Tag Archives: North Korea

Historical Wonders / , , ,

Bizarre Old North Korean Stamps Celebrating Regal Excess

On my way out of Deshengmen Tower — where you’ll find a strange collection of ramshackle museums crammed in together — I noticed the most remarkable thing for sale: old North Korean stamps, celebrating European regal excess!

There was the Versailles stamp, which reeks of excessive opulence…

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Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

American Imperialist Bastards in a North Korean Comic Book

I don’t speak a word of Korean. I wish I did, if only so I could read this North Korean comic that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for years.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Strange Tourism /

The Pyongyang Metro

North Koreans are proud of their metro. And so they should be. It’s one of the deepest, it’s breathtakingly gorgeous, and we were only allowed to ride one stop. (Although I’ve heard tourists can now ride the entire length.)

Here are some pages from a great 2004 picture-book I bought in the metro, bluntly titled The Pyongyang Metro.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 5 Comments
Strange Tourism /

A Vomit Bag from North Korea

I loved the streamlined 1950s design, like a classic car. This was the look of everything on the Air Koryo flight.

This trip was about two weeks after Michelle and I started dating. (I guess you know some gal is okay, if she’ll agree to go to North Korea on your first date.)

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Excellent Products /

North Korean Stamps

Two different directions.

(I think these were sent to me by the awesome David & Michelle F, who we met in a tepid Pyongyang BBQ joint.)

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Strange Tourism /

Our Favorite Kim Jong Il Stories…

I’m very happy, and a little sad, but I know Kim Jong L’il will do a fine job furthering his father’s legacy of madness.

In the meantime, here’s some of my favorite AO Kim Jong Il pieces:
Did you know Kim Jong Il was already a master equestrian marksman at the age of five?
– At birth, the country hailed him as their new divine leader. Get the full true story of Kim Jong Il’s birth here
Kim Jong Il’s film theory writings are pretty classic.
Kim Jong Il issued a series of 3D stamps celebrating the birth of Prince William (and Charles and Di, of course!)

and then there’s also my North Korea tourism video, which the country has yet to adopt as their official promo… but I like it!

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Our Weird Projects, Strange Tourism / , ,

Mad Costumes Across Asia

As regular readers know, we at AsiaObscura love costumes. We’ve captured some incredible cosplay adventures here, here, here, here and even here.

But it goes deeper. Almost every tourist hotspot across north-east Asia has a rack of costumes, a dramatic backdrop or two, and a whole boatload of awesomeness to dive into. All your dreams can come true, in Asia.

Terra Cotta Warriors, Xi’an

Egyptians, Shenzhen

Winter Egyptians, Beijing

Guards of Mianshan Daoist Retreat

Cultural Revolution-era Mao and Lin Biao, Shenzhen

Gangsters of Old Shanghai, Shanghai

Stewardess and Captain of Old Russian Passenger Plane, Beijing

“Traditional Americans” at the US Capitol, Beijing

Geisha Girl and Samurai, Shenzhen

People’s Volunteer Army Volunteer Soldier, Dandong’s Commemorative Museum of the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid North Korea

Sailor Girl, Bangkok

Pingyao Governor, Ancient Government Building, Pingyao

Miao Minority, Dali

Bollywood Stars


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Strange Tourism /

Plan Your Next Holiday in the Glorious DPRK

North Korea isn’t all doom, gloom, and Kim Jong-il. Sure, there’s vile propaganda, rumors of grim brainwashing, concentration camps and endless misery. But there’s more!

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Historical Wonders, Offbeat Museums / , ,

America started the war, and lost it, too.

“Look at that soldier,” said a burly Dongbei redneck, shoving past me to get a better look at the painting. “He’s on fire. He’s a real man.”

His sweaty pal leaned in, and laughed. The torched soldier was still letting loose a volley of bullets from his machine gun, mowing down a row of terrified pale Americans. “That’s awesome.”

They probably didn’t realize I understood what they were saying. I didn’t stick around to find out.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment
Our Weird Projects, Shameless Promotion / ,

French press for “Pyongyang Too”

When Woo and I handed our tribute, Pyongyang Too, to graphic traveleur & comic master Guy Delisle, he seemed taken aback, confused, perplexed. “Thank you,” he muttered, unsure of what he was even looking at. (Barbara Demick–author of the DPRK expose/awesomeromance Nothing to Envy–tried to buy it.)

Clearly, he later had a chance to skim it. And read it. And then pimped it out.

After the jump, two recent Paris articles about the book. But now the question is, will L’Association pick it up???

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Other Obscura /

Happy 99th Birthday, Kim Il-sung!

Okay, I know he’s been dead for a long time — 17 years — but since he’s still the official (eternal!) president of North Korea. And he’d be 100 99 today!  So here are a handful of cute dear great pictures of the “Great Leader” (수령) from our last trip to the DPRK.

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Sweet Movies and Wild Books /

Kim Jong Il’s Remarkable Series of Books About Film

(Happy Kim Il Sung’s eternal birthday!)

Sergei Eisenstein wrote extensively on film theory.  As did Lloyd Kaufman.  So, knowing what a film buff Kim Jong Il is, I was proud to see he’d already hopped on that bandwagon. 


I recently picked up his fascinating 1987 treatise on filmmaking techniques, “The Cinema and Directing.” It’s short at only 69 pages (while he’s short at only 69– bam!), but he really knows how to pack in those anti-consumerist punches. 

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Offbeat Museums / , ,

The Best Stamps from Beijing’s Incredible Stamp Museum (including 3-D North Korean stamps!)

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, here are my six top favorite collections from Beijing’s wonderful stamp and post museum…. Sorry for the spoiler above. But it’s just… too weird.

6. Table Tennis
What’s there not to love about table tennis?  Mao adored it, so did Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai.  Plus, there’s always the game to thank for opening those relations between east and west.  (Actually, I guess you could thank ping pong diplomacy for my even being here!)  You even occasionally find tables sitting hidden in the hutongs, the Chinese version of a basketball hoop in a car park, waiting for locals to walk up with their paddles and start a game.  Thus, a lovely trio of stamps dedicated to the popular sport.

1959 – 25th World Table Tennis Championships

1971 – Afro-Asian Table Tennis Friendship Invitational Tournament

1971 – Afro-Asian Table Tennis Friendship Invitational Tournament

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/ by Dean Pickles / 3 Comments
Uncategorized / ,

If Amy Chua was mother to us all, maybe we could do this too…

The young kids in this video practiced for the entire year, or longer, to get the show right… and it’s just remarkable. They’re just six or seven years old, if I understood correctly. The whole effort, the Mass Games, is devoted to the Dear Leader (who turned 69 this week) and the Great Leader (who died in 1994, but remains North Korea’s standing President). I only regretted that we were so far from the wildly choreographed 150,000-performer show, and didn’t have ringside seats. But this video I shot will give you some idea of what it’s like…

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Historical Wonders /

Kim Jong Il’s childhood thoughts of America

To celebrate the 69th birthday of Kim Jong Il, this entire week is jam packed with DPRKoolness.  Today, we explore Kim Jong Il’s feelings about America.  Where do they come from?  How did he feel as a kid? Find out, below…

(At the age of six) Kim Jong Il harboured a bitter hatred for the class enemies who harmed the people. While visiting farms in villages with his parents during the agrarian reform, he realized how cruelly landlords had exploited the peasants, and what a miserable life the Korean peasant had had to lead in the past. He resented the desperate acts of landlords and reactionaries who were trying to thwart the agrarian reform and recover their old position.

Kim Jong Il hated the Americans who had occupied south Korea in place of the Japanese, and were trying to enslave the Korean people again.  He firmly resolved to destroy the US imperialist aggressors.


No pix of him at 6 or 10, but here’s him in college…

(Jumping forward four years, to the age of ten) One day in early December 1952, Kim Jong Il entered the children’s room with a copy of the pictorial of the People’s Army. The pictorial carried a picture portraying the atrocities committed by the Yankee soldiers. The children clenched their fists with hatred for the enemy. One of them, unable to repress his hatred, shouted, “Let’s go to the front right away to take our revenge on the enemy!” The other children agreed with enthusiasm. They were determined to go to the front at once.

However, Kim Jong Il explained to them that fighting the Yankees at the front was not the only way to take revenge on the enemy, that learning their lessons well and participating wholeheartedly in the activities of the CU (note: Children’s Union) was another way of doing this, and that they should all wreak vengeance on the enemy of the country ad of their parents by getting As in school.

Most of the children worked hard to do well in their school-work, inspired by the slogan, “Let us take our revenge upon the enemy of our country and of our parents with the bayonets of As.” They studied without wasting a single minute and became honors students.

Tomorrow: new video of wildly synchronized child dances for the Dear Leader!

These wonderful snippets — many of them truly endearing, some just funny — are from volume one of Kim Jong Il’s official English-language biography, “KIM JONG IL BIOGRAPHY” (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Pyongyang, Korea, Juche 94 (2005)), which I picked up in North Korea the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Like a red letter edition of the Bible, all words spoken or written by either the Dear Leader or the Great Leader appear in bold text.

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Historical Wonders /

Kim Jong Il learns to ride horses and shoot guns!

In celebration of Kim Jong Il’s 69th birthday, this week is flooded with DPRKoolness.  Today, we learn that Kim Jong Il by the age of five is a master equestrian. But what about his marksmanship? Can he handle a gun? Find out, in these excerpts from his official biography, below!


Young Kim, shortly before he became a target-shooting equestrian.

Kim Jong Il was very fond of running, tree-climbing, hide-and-seek, playing soldiers, horse-riding, reading, playing the organ and singing. He liked playing soldiers best, and as a commander he always led the game with skill and won it…

Kim Jong Il was very fond of horse-riding. At first he rode with the help of his parents. His mother would adjust the saddle and the stirrup to suit his height, and give him the neccessary warnings about riding a horse. By the time he was five years old, Kim Jong Il was able to ride without help, and never once fell from a galloping horse.


His father led him to like guns, with the advice that a good horseman should also be a good marksman.  His mother bought him an airgun and carefully guided his training in marksmanship. One day, Kim Jong Il saw his mother in a shooting stance with a pistol in hand, while inspecting the rifle range for the guards, and he said he would like to try his hand at it.  She extracted the cartridge from the pistol, showed him how to aim and pull the trigger, and then said:

“You must not start shooting without a definite target. You must have a noble aim before you start shooting.”

“The day I shot my rifle for the first time during the armed struggle against the Japanese, I made up my mind to fight for the revolution to the end under the General’s leadership and destroyed many enemy soldiers. I have kept to my pledge and safeguarded the General at the risk of my life, holding this pistol firmly in my hand.”

Kim Jong Il practiced shooting with the pistol every day. After many days of such practice, he got an opportunity to display his skill. With everyone watching him, he aimed at his targets and pulled the trigger. Bang, bang, bang! The three shots hit his three targets. Kim Il Sung hugged his son and exclaimed, “Excellent!” He then encouraged the (note: five year old) boy to practice shooting on horseback.

Tomorrow: We all know that the Dear Leader hates some of the West.  But where did this come from?  And how does he feel about America in particular?  Don’t miss tomorrow’s selections from “Kim Jong Il Biography 1.”

These wonderful snippets — many of them truly endearing, some just funny — are from volume one of Kim Jong Il’s official English-language biography, “KIM JONG IL BIOGRAPHY” (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Pyongyang, Korea, Juche 94 (2005)), which I picked up in North Korea the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Like a red letter edition of the Bible, all words spoken or written by either the Dear Leader or the Great Leader appear in bold text.

/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments