I like traveling. You may have noticed.
Some trips are harder to process than others. The ones where you stand face to face with certain truths or lies, where old ghost come back to haunt you.
It’s been two years since my last visit to the DPRK and I must admit that it is only lately that I don’t get a knot in my stomach when I think about it. I finished reading Pyongyang by Guy Delisle the other day. It took me a while to finish, or, actually it took me a while to start, because it was a bit hard for me to process. Most foreigners who go to visit the DPRK will have a very different experience than I’ve had the 5 times I’ve been there. I reckon most people do not get treated like a VIP, because I’m pretty sure most people don’t have a politically active father who is on the regime’s good side. Thinking of Kim Il Sung as your grandfather and being treated like a princess as a child will do weird things to you when you grow up and realize that not everyone in the country has a good life. That in fact pretty much everyone else is starving and being killed to keep a long outdated regime alive, while you have been served extravagant meals three times a day by trusted servants.
Bowing before a life-like wax-figure of a man you hold very dear, even crying for the loss of him while at the same time knowing that everything that’s going on around you is totally wrong is deeply frustrating. Listening to people criticize a country you have always thought of as your second home and feeling torn because you agree, but you’re also still under the spell and want to defend the country that has always treated you so well.
Honestly, it’s a little hard to put into words.