production floor in wide angle.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Propaganda on the production floor.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Entrance to Chollima Steelworks.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Entrance to Chollima Steelworks.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Entrance to Chollima Steelworks.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

Achievement banners at the steelwork’s museum.

Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea

North Korean guide Ms Han and a Chollima Steelworks painting.


USS Pueblo Guide

Pueblo Guide DPRK, North Korea

Our lovely guide shares a laugh and smile during our return visit to the US spy ship Pueblo.

This wasn’t our first time meeting this guide – Jordan, Josh, and I remembered her from last year (and she confessed to remembering us too), she was our guide during our 2011 visit to the  Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.  It was with her that we shared one of our favorite interactions of last year’s trip:

After being told of our impending annihilation we split our group between our trip guides and the local museum guide to fit into a small elevator to return to the museum entrance. Stuffed in the elevator between 5 big western men our guide asked us where we were from – Michigan, Maine, California, and so on.  The look on our guide’s face was priceless, she was stuck in an elevator with 5 arch enemy Americans just moments after she predicted our impending annihilation by North Korean troops. The look of shock on her face changed into a big smile as our guide declared “I love American civilians!” and together we all all broke out into laughter – one of the best moments of the trip!


Article Analysis at The North Korea Blog

My good friends over at The North Korea Blog have been busy analyzing some recent articles about North Korea put out by the main stream media.  Like myself, these guys have also visited the DPRK and have valuable insights to share.

Hamhung, DPRK, North Korea

Going Green in North Korea
Gabriel Mizrahi examines the Prague Post’s article: Czech consultant launches in North Korea.

Pedal power on the streets of Hamhung,  North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Wonsan - Hamhung Countryside North Korea

A Kink in the Armor - Joshua Spodek analyzes the Wall Street Journal’s report: Luxuries Flow Into North Korea.

State authorized cottage industry in the Hamhung region – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


North Korean Space Program

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

The North Korean space program?  No, just a mockup of a Soviet Russian Buran spacecraft at the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace, Pyongyang, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


A Bird’s Eye View of Pyongyang – Post #2

Pictures of Pyongyang, North Korea taken from the top of Juche Tower.

Pyongyang, North Korea

Monument to the Founding of the North Korean Workers’ Party.

Pyongyang, North Korea

East bank of the Taedong River, old Pyongyang City.

Pyongyang, North Korea

East bank of the Taedong River, old Pyongyang City.

Pyongyang, North Korea

East bank of the Taedong River, old Pyongyang City.

Pyongyang, North Korea

East bank of the Taedong River, old Pyongyang City.

Pyongyang Mansudae Housing Project

Pyongyang Mansudae housing project.

Kim Il-sung Square Pyongyang

Kim Il-sung Square Pyongyang.

All photos by Joseph A Ferris III


A Bird’s Eye View of Pyongyang – Post #1

Pictures taken from the top floors of the Yanggakdo International Hotel showing Pyongyang bathed in the light of sunset.

Pyongyang, North Korea

View of the famous Ryugyong Hotel.

Pyongyang, North Korea

Taedong River and the Juche Tower.

Pyongyang, North Korea

View of Pyongyang looking east.

Pyongyang, North Korea

View of Pyongyang looking east.

Pyongyang, North Korea

View of Pyongyang looking east.

Pyongyang, North Korea

River dredge on the Taedong.

All photos by Joseph A Ferris III


Love North Korean Children – Humanitarian Charity Appeal

Dongbong Co-Operative Farm, Hamhung, North Korea

Dongbong Co-Operative Farm, Hamhung, North Korea- photo by Joseph A Ferris III

For those who have enjoyed this blog and are curious about how to make a donation that will directly benefit those in need in the DPRK please let me introduce the Love North Korean Children project.  

Run by Manna Mission of Europe, a U.K. registered charity organization, the main purpose of the Love North Korean Children project is to help impoverished children, often orphans, in the Najin-Sonbong area and other places (in Pyongyang and far away from the capital).  We are running bakeries for the supply of staple food.  That means to provide self-help, because we do not deliver bread to North Korea!  We deliver flour and employ staff in the country.  Therefore a strict monitoring is guaranteed.

  • Each bakery has a capacity of feeding 4,000-10,000 children and the staff.
  • We currently have 26 possible locations for bakeries and orphanages; the construction and opening of such facilities depends on the funds we receive in the future.
  • We reached an agreement with the North Korean government to get the estate for bakeries free of charge.  So all the money goes directly towards providing humanitarian assistance.  The flour is delivered from neighboring China to save transportation costs.

Photos from the 2010 bakery inspection tour.

This project is facilitated with the help of Koryo Tours, they give the following details about the project:

To date, the charity has built 4 bakeries. The first 3 (located just outside Pyongyang, Hyangsan and Rason) are fully running and provide 5000-6000 children with one steamed bread bun per day. The newest bakery in Sariwon is fully set up and aims to feed 5000 children every day but is currently unable to start production due to a lack of funds. Money is needed to purchase the flour to make the bread (this is bought in China) and also to buy the coal to stoke the fires. Please note that no money is actually taken into the country.

We would like to raise funds to support this bakery in Sariwon. We know that every single donation goes in full directly towards the project. The running costs for the bakery are approximately EUR 7000 per month and this provides 5000 children in the area with one steamed bun per day – this might seem a little amount to you but to them it makes a huge difference. It therefore costs as little as EUR 1.50 to feed one child for one month - and under EUR 20 to feed one child for one whole year.

Donations can be made directly to the Love North Korean Children project at their PayPal page, or via Koryo Tours at PayPal links on their charity info page.

Remember – as little as EUR 1.50 will feed one child for one month - and under EUR 20 will feed one child for one whole year!


Czech Consultant Sees Opportunity in DPRK – Launches Carbon-credit Business in North Korea

An interesting article about conducting an environmental business project in the DPRK:

The secretive nation of North Korea isn’t the most obvious place to launch an environmental business project, but for the past two years, businessman Miroslav Blažek has traveled frequently to the Stalinist state to help develop an ambitious carbon-credit trading venture……

Hamhung Countryside Smokestack, North Korea

Gigantic smokestack and coal piles in the countryside near Wonsan
and Hamhung – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


Tour of Athletics and Student Leisure Activities at the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace

Last year we were late getting to the Pyongyang Children’s Palace – we got to see most of the show but missed the tour of the classrooms.  For this year’s visit to the larger Mangyongdae Children’s Palace I made it a point to arrive extra early so we could get the full tour – on a day when a major performance was scheduled for western tourists and foreign dignitaries we were the first group to arrive.

Below is just a portion of what we were shown on our tour.  Child protegees train hard to perfect their skills in gymnastics and dance, while others students relax with games of volleyball and the traditional board game go.   How much of this was staged for us and how much was typical of what goes on, visiting tourists invading their classrooms or not, I cant really say.

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea


Last Chance to see the Arirang Mass Games?

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

2011 Arirang Mass Games – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

From my contacts at Koryo Tours:  Word from our sources in Pyongyang is that the Arirang Mass Games of 2012 will be the last – so we suggest you sign up now to ensure that you can see this remarkable event while it is still running.

While mass games have been performed since the 1940s in the DPRK the Arirang show is the largest and most impressive they have ever produced.  Born in 2002, since 2007 it has been an annual event, but 2012 will be Arirang’s 10th anniversary, and it seems the powers that be have decided to close the curtain.  As for the reason, our Korean partners suggest that the narrative needs to change with the times.  Combining dance, gymnastics, propaganda, politics, music, and even unicycling, this spectacular performance chronicles the struggles of the Korean people suffering under Japanese occupation, moving into the independent era and building a modern country – basically the period linked to the first 100 years since the birth of North Korea’s Eternal President Kim Il Sung.

However, since 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the republic (Sept 9th) as well as the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War (July 27th), organizers are reportedly planning a whole new performance for next year.

So if you haven’t seen Arirang yet, or if you want to see it one last time, this is your chance.  Don’t miss out on the biggest performance in the world – an event that makes any Olympic opening ceremony look like a school play!  Staged at the massive May Day stadium in Pyongyang, Arirang is running from August 1st to September 9th, 2012, but as with the last few years we do expect an extension, perhaps as far as the middle of October (usually it finally ends around Oct 17th).

Don’t miss the Arirang Mass Games!  Tell us a little about yourself, and I will hook you up with a great DPRK travel deal for visiting!


Classroom Tour at the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace

Last year we were late getting to the Pyongyang Children’s Palace – we got to see most of the show but missed the tour of the classrooms.  For this year’s visit to the larger Mangyongdae Children’s Palace I made it a point to arrive extra early so we could get the full tour – on a day when a major performance was scheduled for western tourists and foreign dignitaries we were the first group to arrive.

Below is just a portion of what we were shown on our tour.  Child protegees and students work hard to perfect their studies in folk music, propaganda oration, drawing, and piano.  How much of this was staged for us and how much was typical of what goes on, visiting tourists invading their classrooms or not, I cant really say.

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Piano Instruction North Korea

Piano Instruction North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Our student guide for the classroom portion of the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace.


Vehicle Billboard Advertisements – North Korean Capitalism or Propaganda?

North Korean Auto Advertisement

A billboard advertisement for the sale of North Korean produced cars and trucks of the Pyeonghwa Motor company.

Perhaps I missed them last year, or perhaps they are new, but this year I found two more vehicle billboards each located in the countryside outside Pyongyang – In 2011 I saw only one car advertisement billboard located in the Pyongyang city center.  In my first post about the North Korean vehicle billboards I made the simple suggestion that perhaps the Pyongyang vehicle billboard advertisement is an indication of capitalism creeping its way into the North Korean system, but upon further investigation I have found it suggested that these billboards are nothing more than propaganda.

Car and Driver magazine says:

Because the private sale of nearly everything is officially banned, North Korea doesn’t have much use for billboards—other than for cartoonish propaganda, of course.  But the country is obsessive about putting on a good face, so much so that it maintains an idyllic fake village at the end of the South Korean border.  It may well be that the purpose of the billboard for the Pyeonghwa Motors model Whistle is to advertise to the small group of foreign businessmen in North Korea, but it’s more likely they’ve set it up to dupe the locals into thinking the country is doing well enough for car ads.  (It’s not.)

With such a low production output, 314 cars produced in 2003 and 400 in 2005, I think the case made that these advertisements are simply propaganda is pretty valid.


The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace

The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace, a place for the children of the privileged elite to spend time after school practicing sports, art, folk dance and music – and of course, show it all off with military like precision and forced smiles to groups of visiting foreign friends and tourists.

The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace is the largest of the many palaces in North Korea dedicated to Children’s after school activities. The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace has 120 rooms, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, and a 2000 seats theater. The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace is not to be confused with the Pyongyang Children’s Palace situated in the north of the Kim Il Sung Square and founded in 1963 – where I visited and saw a children’s performance last year.

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

A young girl opens a show for tourists and dignitaries at the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace.  This was a special performance to commemorate the Day of the Sun, the 100th birthday of ‘eternal president’ Kim Il-sung.  Many more pics from this performance to come!


Guns, Girls, and Beer – the Pyongyang Gun Range 2012

Last week I wrote about my return to the Pyongyang gun range and how I shot my own breakfast, today I am presenting a simple photo post showing the remaining pictures from that visit – the ones that don’t involve me killing something!  You can find my post about my original 2011 visit to the gun range here.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Lovely Pyongyang gun range attendants.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Pyongyang Gun Range

Pyongyang Gun Range

I bought our North Korean guide Ms. Han a round of shots,  she wasn’t the best marksman but I was thrilled that she at least gave it a try.

Pyongyang Gun Range

Pyongyang Gun Range

Pyongyang Gun Range Bar

The Pyongyang gun range bar – my favorite bar is the world!

Pyongyang Gun Range Bar


Peace Sign Photobomb!

Peace - Wonsan Town Square North Korea

Peace sign photobomb at the Wonsan main square, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


Visit North Korea!

Pyongyang 100th Year Kim Il Sung Birthday Celebrations
100 Year Kim Il Sung Birthday Celebrations in Pyongyang, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Tell me a little about yourself and I will hook you up with a great DPRK travel deal for visiting!  Please leave a quick comment here (so I will know to check my email) and email me privately at joseph@youngpioneertours.com with the following info:

Full name, how you learned about this blog, what your country of residence is, when you are interested in visiting the DPRK, and what you are interested in seeing.

As of Oct. 2012 I’m pleased to announce I can offer 5% off to people I refer for our scheduled trips to both the DPRK and Iran – so get in touch!


Wood Gasification Trucks in North Korea

A wood gas generator is a gasification unit which converts timber or charcoal into wood gas, a syngas consisting of atmospheric nitrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, traces of methane, and other gases, which – after cooling and filtering – can then be used to power an internal combustion engine or for other purposes. Historically wood gas generators were often mounted on vehicles, but present studies and developments concentrate mostly on stationary plants.

Trucks retrofitted with wood gasifiers are used in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in rural areas, particularly on the roads of the east coast

Hamhung City Square, DPRK, North Korea

Wonsan - Pyongyang Countryside

Gasification trucks from the east coast Hamhung region.  Keeping these trucks in operation is perhaps the reason why the military is out gathering woodphotos by Joseph A Ferris III


Bagging Your Own Breakfast – The Pyongyang Gun Range Pheasant Shoot

Dubbing the experience guns, girls, and beer, last summer’s visit to the Pyongyang gun range was one of my favorite experiences of the trip.  Having had so much fun there last year I made it a point to include another visit when I wrote out the custom itinerary for my 2012 return to the DPRK – most standard North Korean tourist itineraries don’t include the gun range.

Our visit was approved but this year the girls were prepared for us and remembered our tricks – no photos hugging the girls, beer in one hand and rifle in the other, while in the shooting area!  But that was OK, we had other tricks up our sleeves!  At 5 euros a round visitors are allowed to take a shots at live birds in a pen at the far end of the gun range.  Nobody tried during last years visit, the pen was only stocked with one skinny chicken, but this year the pen was well stocked with plump pheasants, and to temp us further a North Korean man shot and bagged one before our eyes.  I wasn’t the first in our group to bag a pheasant, one of the guys hit one on his first shot and made a gift of the bird to our bus driver – the driver was thrilled.  After getting a few drinks in me I purchased a 5 euro round for my lucky shot into the pheasant pen, then a 2nd, and a third round – eventually I bagged one!

Pyongyang Gun Range Prize

North Korean gun range attendant with my pheasant.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Me and my pheasant at the Pyongyang gun range.

North Korean Pheasant Soup

So you got drunk and shot a pheasant at Pyongyang gun range – now what?  Bring the dead bird to the dining hall of your Pyongyang hotel restaurant, pull it out in front of a bunch of horrified western tourists while they eat their dinners, and pass it over to a North Korean waitress – she wont even bat an eye but only ask for instructions on how you want your bird soup prepared for the next morning’s breakfast.  Photo above – my pheasant being dished out for breakfast.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Me and my prize at the Pyongyang gun range.

Pyongyang Gun Range

Me and my pheasant at the Pyongyang gun range.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

A North Korean man returning with his prize.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Walking out with the gun range attendant to get my bird.