Category Archives: Korea

For anti-imperialist solidarity, peace and friendship

Dalrymple is in Pyongyang to attend the World Festival of Youth and Students

Encounter in Pyongyang

The Study House in Kim Il-sung Square

The Study House in Kim Il-sung Square

Strolling through the North Korean capital, Dalrymple finds himself

in the enormous and almost deserted square in front of the Grand People’s Study House. (All open spaces in Pyongyang remain deserted unless filled with parades of hundreds of thousands of human automata.)

A young Korean slides surreptitiously up to him and asks:

Do you speak English?

It is, says Dalrymple, an electric moment, for in North Korea, unsupervised contact between a Korean and a foreigner is as unthinkable as shouting, ‘Down with Big Brother!’ Dalrymple nods. The young Korean says:

I am a student at the Foreign Languages Institute. Reading Dickens and Shakespeare is the greatest, the only pleasure of my life.

It is a

searing communication. We parted immediately afterwards and of course will never meet again. For him, Dickens and Shakespeare (which the régime permitted him to read with quite other ends in view) guaranteed the possibility not just of freedom but of truly human life. Orwell and Huxley had the imagination to understand why—unlike me, who had to go to Pyongyang to find out.

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I love Martina, Mama and Papa

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 09.44.23Dalrymple visits the Musée Guimet to view an exhibition of Korean painting and decorative arts. He writes:

I came out knowing much more than when I went in. I was moved by what I had seen and was full of resolution to read up on the subject.

As he leaves, Dalrymple glances at the visitors’ book, which contains comments such as these:

  • Necessary to clean the glass cases to protect the works. Too many fingerprints. Thank you.
  • [A note pointing to the need to make changes to the lighting and disposition of exhibits, concluding with the remark:] Ophthalmologists and osteopaths will thank the museum for its co-operation.
  • Your restaurant rather resembles that of a clinic or a hospital.
  • I love Martina, Mama and Papa. [Enclosed in a heart shape.]

‘A man is killed; a phone is advertised’

It is all one to us, writes Dalrymple.

It is all one to us, says Dalrymple.