The Words of the Bikkal Family

North Korea - Exploration of the World's Most Mysterious Land

Nick Bikkal

Sections:

Not a country like you and I know it.
We start our story with a bow
External North Korea
Visibly no concern for commerce
All for Kim Il Sung, Kim Jung Il, and Juche
Internal North Korea
Revolution before all and above all
Unity of the homeland: a dream for all Koreans
Unity: how each side seas it
Tourism
Badge
Living with North Korea
Implicit acknowledgment of the Juche failure
Juche and Japanese Communists are a dangerous alliance
A terrible scenario
The Future
North Korea opening up
Stop North Korean militarism
Freedom to do as the government says

Not a country like you and I know it.

Welcome to my home page. During the first three days in October 1997 I had the chance to be in North Korea as a tourist. Natural curiosity took me there. I have traveled extensively and enjoy getting to the bottom of things. Having lived in Japan for over four years I found little to no news forthcoming from this land shrouded in mystery. The first opportunity I got I took and saw the land.

As a matter of fact, I had found that Asia had a lot to offer but in the West Oriental culture could not be found and thus offered me few insights into its diverse cultures. Asia is very mysterious, which is a reason I came to live here in the first place. First, Orientals think differently from Westerners.

We start our story with a bow

What some of these pictures and story show are some views from this land of Koryo, among the first ever made public not officially sanctioned by the North Korean government.

External North Korea

The story starts with the first ride taken from the airport to the capital, Pyongyang. Poverty permeated the air. Unlike any world capital stifling with advertising of all sorts from the moment you look out the airport windows, Pyongyang's airport is very small with parking space reminiscent of an medium-sized mall, surrounded by trees. Half a dozen cars plus some buses were parked outside.

There are few cars on the streets of North Korea, and a majority of them are Japanese. They are old. All are driven by men in military uniform and are ridden by men in military uniform. In North Korea one drives on the right, the steering normally is on the left. Most of these cars have the steering on the right.

First, a visit to the Korean Revolution Museum to bow at the feet of the largest Kim Il Sung statue. Flanking it on both sides are big, impressive, expensive, well maintained walls, colorful and replete with militant revolutionary supra human size statues idealizing the Juche doctrine.

A hour trip to the city. The roads are reminiscent of a pre-highway well built road: well built but not a place to hold rush hour traffic.

Visibly no concern for commerce

Again, the biggest amazement comes at the lack of commercialism in all its aspects. One enters Pyongyang, the capital, and sees not a shred of evidence that this nation co-exists at the end of the 21st century with such economically and technologically developed nations as the US, Japan, Europe, or even its southern half South Korea.

There is no commercial advertising in North Korea. There are no private businesses, not even family-owned. (although I hear there is now a bustling black market sanctioned by the government as a product of shortages and droughts) You don't see one neon sign, poster, billboard advertising "Capitalist" products such as Coke, Sony, banks, industrial companies, etc. Simply speaking there are no industries visible.

All for Kim Il Sung, Kim Jung Il, and Juche

Along with this non-commercialism one sees the 50+ year product of Kim Il Sung's revolution: the masses travel on their bicycles, on foot, or on the back of trucks. There isn't enough money in the government coffers to buy such basics for society as buses. As far as the reasons why, later in the story I explore some possible ideas. There is no maintenance of buildings on anything other than the public buildings, which, of course, are revolutionary in purpose. Maintenance is for the glory of the revolution and Kim Il Sung. The finish in all of the structures are falling apart. The plaster and painting does not get fixed. It will stay like that until when, no one knows. Presumably once the revolution is over one will have money ...

Pyongyang is a gray city. There is little outside the revolutionary posters to make it colorful. The only time one sees bright colors is when people are preparing for or in celebration, as they were when I was there, just a short week before the taking the two top government and Communist Party positions by the leader, Kim Jung Il.

There is a problem which has been overlooked by the revolution, and that is distribution of the little wealth there is. A clear cause of the famine that now exists in North Korea is the policy of autonomy

that each area seems to have. The government looks forward, advancing the revolution in the ways it must. It cannot want to be held back by local problems, including famine. This rigid system is the cause of tens of thousands of deaths this year alone. A clear case in point is starvation of tens and hundreds of thousands, and now evidence of the lack of medicine. It's a problem recognized by all many that needless deaths and suffering is going on in this country. I say needless because the North Korean government is squarely responsible and accountable for the deaths and well being of their people. People around the world are anxiously awaiting for the opportunity to feed, clothe, house North Korea, and help build the nation.

Internal North Korea

Revolution before all and above all

Revolution before and above all seems to be the motto that permeates North Korea. Several generations have passed since the Great Leader Kim Il Sung began his revolution. People today have little knowledge of what exists outside their country. When entering North Korea a policeman asks if one is bringing into the country pictures (such as of one's hometown, etc.) or anything else that may "corrupt" the population. It may seem displeasing to us, and rather restrictive, and it is. However, to their eyes seeing development abroad may cause deep confusion, unrest and dissatisfaction. This is similar to what I experienced going into China early in 1986.

The personality cult is what they call adoration for their god, Kim Il Sung. This is supreme in the land of North Korea, they want to export it to the world, and they don't want the North Korean people to be side tracked, have their minds deviate from this glorious goal. Indeed the North Korean people have given plenty: millions have paid for their revolution with their life or blood. The rest have paid with the unrealized, but always hoped for at the next turn of events, success and grand finale of the revolution, as promised by the Great Leader, and now also the Dear Leader, Kim Jung Il.

Unity of the homeland: a dream for all Koreans

When meeting South Koreans invariably among their first questions after I mentioned I was in North Korea was if I want to see the Koreas united. This obsessive thought is on all Korean minds, whether from the North or the South. However, unity has different meanings for all involved. Whereas yes, all want to see unity, North Korea wants unity not as the end to see the nation united, but as a tool to a further end: an important step to military ideological world conquest. Communism, and Juche in particular, may find religion to be the opiate of the world

but Juche is the most oppressive form of religion there is: there is no freedom of worship, thought, one cannot freely travel in the north, there is no private ownership of property, etc.. As far as the North is concerned it is the United States that is to blame for the on-going division. There are also reports that North Koreans blame Japan, dating back to 1905 for the division of their homeland. Our guides did not keep a secret this official distaste of Americans, bad-mouthing the US especially during the Panmunjom visit.

Unity: how each side seas it

Literature available, in the form of books, describes US Korean War atrocities with pictures and newspaper clippings - a mockery to journalism. North Korea has a facade of wanting unity while exporting their revolution and god. While unity is indeed a wanted goal, it isn't an end. North Koreans want the world. South Korea is more fundamentally just a door to it. They have, and they would continue to live without South Korea. Their aim is not to live like humans but to export they revolution; i.e.: militarily.

Tourism

Who are the tourists? Until recently the tourists have been Chinese, North Koreans, and North Korean High School and University students in Japan. I did see some other foreigners, but only at the airport. I was on a tour organized by a Japanese tourist company. Since I have a Japanese wife and reside in Japan I was given permission to enter North Korea as a tourist. I met a high school student who told me that Japan born North Koreans are offered this trip to the homeland while in high school. They go for a week, ride a ferry to North Korea, and are shown the sights. Indoctrination of Kim Il Sung's greatness, and the revolution, is the core element of this tour.

North Korea, however, is not a tourist haven. There are no niceties for the big time traveler. In Pyongyang there is but one hotel that boasts cable TV, receiving channels from the US and Japan, among others. This makes the Potonggang hotel a prized location to lodge. However, even there one does not find itself totally isolated from the real North Korea. A full wall size mural of the father and son Kim together hangs in the entrance hall. The two are walking over a bridge, with Pyongyang in the background. The father is presumably teaching and the son listening. Kim Jung Il has a notebook in his hand, ready to take notes and learn.

There aren't expensive restaurants or clubs to visit. The city's curtains go down with the sun. Even when the sun is up one isn't permitted to walk alone or separated from the main group, even with a guide.

Badge

There is one thing all Koreans in service to the government wear, and that is a little Kim Il Sung badge. This is there pride, and as far as I could see, a necessary part of their daily outfit. Whether wearing a military green uniform or a suit one must have that badge on. This is not available, as are other dozens of badges handed out during celebrations, in stores. If one is not a member of the revolution one must win this badge, as I did, with my translator. A combination of pushing and straight talk won this badge of the Great Leader. During a luncheon at a high school I spoke to the members attending the tour, North Korean guides Japanese and South Korean nationals included, and said that the past is to be forgotten for the sake of the future, local and regional peace and stability. I also mentioned that not everyone in the world had any desire for war nor to see the Korea divided. Proof was that we all were there touring. Logically, one doesn't get into how the unity and is to be achieved. What is important for Koreas is to see their homeland united. To this end we must all strive. Below I get more into the regional significance of this idea.

Living with North Korea

Don't expect to receive even concessions from a society this deprived and poor. This is true not only materially, but also in spirit. North Korea spent the last century fighting what it considered oppressors, dividers and invaders. It's not a country at peace with itself. Kim Jung Il took power of his late father's two titles he had not yet had less than a week after my visit to the North, more than three years after the death of his father. He inherited a revolution he had no real hand or choice in forming. He likes materialism and Western movies, and sees his country needs to come out of its dark ages. However, his father's old hands are still there fighting an unwinnable war with itself and the world and the younger Kim.

Implicit acknowledgment of the Juche failure

The first step in feeding the starved in the nation was taken by inviting in South Korean, US, and Japanese money and technology and building the two nuclear plants. This will give it energy enough to begin to build its infrastructure and feed its people, and, not least of all, to slowly disarm its nuclear arsenal and military craze. The army with its narrow-minded revolutionaries is still strong, if with lessened influence after many failures and unfulfilled revolutionary goals.

Juche is hemorrhaging. In 1997 we saw many advancements and developments in North Korea. In November we read reports of US inspectors ending a 3-month long visit in North Korea, looking into the food situation. Last summer we read of North Korean agricultural representatives touring farms in the US mid-West, studying the latest technology. Two nuclear plants are being built with US and Japanese funds, and with South Korean technology. Not least of all, as this story tells, tourism has begun.

What is Juche? It's the ideology propounded by Kim Il Sung, and perfected during his lifetime. It's an idea of self-reliance in which all efforts are focused on the personality adoration of Kim Il Sung, self-proclaimed god. No measures were too much to eliminate all opposing views and take away any distraction from the North Korean people to his adoration. Added to this is the military focus of the nation. Today, in their eyes, the United States, with their 50,000 troops amassed in South Korea are an obstacle to their revolution expansion. Thus they are a frustrated nation who can't get to first base in their world expansion: control of South Korea.

North Korea will fight till the end to claim Juche's success through some nominal accomplishment. However, what about the announcement of refugee camps last summer that are being prepared in South Korea; and the announcement in Japan during the month of November? Why have these two nations, after years of confrontation and mistrust of the North Koreans now begun to prepare for a deluge of North Korean refugees? Japan is preparing for 10,000 and South Korea for many hundreds of thousands. They are not preparing for a military invasion but for refugees.

Juche and Japanese Communists are a dangerous alliance

Japan, however, is a sort of exception. There are some 300,000 North Koreans in Japan, many with successful businesses. The infamous Pachinko gambling shops found in thousands of Japanese districts are run by North Koreans. Much of the proceeds go to fund the otherwise under funded North Korean military. Some Japanese know this. Many stories of addiction style gambling come out of the Pachinkos. Newspapers increasingly write articles of babies dying of heat exhaustion in overheated cars while a parent is inside a noisy, smoke-filled Pachinko parlor gambling. Yet, teenagers and others can be seen at the doors of these Pachinko's well before the door opening of 10:00 am, waiting to sit at their favorite, "good luck" machines. Yearly Pachinko brings in hundreds of billions of Yen.

This feeds the powerful military in North Korea. Few correlate their gambled money with the North Korean military funding. These people live better than the rest. To keep alive Kim Jung Il must keep the military wolves as well fed as possible. North Korea has a purpose: the adoration of Kim Il Sung. Juche's purpose includes world conquest. The military is necessary.

To this end the North Korean regime sacrificed everything to develop its state religion, hoping to export it to the world. For this one sees North Korea not as an underdeveloped state, but as undeveloped. Juche has no base in reality. It is communism clothed as a state religion. One man chose to proclaim himself god and proceeded to take it all away from the people. This was not love but hatred.

A terrible scenario

Japan has a strong communist base, close to a million in Tokyo alone. They have much influence in the business world, and in Japan in general as this is not fundamentally a religious, God loving state. The weakness among the communists of Japan is that they lack a strong central figure with charisma.

Should the North Koreans ever gain influence over South Korea they will have a close ally just a few miles away. Japan's economic base around the world with its political influence here at home is a great door for the strong figure head of North Korea's Kim Il Sung, with all his cold ruthless ideology, and the broad-based Japanese economic base around the world to step in. Communism may be a dying ideology today, but there are hundreds of millions of unhappy people around the world. They are ripe for a potential North Korea-Japan communist alliance. Thus the US must maintain its forces in South Korea, and protect them at the 38th parallel. North Korean militarism and aggressive expansionist ideology must be contained for the world and the north-east Asian region to remain stable and peaceful

The Future

North Korea opening up

Is North Korea opening up? It depends on whom one asks. We must read the signs. Most will say that it's impossible to say. Indeed little information does come out. Conditions in the recluse nation are not good, and as the latest reports suggest, come next spring food shortages, added to the present shortages, plus a shortage of medical supplies, heat, etc. will exasperate the nation. Necessarily the government will take radical steps to feed and care for its people.

One must not underestimate Koreans on both sides of the Demilitarized 38th parallel. Almost giving up all hope they ask if one is interested in the unity of Korea. There is a growing tendency to desire to see the nation united at whatever cost other than militarily as the left-backed North Korean supporters in the South would like. While the south strongly mistrusts the north's ulterior intentions, there is still a deep rooted love for the other half.

Stop North Korean militarism

North Korea must cut the military aggressiveness and expansionist dreams of world atheistic hegemony. Regional and world stability depends on the united, and the militarily subdued North Korea. Stand up to North Korea! It's ok to bully the bully. It's but an old toothless lion with just a little punch left. Don't abandon the fight against this tyrant. It's almost done. There is just a little more that needs to be done and then the region will be able to rest in peace and North Korea can begin its development. It has not only stagnated its economic growth, but has also failed to give North Koreans any life. A lifeless and dispirited nation is the leftover of over 90 years of fighting. It's not time to abandon this nation yet. It's their time to lay down the guns and build the nation.

Freedom to do as the government says

Work on human and life rights, and freedom, food and medicine. Today in North Korea one needs permission for almost any activity. One can't walk the streets without permission. Life is strongly regulated. There are no cafes, shopping malls. There is no color. All buildings, streets, and areas are cement color. There are no colorful stores, tastefully decorated. The only art there exists is Kim Il Sung connected. Even those buildings, whereas interesting, is generally inaccessible other than on holidays, and to a few. The time has come to give some of the wealth accumulated for the revolution and invest it in the people. After all, this was the true purpose of the revolution, wasn't it!

Another perspective on the dark side's pull on Kim Il Sung himself, and the North Korean people through him. A strong people with little education in mind other than exporting their revolution.

Communism, from the beginning was usurped by the dark forces of history. North Korea was not spared, it became the focus of the worst, most reclusive, most repressive form of evil. Defining evil as Godlessness, Kim Il Sung's North Korea went against what was dearest to God: fervent faith, love of God, and life. North Korea went as far as taking away freedom of thought. One in North Korea has no access to culture that isn't strictly Juche, and revolution. Thus, even free thinking has been taken away from the people in that country.

Many people have asked if all North Koreans believe in the revolution. All people have their own minds with individual sense of purpose to live and prosper as each sees fit. North Koreans are no different. They have been subjected by their government to many generations of doctrine, education, art, etc. all glorifying the revolution. All contact with outsiders and their culture has been cut. Few tools exist in everyday life which is conducive to any action or thought out of the strict reverence to the god and his revolution. Do all people believe? Do all want to be part of the revolution? I'm sure that given the opportunity to make more money and build their life few would turn down the offer.

As one can see North Korea is not a country like we understand it in most other parts of the world. It's where the adoration for a man became supreme: Kim Il Sung is god. This is the secret of North Korea, and it has given the powers that be all the power and authority to do as they please with the North Korean people. This is what they would have liked to export. To this end I say: "Let God in". The world containment of North Korea is precisely the fight against atheism: A man is not God. No one has the right to dictate thought, and action, take away life and freedom.

Koreans in both the north and south dearly want to see their land united. I, along with them, support this goal full-heartedly. We all need regional stability. North-South Korean unity is essential. The Japanese left and China will have no allies, seeking new values: God. As mentioned above the alternative is a domino effect: communization from North Korea to South Korea, Japan, the world's poor. It must be done so that everyone benefits not only externally, as the culture of Juche intends but hasn't been able to deliver, but also in spirit. All Koreans should have the right to decide their future, thoughts, and aspirations in life. This is the meaning of the 38th Parallel. Contain atheistic military aspirations of conquest. The perfect destruction of all inner-based culture was accomplished. Culture started with a man-god. Thus materialism was implemented. God was taken away in every aspect. God is love, life, joy of living. None of this exists in North Korea. However, as the doors of freedom open so shall we see a people simple in nature, unburdened by the falsehoods that affluence has to give. They may well learn to love God in ways we can learn from.

September 1998 - During the last few weeks we have been confronted with the launching of a satellite by North Korea. Giving my opinion, simply, I would say that North Korea launched it purely for "internal consumption". Little other than an angry rebuttal to the Japanese display of fear to the North Korean thought-to-be missile was said. The purpose, clearly, was the North's intention to inaugurate their leader's assent in position with the new base of space and/or rocket age technology.

These are not suicidal people. Having a large US military ready for strike, and with no dependable allies in the vicinity to help protect it in times of war, the nation is not about to attack Japan, or anyone else. The satellite failed. The leader could not be offered the success. Remember the North Koreans regard Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jung Il as gods. This is very important to the country. There is now a struggle to influence the young Kim.

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