Archive | May, 2010
May 26, 2010

North Korea’s Funniest Home Videos: Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

And here is the video that accompanies my previous post on the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. Watch it so that you may familiarize yourself with the “immortal military exploits” performed by Kim Il-Sung.

May 25, 2010

North Korea: US Imperialists visit the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Korean War Museum) and learn how the Korean War really started

Pyongyang, July 27 (KCNA) — At least 550,000 foreigners visited the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum over the past more than 50 years since it was opened to visitors in Juche 42 (1953).

Exhibited at the museum are materials and evidence proving that the army and people of the DPRK heroically defeated the armed invasion of the U.S.-led imperialist allied forces under the leadership of President Kim Il Sung in the Fatherland Liberation War.

Foreigners who visited the museum highly praised Kim Il Sung as a gifted strategist and a symbol of victory in anti-imperialist struggle, being struck with admiration at the outstanding military war method and commanding art of the President who led the war to victory. – KCNA article

“If all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth.” – George Orwell, 1984

As an American, one of the most fascinating parts of visiting North Korea was the constant reference to the Korean War. In North Korea, the war is a defining, integral part of everyday life. One might have imagined that just yesterday North Korean and American troops were battling each other in the streets of Seoul. In the United States, however, the Korean War is the “forgotten war.” In my own education, at least up until high school, we were given a mere overview of the Korean War, with perhaps twenty minutes or so allotted to covering a conflict that claimed the lives of 36,000 American servicemen. It wasn’t until I took history courses in college that I studied the Korean War in-depth and had a better understanding of its impact on past and contemporary geopolitics.

Much like our trip to the USS Pueblo, our visit to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum was an opportunity to hear the North Korean version of history. As such, a trip to this particular museum required a “willing suspension of disbelief” as it was replete with historical inaccuracy colored by Marxist dogma.

The museum itself is a cavernous, dimly lit building filled with relics from the war. Our first visit, of course, was to the main hall which housed a giant mural of Kim Il-Sung leading his victorious citizens.

We were then led to another room where we shown a film explaining the origins of the Korean War. Apparently the United States capitalist pigs, having exhausted their customer base in Europe, needed new markets to sell weapons, and thus instigated war on the Korean peninsula in June 1950. Embarrassingly, the film was interrupted by a short blackout in which the museum lost its electricity supply. This, of course, was the fault of the U.S. Imperialists.

After the film, we were taken to another room to watch a diorama scene of a military convoy. Apparently, the U.S. destroyed a bridge and the North Korean convoy was unable to deliver supplies and troops to the front until local villagers used their backs and arms to support the remains of the bridge, thus allowing the convoy to pass overhead.

We then proceeded to view the rooms and rooms of war relics, the majority of which being captured American weaponry.

“The film cites relics on display at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum to prove that the U.S. imperialists ignited the Korean war by instigating the south Korean puppet clique for the purpose of destroying the young DPRK in its cradle and committed all sorts of atrocities and show the miserable end of the aggressors.” – KCNA

At one point in the tour, our guide pointed to a torpedo boat and proudly boasted that this was the boat which sank the USS Baltimore. Another tourist and I exchanged puzzled glances. Certainly none of us were experts in naval history, but surely we would have heard about this incident. So when I returned to the United States I googled the USS Baltimore and discovered that the USS Baltimore was not, in fact, sunk by North Korea forces. The ship was never deployed during the Korean War and was eventually scrapped in the 1970s.


I really hope they defused all of these


Kim Il-Sung discussing military strategy.

Our last stop at the war museum was the impressive 3-D cyclorama depicting the battle of Taejon. (It really was done nicely. You could sit down on the bench and view the entire cyclorama as the platform under you revolved.) When we entered the room, a guide was lecturing a group of schoolchildren on how the 24th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army was defeated by the victorious Korean People’s Army, or something like that. Despite admonishments by their teachers, the kids would steal occasional glances at the group of U.S. Imperialists staring at a depiction of North Korean soldiers trampling on an American flag.

More photos here.

May 24, 2010

Berlin: The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery

Along the banks of the River Spree runs a 1.3km long section of the wall that divided East and West Berlin for 28 years. This particular part of the wall, the longest stretch still standing, is now home to the East Side Gallery, which hosts over 100 paintings by artists from all over the world. Originally begun in 1990, the paintings eventually fell victim to graffiti, vandalism, and overall neglect. Many of them were recently renovated, however, in time for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.


GDR Leader Erich Honecker kissing Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev: “Dear God, help me survive this deadly love.”

More photos here.

May 13, 2010

North Korea: U.S. Imperialists visit the Mangyongdae Fun Fair

Footage of our visit to the Mangyongdae Fun Fair aka the Disneyland of Pyongyang. You can watch us ride the Roller Coaster of Death, carousel, and Ferris wheel and play carnival games.

May 12, 2010

North Korea: U.S. Imperialists visit the Tower of Juche Idea


Here is the video of our visit to the Tower of Juche Idea, which, in case you were wondering, is taller than the Washington Monument. Bonus footage of U.S. Imperialists dancing with North Koreans is also included.


May 6, 2010

North Korea: The streets of Pyongyang, Part IV


More randomness.


The Grand People’s Study House: “It has a total floor space of 100,000m and 600 rooms. The library was opened as the ‘centre for the project of intellectualising the whole of society and a sanctuary of learning for the entire people.’

The building can house up to 30 million books, of which it contains around 10,800 documents, books and ‘on the spot guidance’ Kim Il-sung wrote. Foreign publications are available only with special permission.”


Mansudae Art Theater


Approaching the Mansudae Grand Monument to Kim Il-Sung


Oh yeah, that guy again…


Kids playing a shooting game


Ongnyugwan cold noodle restaurant. Supposedly the best cold noodles in the world…or Pyongyang, or whatever.


More propaganda


May 5, 2010

Beijing: Sampling the firearms of the People’s Liberation Army at the China North International Shooting Range


I had a few days to kill in Beijing prior to my trip to North Korea, so before leaving the United States I started researching some of the sites I wanted to visit. I knew that I couldn’t miss the typical Beijing tourist attractions such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, but I also wanted to get out of the city and see the Great Wall, so I began perusing the websites of travel agencies that offered excursions to various sections of the Great Wall. Most of the tours consisted of a half day trip to a section of the Great Wall followed by a tour of the Ming Tombs or Summer Palace. Now, no offense to anyone who is a diehard fan of Chinese history, but neither of those sites sounded particularly appealing to me. After further searching, however, I came across a tour that was well-suited to my interests: The Beijing Target Shooting & Great Wall Day Tour. A full day of history and firearms. How brilliant is that? Now, some people might scoff at my choice of visiting a shooting range in China when we have multitudes of them in the U.S., but as you will see, this is not your typical shooting range.

My guide and driver picked me up from my hotel on a chilly and damp morning in September. Since my flight had only just arrived in Beijing the prior afternoon, I was still a bit jet-lagged and groggy, which is the ideal condition when handling firearms or attempting a very steep hike. My guide, however, was very talkative and prevented me from drifting off to sleep as we sat in the infamous Beijing traffic.

“So,” I asked her, “do you often take tourists to the shooting range?”

“Yes,” she replied “but they are usually men.”

“Ah.”

I soon realized that I was probably the first solo female that she had taken out to the shooting range, because she seemed totally puzzled as to why I would want to go there.

“Lindsay, do you shoot guns in the U.S.?”

“Yeah, I shoot a few times a month.”

“Do many girls shoot guns in the U.S.?”

“Sure. I know a lot of girls that like to shoot.”

“Do you have guns in your home?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a few.”

Each answer was met with a look of bewilderment. China has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. Private ownership is banned, and the few public shooting ranges are prohibitively expensive for the average Chinese citizen. The idea of owning a firearm and taking it out to the range on a beautiful weekend day to shoot targets with friends is something that is completely alien to my guide and driver.

We finally arrived at the “Small Arms Mobilization Center”, a decrepit military facility an hour’s drive from Beijing, and after a rail-thin soldier in crisp military attire performed a quick ID check, we proceeded onward to the shooting range.


The People’s Liberation Army welcomes you!


Mao loves guns

One of the range employees led me into a room lined with glass display cases full of rifles and handguns. In the center of the room was a display of various machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, and mortars. She followed me as I walked around the room, noting my weapons preferences on a sheet of paper.

“I’ll take 30 rounds on this…and 30 rounds on this.”

I felt like a kid in a candy store.


You can shoot any of these. Some can be rather expensive.

After choosing my sample of firearms, we hopped in an old army jeep and headed out to the firing line. Unfortunately, cameras were prohibited out there so I was unable to take any photos of the range or myself handling the firearms. Disappointing, yes, but I’m not one to argue with Chinese army policy.

Surprisingly, I was the only foreigner there. I thought there would at least be a handful of us, but the only other customers were some wealthy Chinese tourists. They entertained themselves with shooting trap and handguns; I had the entire rifle section to myself. I thought it was a bit odd. Why limit yourself to the dainty little pistols when you have so many powerful firearms to choose from?

The range staff consisted of young guys dressed in olive drab fatigues. Bizarrely, their uniforms had an American flag patch sewn on the shoulder. They handed me eye/ear protection, loaded each firearm, placed it on the table in front of me, and provided a running commentary on my shooting skills. “Too high. Good. Good.” I shot an AK-47, Type 81 light machine gun, and the QBZ-95. The QBZ-95 was an interesting gun. It’s the standard assault rifle for the People’s Liberation Army, and was incredibly light with very little recoil. My favorite, however, was the light machine gun. The 30 rounds in the magazine went quickly, and when I turned around I was surprised to see 20 Chinese tourists standing behind me. Apparently they found a Yankee girl blasting away with a Chinese machine gun to be quite amusing. Glad I could provide them with some entertainment.

As I was leaving, one of the staff members lifted up a corner of a tarp covering a large, bulky object.

”Do you want to try the tank?”

As exciting as that sounded, it would set me back over a hundred bucks.

”Maybe next time, dude.”


My accuracy with the AK-47 needs a bit of work.

The rest of the photos are here. If you’re headed to Beijing and are interested in the Great Wall/Shooting Range excursion, you can book it through tour-beijing.com.


May 4, 2010

Berlin: Führerbunker (Hitler’s bunker)

Life recently released a set of never-before-published images of the Führerbunker taken shortly after the fall of Berlin. They are worth perusing if you have an interest in World War II history.

I visited Berlin a few months ago, back in December 2009. Incredibly, this was my first visit to Germany. How foolish of me not to visit when I lived in London; it’s truly a lovely city. My primary interest, of course, is in the various World War II and Cold War sites that are scattered throughout the city. On one cold morning I found myself wandering through several side streets, family in tow, looking for the location of the Führerbunker, where Hitler spent the final weeks of his life watching helplessly as the Soviet forces encircled Berlin.

And this is what remains of the Führerbunker:

A rather nondescript location, it’s hard to imagine that under this small patch of grass surrounded by parking lots and apartment buildings is where the disgusting reign of the Third Reich, a dictatorship that terrorized and killed millions across Europe and North Africa, finally came to an end on April 30, 1945 when Hitler killed himself.

After the war, Soviet forces tried to destroy the bunker but their attempts met with minimal success. During the Cold War, the site was a no-man’s land on the East German controlled side of the Berlin Wall. Parts of the bunker were further destroyed and filled with rubble in the 1980s and 1990s when the government began constructing the apartment buildings that now dominate the area. Fearful that the site would become a shrine for neo-Nazis, the German government neglected to mark the location of the bunker until 2006 when the government installed a sign that you can see in the above pictures.

More photos here.