Posts tagged “war

Renovated Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum And Pueblo

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Downed American aircraft at the new Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

In 2012 Marshall Kim Jong Un declared the need to renovate the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, as well as overhaul and move the American spy ship Pueblo for the 2013 commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Victory Day. Over this last year both sites were closed to tourism, and although I missed the grand opening and festivities for the 60th anniversary of Victory Day, I was able to visit both sites on my October 2013 DPRK trip.

Visitors now start their museum experience with a walk through the Monument to Victorious War statue park. Flanking these statues is a mock trench system leading the way to an outside gallery showcasing old American hardware: all the captured/destroyed tanks and downed airplanes which had been previously housed in the old museum basement.

Fresh from a dry dock overhaul, the Pueblo has been moved from the Taedong River into a dedicated basin adjacent the captured American hardware. The Pueblo visit includes a ship tour and a viewing of the standard propaganda video about the capture.

From the Pueblo visitors are taken to the new war museum; unfortunately no interior photos allowed. On entering visitors pay their respects and bow to a wax statue of Eternal President Kim Il Sung. The statue so remarkably resembles his grandson, Marshal Kim Jong Un, that local guides explain to visitors the distinction. The new museum is world class (although through a North Korean historical viewpoint) with modern galleries, displays, dioramas, and walkthrough environments of urban and countryside battle sites. After touring the new museum and a break at a modern cafe, visitors pass through a walkway gallery leading to the refurbished 360 degree revolving battlefield diorama. The diorama has been outfitted with a new light and video/lazer show overlay, effectively bringing the Battle of Taejon to life. The 360 degree battle diorama ends the visit.

Always an impressive site, the newly renovated Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum is now a true highlight to any visit to Pyongyang!

Pics of the new Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and Pueblo:

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Is it Time to Defy Washington’s Logic on North Korea?

Wonsan, North Korea

Propaganda in Wonsan, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Great analysis on the failed US “Strategic Patience” policy in regards to the North Korea problem by my friend, and  decorated Army Veteran, Michael Bassett.


Rollerblading Their Way to War

While the American media beats the war drums, and our citizens panic under a perceived nuclear missile threat, the citizens of Pyongyang, North Korea go on with their lives.

Rollerblading in Pyongyang, North Korea

Girls rollerblading on the banks of the Taedong River.

North Korean Boys in Pyongyang

Boys rollerblading near the Arch of Triumph.

Photos from my March 30th – April 6th 2013 trip to North Korea.


Back From North Korea

DMZ North Korea

A North Korean Army Captain and myself three days ago on the North Korean side of the DMZ at Panmunjeom.

I just returned from North Korea on another amazing trip! I understand the world is freaking out, but from what I witnessed I believe war is NOT imminent. We saw the army planting trees and building houses, while the people of Pyongyang were busy overhauling the city sidewalks.

The Kim Il-sung birthday holiday season is coming up and I expect the bellicose rhetoric to soon ease – hopefully the American media can restrain its warmongering too.

Our guides were fantastic, food was great, but photography was difficult on this trip – don’t worry I still got a ton of fantastic pics with tons of content to come.

Update: I will be going on CNN in two hours – things are going crazy.


War Museum and the USS Pueblo Currently Closed

For those making a trip to the DPRK in the near future please be aware that the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and the USS Pueblo are currently closed. I only know that the Pueblo is being moved to a new location – it is advertised that both sites will be reopened this July.

USS Pueblo Guide

Touring the USS Puebo.

USS Pueblo Guide

Touring the USS Puebo.

Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Tour of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Tour of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

Join up with my 2013 tours!

May 14th – May 23rd Mega Trip: Pyongyang, Nampo, Sariwan, Haeju, Kaesong, Wonsan, Kumgang, with possibility of a documentary film crew- spots available.

Late September/Early October: Mass Games tour with possibility of a documentary film crew – spots available.

I also expect to be helping out Young Pioneer Tours with their big November 2013 Eurasian Tour: Trans Siberian Express Beijing to Moscow, Minsk, Kiev, Chernobyl, Odessa, Transnistria, Moldova, and Romania.

For more info email me:
joseph@youngpioneertours.com
josephferris76@yahoo.com


The Ghost Town of Agdam and Nagorno Karabakh

Agdam, Nagorno Karbala

Agdam Mosque – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

To make our visit to the war torn ghost town of Agdam we had to illegally enter Azerbaijan – which we did with surprising ease via Armenia and the non recognized breakaway Republic of Nagorno Karabakh. The Nagorno Karabakh visa was easy to obtain, requiring just 10 USD and a short wait at the government ministry building in their funky little capital of Stepanakert. My Nagorno Karabakh visa is coolest looking full page visa sticker in my passport, but by having it I am now forbidden to enter Azerbaijan for the life of my current passport – but don’t tell anyone, I have never had a desire to go there anyways.

Armenia, Nagorno Karbala Border

Crossing the Armenia/Nagorno Karabakh border – my illegal entry into Azerbaijan.

Agdam is a place of tragedy, a city once of 40,000 inhabitants, now completely deserted after having experienced the full hell of war and genocide. Agdam was a base for Azerbaijani forces attacking the Karabakh region during their 1993 war, captured by Armenian forces, and was utterly destroyed during the subsequent Azerbaijani siege and Armenian last stand. It now remains as a demilitarized zone with the city mosque as the only building still intact. Completely abandoned, trees grow in the middle of streets, livestock randomly graze inside bombed out buildings, and locals from nearby villages make regular visits to scavenge for usable building materials. Visits and photography there by tourists is illegal.

Google Earth View of Agdam

View of Agdam via Google Earth.

We made our visit as part of our Young Pioneer’s Iranian Tour Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh Extension research trip. Most taxi drivers flatly refused to take us to Agdam. Being illegal for us to visit, a taxi driver bringing foreign tourists there could lose his license if caught, but we finally found one who had a son high up in military command and he assured us it would be no problem. What we whitenesed on our visit was utter devastation with conditions on the ground a testament that its nickname, the Hiroshima of the Caucuses, was well deserved.

We made our way to the mosque in the city center and climbed its minarets for a 360 degree view of the destruction. From the top I could have had some amazing photos but we were quickly detected by a military patrol camped in a nearby bombed out building and forced to flee and hide. After making it back to our driver he reiterated we had nothing to fear while under his care, maybe so, but I really didn’t want to risk having my data cards confiscated and losing all my Iran pics.

Besides Agdam we also visited the quirky little village of Vank. Fixed up by a local born philanthropist, this eccentric used his foreign made riches to promote local tourism and to create such oddities as the Titanic Hotel and a special Tiger Mountain Lover’s Retreat. Vank is a perfect base for visiting amazing nearby mountains, pristine country scenery, and ancient monasteries. A visit to Agdam, a stay at the Titanic Hotel, and exploration around Vank will certainly be on the itinerary if you make next year’s trip with us!

Agdam, Nagorno Karbala

View of Agdam from atop a minaret.

Agdam, Nagorno Karbala

Destroyed building and mosaics in Agdam, Nagorno Karabakh.


Official DPRK Spring 2012 Video

Thanks to Cyrus Kirkpatrick  who put together this video from our Spring 2012 DPRK trip. 


North Korean Roadside Attactions

Hamhung, North Korea

Soldier squirrels, missiles, and AK-47s raised defiantly into the air, just a few examples of the roadside attractions (propaganda) commonly seen in towns outside Pyongyang, North Korea.

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Tour of the US Spy Ship Pueblo

Still actively commissioned today, the USNS Pueblo currently remains the only captured ship in the US fleet.  The incident occurred Jan. 23, 1968, but on this day in 2011 our guide was one of the North Korean sailors who boarded and helped capture the Pueblo. Attractive young ladies in military uniforms usually give this tour but our western guide informed us that we were lucky to have this man as our guide – he normally only gives tours to dignitaries and foreign leaders.

Tour of the US Spy Ship Pueblo

I knew about the Pueblo incident before coming to the DPRK. I’m a Chief Mate of a US Navy ship (on long tern charter to UCSD), I know my history, and I did plenty of research pre-trip – so I was pretty amazed to learn that many people in my group were not even aware that North Korea holds a captured US ship.  But these guys were quick learners, and at the end of the trip many remarked that the visit to the Pueblo and interacting with our guide was the highlight of their trip.

Tour of the US spy ship Pueblo

Tour of the US spy ship Pueblo

Young North Korean sailor on duty.

Tour of the US Spy Ship Pueblo

Tour of the US spy ship Pueblo

Tour of the US spy ship Pueblo

Tour of the US spy ship Pueblo

Small arms damage clearly marked out on interior bulkheads.

Tour of the US Spy Ship Pueblo

Our North Korean Pueblo guide and myself – what a smile!


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


Our guide “love(s) American civilians!” at the North Korea Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

A required stop on any tour to North Korea is the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang. Here you will be ushered through room after room of displays showing off and explaining the great North Korean victory over American invaders during what we know as the Korean War (Forgotten War). What you see depends on your nationality, I have been told of three routes – perhaps there are more. North Korean visitors will see exhibits proclaiming the heroics of Kim Il-sung and the North Korean people and soldiers – little mention will be made of Chinese and Russian contributions. Separate exhibits for Chinese visitors celebrate their role in the war, while other exhibits for western foreigners focus on placing the blame for the conflict on the Americans and of telling of all the American war crimes and genocidal acts. 

Guide at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Our wonderful guide at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

We were shown war scene dioramas and 360 degree panoramas of Americans in defeat, DVD propaganda presentations, and led to a great basement warehouse housing captured tanks, wreaked airplanes, and all manner of  war trophies and captured memorabilia – but the most interesting thing about the War Museum was our guide.  We asked her who she thought had won the war, “we did of course because we defended our homeland against the great American invaders and forced a draw.”  Pretty good answer we thought, but then one of us asked what she thought would happen if there was another conflict, her eyes lit up and a diabolical smile spread across her face, “if we need to defend our homeland again we will take the opportunity to annihilate the Americans!”  WOW! – this was the first time on the trip we were exposed to such militaristic fanaticism – but I guess its pretty hard to get a job at the War Museum in North Korea if you are soft on Americans.

Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, Pyongyang

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!

Guide at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Guide at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Our wonderful guide at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

Defeated American Army in North Korea

Defeated American Army in North Korea

A portion of the giant 360 degree American defeat panorama painting.

Defeated American Army in North Korea

Americans in defeat, painting at the North Korea Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

War Trophies at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

War Trophies at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Wreak of an American plane form the Korean War.

War Trophies at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Captured American tank from the Korean War.

War Trophies from the US Spy Ship Pueblo

War trophies from the sailors of the captured USNS Pueblo – American spy ship.

Pueblo US Spy Ship Incident

Exhibit on the capture of the captured USNS Pueblo – American spy ship.


Little Kim Jong-II giving “on the spot battlefield guidance!”

Jordan Harbinger, fellow traveler on our trip to North Korea, poses the following question to our government guides and minders: “why did she bring the baby into the battle?”

Answer: Little Kim Jong-iI gives “on the spot battlefield guidance!”

Little Kim Jong-il in Battle

Painting of Kim Il-sung , Little Kim Jong-iI, and Kim Jong-Suk (Wife/Mother). If I remember correctly I took this picture (we visited a lot of strange museums – hard to keep them strait) at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, Pyongyang, DPRK, North Korea.

Check out all my North Korea pics at my Flickr Photostream