North Korea (DPRK) - Keson.
38-th parallel. Border. (Translated by Natalia)
At the end of our trip we've visited the south - we went
right to the Southern Korea border (and also to the frontier city Keson).
Have to remind, that formally the Southern and Northern Korea are still in
condition of war between each other, so the situation at the border is
rather uneasy. It's not even a real border, just the line of demarcation
which is passing on 38-th parallel.
Curious, that they've changed our driver for this trip. The driver, who
drove us before, went with us too, but as a second driver, and not right
to the border. We called our new driver "comrade colonel" : He was a
serious man, business-like and simple in dialogues (in a pointed
manner). Of course, he wearied a civilian suite. Once we saw (near the
border), that people at the check item have saluted to him, when they've
recognized him (at 10 meters, when he was sitting at the car!). The
checks became serious, as we were getting closer to the border. Looks
like it's been justified. At the one of the check items we saw soldiers
with machine guns, laying in the grass behind the trees. I'm sure, they
were ready to shoot anytime.
Keson city, not far from the border.
It's about 200 km far from Pyongyang.
I just remembered - I saw a billboard near the main road, leading from
Pyongyang to the south. "Korea - is the one!" - was written there in
English and Korean.
It's able to see this idea in the other posters.
On the official "Korea map" (I bought it in Pyongyang) there's no state
frontier at all. And on the cover there's the whole Korean peninsula,
painted in red, with the Northern Korea sign on it.
The writing on the top of the map says: (the map is in Russian):
"Our nation - is the united nation with grey-haired, five thousand
years history. This is the brave and energetic nation, that's from
ancient times goes on the persistent fight against foreign invaders,
against all reactionary ruling circles. This is the talented nation,
which brought the big contribution to development of a science and
culture of mankind". - Kim Ihr Sen.
The real line of demarcation is passing on 38th parallel.
Keson was a capital of a state Korio (918-1392) and there're some old
(or re-constructed) architecture monuments. On the picture: a quite big
village of old buildings.
I think, that Koreans shouldn't develop their tourism, reckoning on
western tourists. It looks like that, by the services and list of
Anyway, in current variant, they would never entice foreigners from
the West (despite any extremals). But for the ex-USSR tourists it all
looks quite suitable.
We drove from Keson to Pkhanmunjom village - about 8 km from Keson.
At the 300 m to the border (to demilitarized zone about 2 km wide) we
were invited to rest in a small house. The frontier guard came to talk
to us (with the help of translator).We had a small talk about politics.
Basically, he asked the questions. Like these:
"I heard about president elections in Russia and that V.Putin is
elected. Has he got the real people's support?"
"What is, to your mind, the most serious obstacle on the way to unite
Because we two answered in different ways, we asked the girls to
translate the answer that they liked most :)
Then we wished the luck to each other and went back to the bus. The
previous driver left us. The "comrade colonel" sat behind the wheel
again and also two soldiers with machine guns and the frontier guard
went with us. Five pics below you can see this frontier as a guide.
We've driven on the narrow road, surrounded with barbed wire. And soon
we appeared on the spacious square with the view of Southern Korea.
Here's the view (from building balcony).
From this place to Seoul - about 25 km.
Three houses that you see, are
situated near the border. The huge building with the curved roof - is in
Soon I've got the feeling that I'm in USSR, and there's USA on the other
The signs were everywhere. It's begun from the north-Korean and
south-Korean uniforms (looked like soviet and American) and finished
with people's behavior at northern and southern side. Our proleader was
constrained and silent, not less than we. On the southern side the
frontier-guards stood with the legs on width of the shoulders, having
their hands behind the back.
Soon from the south-korean building the bunch of tourists appeared -
maybe, Americans and Europeans.
The man with megaphone in his hands came before
them and started to tell the south-korean version of events during the
war. We heard almost every word. Well… now I understand why we came here
: Our proleader seemed to read our minds and has grinned silently, as if
he wanted to say: "You see everything, I've nothing to add".
Later I've read in some western story about visit to
Northern Korea these lines: "Down by the demarcation line, North
Korean soldiers stood stiffly in dress uniform on one side, stared at by
slouching South Korean troops in mirrored sunglasses on the other. From
afar they looked like Russians and Americans..."
Looks like it's not our impression only. By the way,
the American forces are still quartered in Southern Korea.
Being imbued with "cold war" atmosphere, we went down and came to the
one of the houses, where the negotiations between North and South were
held (and they say that they're still do sometimes).
Due to it's
historical rule, this house has become a sightseeing, and later, when
the situation became easier, the North and South have come to an
agreement, that they'd show the house to tourists, on-turn.
When we reached the house, the south-korean frontier guards and
tourists went out from there and locked their door. We have opened the
door from the northern side and entered the house.
Two soldiers have passed with us as protection, and a proleader invited
us to sit down at the both sides of a desk.
The desk was old, the
chairs were made of leather, and the leather was chapped because of it's
age. They seemed to be kept since 1950-ies, when the delegations from
both sides were sitting here.
We sat down, and the proleader smiled and told us that I'm now
sitting in Southern Korea, and Alexey's sitting in Northern :)
And inside of this building, standing a bit further from the border, the
contract about an armistice has been concluded. There's a date at the
monument: July, 27, 1953.
This large building is almost empty inside.
Just a desk with documents under the glass stands in the middle and the
conditioner works in the corner.
At the end of the story I would like to ssay some things. The northern
Koreans by their mentality are uncomparably closer to Russians, than
Europeans (I'm not even talking about Americans!). Even the Czechs are
more far from us.
It's difficult to make examples (and they're not for
public notes). But you must believe me: after a couple of days, when you
stop pay attention to external and language differences, sometimes you
get a strong feeling, that you talk to Russians.
The same moments as: "it's impossible, but if very much desirable,
then it's possible". The understanding of some ambiguous moments without
the words. Very similar "everyday problems" (of course, I compare not
with the "new Russians"). The same principals of high education.