From past posts readers might be under the impression that North Korean kindergartens are overwhelmingly filled with political and military statues and art. But there is a sweeter, more innocent side to DPRK kindergartens, aspects of which I would like to highlight in this photo post:
Photos from Chongjin and Rason Kindergartens .
Friend and fellow Young Pioneer Tours guide, Chris White, had an epic encounter with a Pyongyang Traffic Girl last week in the DPRK:
Pics from Young Pioneer Tour’s Facebook page – give the page a like and suggest to your friends for your chance to win our yearly free DPRK trip giveaway contest!
Crayon drawing of a tank displayed at a Kindergarten in Rason, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
Children from a kindergarten in Rason, North Korea proudly wear red star awards for exceptional daily performance.
Young girl with a Hello Kitty sweatshirt in Rason, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
Getting your caffeine fix in North Korea can be quite a challenge. A tasteless cup of instant coffee is usually provided with hotel breakfasts, and a cup of instant can be mixed up for a Euro at the various rest stops and lunch/dinner restaurants. But coffee lovers don’t despair; a proper latte or cappuccino can be had at the Viennese Coffee Shop located off Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung square. The coffee shop is open for tourists and doesn’t require a prearranged permit, just ask your guides if there is time to stop by.
While located in Pyongyang, a latte at the Viennese Coffee Shop will cost as much as one goes for in the Austrian capital!
Not only does this lovely North Korea barista whip up a great cappuccino, she is also a champion foosball (table football) player. Ask her to play a couple games; an hour of foosball at the table in the back room goes for a Euro.
With all the colors and adorable costumes, the Chongjin City kindergarten performance is my favorite student’s show in North Korea. Below are photos from my April 2013 Chongjin kindergarten visit:
My look behind the scenes of the DPRK tourist experience wouldn’t be complete without introducing the famous singing and dancing waitresses of the Pyongyang lamb BBQ restaurant. The girls are also available for catering; long time readers might have seen them cooking and dancing at the Mt Taesong Amusement park in my Ultimate Frisbee tournament post.
Cute, flirty, and always ready for a little dancing, relaxing with these girls is always a highlight of any trip to Pyongyang (at least for the guys) – they serve up one of Pyongyang’s tastiest lunches too!
Comrade Kim Goes Flying, the first ever feature film done in collaboration between North Korean and Western producers, will have its world premiere screening this September at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Synopsis– from the official site
Comrade Kim Yong Mi is a North Korean coal miner. Her dream of becoming a trapeze artist is crushed by the arrogant trapeze star Pak Jang Phil who believes miners belong underground and not in the air. A heartwarming story of trying to make the impossible possible.
Programmer’s Note – From the Toronto International Film Festival
A winning, life-affirming fable about a young coal miner’s pursuit of her dream to become an acrobat, Comrade Kim Goes Flying marks a milestone in film history: it is the first Western-financed fiction feature made entirely in North Korea. But this charming film wears its heavy historical mantle with grace, weaving a lovely, light-hearted tale whose themes — overcoming adversity, and realizing the dream of a lifetime—upend our assumptions of a largely cloistered culture.
Kim Yong-mi (Han Jong-sim) works as a coal miner in a small village. She dreams of one day joining the national circus and performing on the trapeze — despite the fact that she is deathly afraid of heights. When she is promoted and sent to the capital, Pyongyang, she seizes the opportunity to make her dream come true. Insinuating herself into the circus and struggling to overcome her acrophobia, Yong-mi meets Pak Jang-phil (Pak Chung-guk), the arrogant, good-looking star of the Pyongyang Trapeze Troupe. At first, Jang-phil makes fun of the congenitally klutzy Yong-mi. But eventually her beauty, endearing personality and unyielding determination win him over, and give him a valuable lesson in humility.
The team behind Comrade Kim Goes Flying — co-writer and co-director Nicholas Bonner, an Englishman based in Beijing who has long promoted cultural exchange with North Korea; his collaborator Kim Gwang-hun, a North Korean filmmaker; and Belgian filmmaker Anja Daelemans, who also served as co-producer — spent six years putting this unprecedented project together, overcoming numerous difficulties — not least the fact that their stars are actual circus acrobats who had never acted before. But the result is a gorgeously filmed romantic comedy that transports us to a fantastic world seemingly out of time, with astonishing, candy-coloured images of the seldom-seen North Korea.
The Toronto International Film Festival’s schedule of screenings for Comrade Kim Goes Flying:
September 8 at 3:45 PM Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 3 – World Premiere
September 11 at 9:30 PM Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 5
September 16 at 3:45 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
It’s great news that this film has made it to the Toronto International Film Festival; last spring producer Nick Bonner shared with me some of the problems Comrade Kim Goes Flying has had in finding its way to international audiences –paraphrasing from memory:
“Most international film festivals have a policy against screening films they consider to be state sponsored propaganda. At first glance by those unfamiliar with the colors, music, and emotions presented in North Korean art, this film might give the impression that it’s some form of propaganda, but no North Korean watching Comrade Kim Goes Flying would ever mistake it for such, for them this will be regarded as a fantasy/romantic comedy.”
Comrade Kim Goes Flying will be shown to audiences throughout the DPRK and will present to them provocative scenes the likes of which have never been seen in North Korean cinema. I was given the honor to preview some of these clips, and while international viewers might easily overlook their importance, scenes depicting corruption in the state system and child obesity have been designed to shock domestic North Korean audiences. Viewers will also be treated to what producer Nick Bonner describes as the “sexiest scene in North Korean cinema”, an upward shot of Comrade Kim in her leotard climbing a ladder to the trapeze – YAWZA YAWZA!
One last interesting aspect of the film I should mention is the delightful animation of the opening credits. The animation during this sequence takes its influence from modern North Korean wood block prints, the style of which can be seen in the promotional picture at the top of this post, and also here in its common form.
Young girls dressed in panda bear costumes relax between performances for foreigners at a folk fair held on the Day of the Sun, the April 15th, 2012 celebrations to honor the 100th year birthday of ‘Eternal President‘ Kim Il Sung.
On this day there were many military parades and Kim Jong-un appearances throughout Pyongyang. Unfortunately visiting foreign friends were not invited to these events, and to keep us out of the way, western tourists, dignitaries, and cultural delegations were bused to the city outskirts and conveniently sequestered at a park in the Mangyongdae district. To keep everyone entertained, folk games and competitions (tug of war, three legged race, ect) had been arranged for the visiting cultural delegations. Having traveled so far, and with expectations of seeing military parades, many of the tourists did not appreciate the situation – watching Eastern European and Russian delegations bob for apples was a big disappointment for most, but I really enjoyed the experience – not the international folk competitions, but all the interactions I had with the North Korean children who were at the event and enjoying themselves in such a relaxed atmosphere. On arrival, little girls in traditional chosŏn-ot dresses grabbed us by the hand and led us into the park (they were fascinated with our bellies – notice the pokes!). Hanging out, dancing, playing, and taking photographs with the North Korean children who were participating in the cultural dance performances made this event a cherished experience from the trip.
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!
June 2012 Traffic Girl of the Month.
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.
- Return of the Pyongyang Traffic Girls – Picture Post (americaninnorthkorea.com)
- Pyongyang Traffic Girls Return! (americaninnorthkorea.com)
- Guns, Girls, and Beer – the Pyongyang Gun Range 2012 (americaninnorthkorea.com)
Twin Sisters in the main square of Hamhung City, North Korea – photos by Joseph A Ferris III
Cell phones are all the rage in Pyongyang, North Korea this year (we hardly saw any during our Aug. 2011 trip) – here a traffic girl sneaks a call from behind a tree - photo by Joseph A Ferris III