Exotic Cities, Part Eight: Pyongyang, North Korea

June 11, 2009

    North Korea recently fired another missile, and many people are concerned (although not in my neighborhood of brain-dead foreigners and white trash).  But what’s it all about, anyway?  Are the North Koreans a proud, independent people determined to resist the aggression of American warmongers, or are they just a bunch of insane, retarded, slitty-eyed Commie bastards?  Or are they something entirely other?

    For an authoritative answer, I asked a homosexual political science professor at the University of Toronto (who shall remain nameless, but he has a beard and wears an earring, and his lover’s name is Paul) to explain the North Koreans to me.  “The North Koreans are no different from you or me,” he said.  “What do all human beings want?  They want to be understood and accepted for what they are, without prejudice.  Is that so wrong?  Of course not.  It’s the Americans who are clearly the aggressors.  They always have been throughout their history.  I teach a course on the subject.”  Okay, I guess that helps.

    But let’s go check things out for ourselves!

    Pyongyang, North Korea!  Who has not wanted to travel there?  (Put your hands down.  That was a rhetorical question.)  Yes, Pyongyang!  The city that lies in the fabled Valley of Monkeys, whose people Buddha described as “happy, fat, and drunk on wine.”  Let’s throw back the curtain of history and look through the dense fog of time.

    The North Koreans, unlike their southern cousins who call themselves “Koreans” (although the term is anthropologically meaningless, since it merely refers to a peninsula), are descended from the Mogollon people, who settled and controlled the region as far back as 500 BC.  Their early settlements may still be glimpsed protruding from the fields of corn that spread westward from the Taedong River.  They feared only bears and fire.  The Mogollon evolved from hunters and gatherers who shot wild boars with bows and arrows, then became pearl divers and fishermen, and then finally became farmers and breeders of turkeys, until they disappeared mysteriously and quite suddenly in 1211 AD, after a great fall of toads from the sky.  Charles Fort described this fall of toads in one of his books.  Shakespeare referred to it cryptically in Macbeth.  And it was discussed at length in Memoirs of a Lunatic: The Diaries of Lord Archambault of Dorking, by Sir Oliver Sturm-Ruger (Oxford Univ. Press, 1956).

    What happened to the Mogollon people?  If the toads could talk, what would they tell us?  We could go ask them, for the Toad Habitat, one of Pyongyang’s most popular tourist attractions, is located about 20 miles north of the city.  It’s the reason why Pyongyang is unofficially the Toad Capital of Asia.  The toad figure is seen everywhere as a sort of mascot of Pyongyang — a sly, mischievous creature that obviously knows more than it’s willing to tell.  You could try to plumb its secrets, but it will not reveal them, even if you stroke it lovingly, or even if you choke it and suck on its head.  And if you do that, you will be put somewhere where there is nothing sharp, and stern orderlies watch you day and night.  And that wasn’t the purpose of this trip, was it?

    Who really understands these Toad People, these offshoots of the Mogollon, better than a Westerner who has lived in Pyongyang for many years?  That would be Suzanne Gittens, Manager of the Comfort Inn, located on the West Bank of the Taedong.  It is Pyongyang’s best hotel.  From the upper floors, you get a panoramic view of the city — The Monument of the Revolution, the Monument of the Heroic People’s Struggle Against Aggression, the Monument of the Worker, the Soldier, and the Intellectual, the Monument of Peace, the Arch of Triumph, the Arch of the Glorious Future, the Arch of the Iron Will, the Statue of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, the Statue of the Great Father Kim Il-sung, the Juche Tower, the Tower of Truth Television, the Communist Victory Stadium, the Revolutionary University of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, the People’s Communist Water Purification Plant, the Socialist Democratic People’s Garbage Incinerator, the Eternal Zoo of the Communist Party of North Korea, the Glorious and Prosperous People’s Farmer’s Market, the Democratic People’s Revolutionary Electrical Plant, the Golden Arches Communist Noodle Works, and the Unconquerable Socialist Revolutionary People’s Cineplex Theatre, featuring two screens.  (The Revolutionary Children’s  Monument of Resistance and the Revolutionary Communist Day Care Centre are not visible from the hotel.)

    Suzanne Gittens enjoys special respect as the Westerner who brought peanut butter to North Korea.  Peanut butter is now widely eaten, and the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il has personally endorsed it as a healthy food for long life, even though it was invented in America.

    “The North Koreans think of themselves as being in a state of war all the time, even when they are not actually at war,” explained Gittens.  “And they cannot be defeated, because their will is stronger than the enemy’s.  But they do have one fear — centrifugal force.  Centrifugal force is an American weapon whose purpose is to hold back the progress of the people and their revolution.  It is invisible, yet it has a physical effect on people and objects.  North Korean soldiers march in a stiff manner to reduce the effect of centrifugal force.  The missiles that are being fired are intended to disrupt the waves of centrifugal force sent down by American satellites.  The Juche Tower, which is the most important structure in Pyongyang, contains an energy beam to protect the city from centrifugal force, and it is supposed to be effective.  ‘Juche,’ of course, is the state ideology of North Korea.  It means ‘independence’ or ‘self-reliance.’  It is also the name of the country’s most popular brand of cigarettes, most popular brand of toothpaste, and most popular brand of condom.”

    Because of my reputation as the funniest living writer in the English language (way funnier than Dave Barry, a wanker who refuses to answer e-mail), I was given the same room at the Comfort Inn that Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag stayed in.  Their visit to Pyongyang last December is the best-kept secret in Hollywood.  Even the gossip columns failed to pick it up.  The newlyweds went to Pyongyang to escape the prying eyes of the media, and only Gittens knew who they were, since American celebrities are never seen on North Korean television.

    There is not much television in North Korea anyway.  There are three channels with limited hours.  Korean Central Television (KCTV) is the official broadcaster of news.  It is best known for the hypnotic spiral that appears on the screen as propaganda messages are spoken.  Korean Educational and Cultural TV has lots of shows featuring children laying flowers at the foot of monuments and uniformed children marching with little flags.  Mansudae TV has movies with revolutionary themes (especially the Korean War), sports (gymnasts performing in arenas with no audience in the background), current affairs (missile launches), science (lab techs studying grains of wheat under a microscope), and a popular game show called Name That Enemy, in which contestants must identify American warmongers to win a carton of noodles.

    North Korea’s aversion to foreigners is somewhat exaggerated.  Basically, you have to prove you’re not a spy.  But it’s like every other country’s Customs and Immigration: some officers are nice, and some are mean.  If you are neatly dressed, clean shaven, soft-spoken, and polite, you will probably get in.  If you look like white trash, with baggy pants and baseball cap turned backwards, you will be taken into a room and beaten to death, and your family will be told you died in a boating accident.  (This is the sort of reform we need in Canada.)  There is also a “Kill On Sight” list with specific names.  Currently, Nick Nolte is at the top of the list.

    The visitor to Pyongyang must be accompanied by an escort.  This is actually a good thing, because if you don’t know the language or your way around, you could get yourself into some kind of trouble.  Besides, the escorts need the employment.  My escort was a plain girl named Kim, who desperately needed a makeover and implants, both of which would be considered counter-revolutionary in North Korea.  She took me on a long walking tour of the city.  (We didn’t get on any streetcars, because they have been known to electrocute their passengers.)  We ended up in one of the nice parks for which Pyongyang is known.  I asked her why she was so flat-chested, and she acted hurt.  She said she was a very average and normal North Korean girl.  I told her I had a special skin cream from Canada that would make her breasts grow, and if she came to my hotel room in the evening, I would apply it to her myself to show her the right way to do it.  She was very eager to accept my kindness, but at the appointed hour she never showed up.  The next day, she would only say vaguely that she had not been able to come.

    We took a short ride on the subway, which is the deepest in the world, since it is intended to serve as a shelter in the event of a nuclear war.  Now, the subway is basically for show.  The stations are clean and full of patriotic art.  But for a city of over 3 million people, the crowd is mysteriously thin.  People are supposed to be going to work, but a lot of them are faking it.  Officially, there is no unemployment in the Communist paradise of North Korea, so everyone must behave as if  they were going to work.  But when they get to their destinations, a lot of these riders are looking at factories that are shut down, office buildings with no electricity, and shops with almost nothing to sell.  So they will sit and do nothing at the workplace or go for a walk, and then return home.  The subway is absurdly cheap by anyone’s standards, so it is a major money-loser, but the regime needs it for propaganda purposes.

    In Pyongyang, if you are unemployable for whatever reason, you can be a street vendor and sell cold, wet noodles in a paper cup, or you can be given a job title such as “emotion recognition specialist” or “anti-centrifugal specialist” and sit at a desk in an unheated warehouse, waiting for the phone to ring, which it won’t because it isn’t even connected.  Directing traffic is another make-work program, and you will see lots of girls in blue uniforms standing in intersections, waiting for some traffic to show up. 

    Pyongyang has restaurants with such names as Communist Restaurant, Glorious Restaurant, Victory Restaurant, or Happy Smiling Toad Restaurant.  They serve mostly noodles and vegetables and very little meat.  I dropped in at the Communist Restaurant, which is run by Tadamasa Goto.  “Only foreigners can own restaurants here,” he explained.  “The North Koreans are not allowed to.”  I said that had a certain symmetrical logic, since in Canada only Koreans can own convenience stores and white Canadians can’t.  Goto readily admits he is not a trained chef, and his restaurant used to be very bad.  But then something good happened.  “Gordon Ramsay was in town.  He has a Korean grandparent, by the way, which most people don’t know about.  Anyway, he had heard about this place, and when he saw how bad it was, he decided to feature it on Kitchen Nightmares.   The episode will appear on TV over there in September or October.  There were rats, dead cats, stinking pools of grease, mold, you name it.  The chef I had working for me was the son of a Party member and I couldn’t fire him, but Ramsay picked him up and literally threw him out.  He’s an ex-footballer, you know, and these Koreans are small enough to pick up and throw.  After that, he cleaned the place up and updated the menu, and the government sent me a proper chef  out of embarrassment.”  I tried the soy turkey sandwich with gravy, noodles, and peas, and it was not bad — a lot better than the atrocious meat loaf I once had in the Hudson Bay cafeteria at Yonge and Bloor, where the cooks are Korean and put garlic in everything, including  the cole slaw.  Goto doesn’t actually make a living from the restaurant.  He has business contacts in Japan, and he moves shipments of guns, drugs, and counterfeit goods for the North Korean government.

    On one of my walks with Kim, my escort, I commented on the  police on every street corner.  Kim explained they needed the work.  Naturally, there’s no street crime whatever in Pyongyang — exactly the opposite of Toronto, where you have plenty of crime on the streets, and the police are nowhere in sight.  (You have to call them, get it?)  Toronto’s  Chief of Police,  Bill Blair, is a wimp who lets Tamil protesters block streets and highways, because he believes in cultural sensitivity, and he marches in the Gay Pride parade, too.  He looks like a big, stupid rabbit.

    I treated Kim to an ice cream, and we sat on a park bench.  I kept trying to put my hand up her skirt, and she kept resisting, although I could tell she was getting hot.  “It is counter-revolutionary,” she said.  And then I got some insight into North Koreans and sex.  The government strictly suppresses visible sex.  There is no sexual imagery anywhere.  More than that, the government has a long-term plan to eliminate sex altogether and have people reproduce by binary fission.  You may remember such news items as the two-headed snake, or the two-headed dog, or the two-headed sheep.  These were the results of early North Korean experiments to make higher animals reproduce by binary fission.  The animals lived, but the experiments were regarded as failures.  Nevertheless, the government considers binary fission to be the ultimate fulfillment of juche, so they will keep at it.  Kim believed there was some sort of chemical being put in the drinking water to prepare the people for binary fission, so she was only drinking bottled water because she did not want to divide unexpectedly.  She also said there were rumors of experiments gone wrong, resulting in abortions.

    It was all gruesome stuff, so to get her mind off it, I suggested we go for a gondola ride on the Taedong River.  The gondolas look exactly like the ones you see in movies about Venice.  Couples can enjoy a long ride while being serenaded by the gondoliers, who sing sentimental songs of revolutionary victory.  Meanwhile, you can watch pearl divers reviving an ancient custom of their ancestors.  Resplendent in their orange wet suits, they dig barnacles from the river bottom to harvest a variety of brown, sticky pearl found nowhere else in the world.  It’s not in the same class as the fine pearls from Australia but certainly good enough for Canadians who shop in bargain stores.  These divers swim in synchronized fashion, performing an artistic water ballet, while blending in with schools of river porpoises that are extremely happy in the extremely clean waters of the Taedong, thanks to the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il.  I guided Kim’s hand to my crotch so she could feel how keen I was for her.  She looked away and pretended not to be aware.  I pressed her hand down more firmly and said, “What is this called in Korean?”  She replied, “Chaji.”  I worked my hand under her skirt and inside her panties to her privates.  “What do you call this?” I asked.  She replied, “Poji.”  I moved my hand around the back and into the crack of her ass.  “And the other one?” I asked.  “Ttong-koo-mung,” she replied, breathing hard.  She started stroking me gently….

    Which reminds me to talk about the ballistic missiles.  The North Koreans have been launching them from a site in the northeast called Musudan-ri (CIA code name: “Boardwalk”).  But it’s getting obsolete already, so they’re building a new one at a site about 75 miles northwest of Pyongyang, called Pongdong-ni (CIA code name: “Park Place”).  The missile workers are looking forward to the move because the new site has a nicer lawn, is closer to shopping, and is in a better school district.  The government will run daily bus tours from Pyongyang to show off the new site, and Suzanne Gittens thinks the tours will be a big money-maker, since visitors have heard so much about the missiles.  The new site will have a gift shop, too.

    The vineyards are on the same road as the new missile site.  It will surprise you to learn that the North Koreans have been making wine for almost fifty years — reviving an ancient Mogollon tradition — although it has taken a while to develop the quality to make it a viable export product.  The People’s Victory wine actually won an honorable mention in an Asian wine competition held in Hanoi, and the Glorious Leader wine was nominated in the “Best New Wine” category on Vancouver’s skid row.  And a bottle of Communist Defeat of American Aggression wine can be glimpsed briefly on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

    Pyongyang now has a “sister city” in Canada.  Because of my influence as a shameless promoter of uranium mining in Saskatchewan (e-mail me for current stock recommendations!), I was able to arrange the “sistering” of Pyongyang and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (CIA code name: “Mosquitoville”).  Mayor Jim Scarrow is very excited about the new arrangement.  “It’s a very good thing for us,” he says, sweat dripping off his brow.  “After all, they’re developing nuclear weapons, and we don’t want to be attacked.  If we show them we like them, we’ll be helping to keep peace in the world.  I mean, look, we have plenty in common.  Both cities begin with ‘P.’  Both cities are on a river.  They’re Communist, and we’re somewhat socialist, okay?  They just want to do the right thing for their people, and so do we, right?  There’s common ground.  We can all get along.  We love all the minorities — aboriginals, black people, Asians, whatever.  We have Korean people here.  We value them as citizens.  My wife buys milk and bread from them.  The people from Pyongyang are welcome to visit any time.  We’ll show them a good time.  We’re willing to trade with them, to help them.  We’ll do whatever it takes so they don’t attack us….”  He goes on like this for a half hour, but you get the gist.

    I can’t forget the show trial!  The talk of the town during my visit to Pyongyang was the trial of two Americans, which was being broadcast daily on KCTV.  Roger Angell and Ben Greenman were charged with “hostile acts,” including spying and “spreading centrifugal force.”  I have no idea what they actually did, but Suzanne Gittens said it didn’t matter.  “It follows a familiar script,” she explained to me.  “They get a couple of Westerners on a fake charge and threaten them with the death penalty.  Inevitably, the foreign government or company offers a discreet bribe for the release of the offenders, the Party scores propaganda points, and Kim Jong-il’s family pockets the bribe.”  And what if no one is willing to pay?  “Then, of course, they’d be executed.  But so far that’s never happened.”  As of the time of my departure, however, no offer had been made to save these guys, so whoever they are, they must be major bastards.

    When I checked out of the Comfort Inn, I was allowed to keep the souvenir flashlight that is placed in every room in case the electricity goes off.  It’s in the shape of Kim Jong-il.  When I remarked to Suzanne Gittens that it looked a lot like a dildo, she said that she always suspected that some designer made it like that on purpose as a way of poking fun at the government, and the Party still hadn’t caught on.  I decided it would be a cute parting gift for Kim.

    And so we went for one last excursion into the countryside, to skip happily across meadows and bogs and through forests, looking for trolls and fairies and elves, and to fall back in time to be with the Mogollon people, dressed in their sunbonnets of black and purple, chasing the wild boars, babbling of the ancient ways that must never die but live forever, of battles fought and virgins raped, of loves and toads, of days when seafarers navigated by the Milky Way.  We embraced and kissed beneath the ivy bowers, as majestic turkeys screeched above the romantic fields of corn.  Our groins tumescent and throbbing, we sang of the Dear Leader standing gloriously on the Mountain of Monkeys, vanquishing centrifugal force with a mighty sweep of juche.  I did pull the moist panties from my little flat-chested Kim and dragged her into the shrubbery, which was soft and cool and smelled of shrubbery, and she seized my monument and impaled herself on it, while I worked the flashlight figure of Kim Jong-il into her ttong-koo-mung and bit her yearning nipples.  We thrashed about like rabid wombats, and I lost my mind beneath the gathering purple clouds of dusk.  Then the rains came, and we were both at peace….

    The rumors of Anne Murray’s abortion in Pyongyang are unfounded.  The fetus had two heads, but neither one resembled her.

    The North Koreans will accept $500,000 for the release of Roger Angell and Ben Greenman, or $300,000 for just one of them, and that’s absolutely as low as they’re willing to go, so forget about trying to cut a better deal.  The deadline is midnight, July 1st, Pyongyang time.  If no offer is received by then, the spies will be executed by firing squad.

    Recommended vaccinations: Mucha Habermann Disease, mycosis fungoides, ichthyosis vulgaris.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com


7 Responses to “Exotic Cities, Part Eight: Pyongyang, North Korea”

  1. Zack Says:

    fantastic. you should contact angell and greenman directly and see if they are willing to pay at least part of the ransom themselves. but don’t trust their money. it’s spy money.

  2. Alison Scarrow Says:

    I’m Jim Scarrow’s daughter.

    I don’t have a sense of humour about remarks like this. My father has worked tirelessly for the good of the City of Prince Albert all his life. I don’t suppose you could investigate all of that and write about it, could you? Thought not.

    • rg Says:

      The fact is, Prince Albert has escaped attack by North Korea. Whether that’s thanks to your father’s preemptive Stockholm Syndrome, or his nuanced diplomatic skills, doesn’t matter. Either way, under his leadership so far, residents of Prince Albert have remained safe from North Korea’s vast network of brutal prison camps. Some have even called him the Neville Chamberlain of Saskatchewan.

      By the way, I also have no sense of humour, and am somewhat thin-skinned. What say you and I get together sometime and praise the Dear Leader’s Juche Idea, if you know what I mean?

  3. joelkazoo Says:

    Well worth the wait, Crad!

    Alison: Crad is a curmudgeon and a conservative. Selling books on the streets for many, many years exposed him to only the worst that society had to offer, and the attitudes he embodies are based on the experiences he personally had, which were far from wonderful.

    I’m on your side here, Crad! I (hope) your choice of Prince Albert was random, and the mayor’s rant a case of a politician saying “Please Don’t Hurt Us, North Korea!” in that Canadian-nice way present in all politics there, not a slam upon the city itself. But then, I’ve misinterpreted your work before.

  4. Clyde Torres Says:

    Thank you for the wonderful insight of that far off tourist resort. I see you didn’t take the evening dinner cruise on the USS Pueblo. I recommended it to my dermatologist and she gorged herself to the point that she had to be floated back to shore. Ah, those were the days. Imagine, to think that I thought North Korea was nothing more than a military tampon to keep the free world away from China.

  5. Reid Says:

    North this, South that, Commie this, Capitalist that, I’d probably only be there if war broke out. That’d be gay, but shit happens.

    Let the good times roll, baby.

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