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How I ate a dog: a Journey in North Korea and South Korea

In the summer of 2013 Evgeny Konovalov spent six months in North Korea, and six months later went to South Korea and compared their impressions. About the strangeness of people’s culture on both sides of the border, the Juche ideology and experience of eating dog he agreed to tell the editorial staff FURFUR.

Evgeny Konovalov

student, traveler

In North Korea we three went: my friends held in North Korea for 44 days, I — for a day longer. Before the trip I could agree to live there for six months. It is now unlikely, too wild were the conditions in North Korea.

I am from Komsomolsk-on-Amur and class with ninth trip to the Far East. Used all the time to be light and in straitened circumstances — in North Korea it helped me. The climates of the Far East and Korea are alike: summer is very hot and humid, just under 100 percent. But most of all I regretted that hadn’t brought an umbrella: almost every day there were seasonal rains that blur all around.

Border

In North Korea the exchange students can get, but it’s not easy. It is necessary that the universities signed the agreement and between their countries established diplomatic relations — Russia has with North Korea they are. By the way, before the collapse of the Soviet Union students were sent only in Several Korea, South diplomatic relations was not. In the 1990-ies, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, even went to the North, but then at some time stopped. Practice was resumed only in 2012. A year later and I decided to take a chance.

At the airport the plane we were met Russian diplomats and fellow Korean secret services in plain clothes, who followed us all the way. To take phones and gadgets with a GPS is useless, all taken at the border and return only on the day of departure. My phone I quietly gave the employee of the Russian Embassy on the border. However, 44 days network I have never appeared. Other electronic devices without GPS can be carried.

Life

Though I am prepared in advance and knew where I was going, during a trip are faced with the everyday oddities of Koreans foreigner very difficult to understand. Jeans in North Korea, for example, is prohibited. It seems that only allowed blacks and women only. Every Korean has a 12–15 similar suits, that’s all. My clothes from me, thank God nobody took it.

Cellular communication has appeared in North Korea three years ago. Mobile phones there only local, any Nokia, Samsung or iPhones. Internet in North Korea either, but there is an internal network — intranet 20 thousands of computers. What can be found on the intranet, I never knew, because foreigners have access to it. In the Internet in the conventional sense, you can exit from the territory of the Russian Embassy, which we enjoyed. Moreover, only there we communicated with the outside world.

We lived on campus for foreigners, and, besides us, three Russians, there were only Chinese. The Chinese in the DPRK a lot, they move there for permanent residence and speak Korean without any accent. From other foreigners for a half month stay in Pyongyang, I met the only Swiss in the pool at the Embassy and the company of Germans at the music festival “Arirang”. On campus we lived in the same conditions as ordinary Koreans, but we had the money and opportunity to leave. Them — no. In my room there was a Desk, chair, bed, and two portraits of leaders — the father and the son. Kim Il sung left and Kim Jong Il on the right.