19 January 2006

The Place of 10,000 Scenes

Mangyongdae, the place of 10,000 scenes, the birthplace of Kim Il Sung, one of the most “sacred” places in North Korea. There is a park-like atmosphere, a cool breeze blowing through the trees, as we walk in a group to meet our local guide. She asks us, after hearing we are from America, if it is our first time to North Korea. And here is where the lack of thinking and common sense comes in, as one of our group replies that it is the first time because “your government makes it difficult for us to get here.”

There is silence, a few stifled groans, and a look from our regular guides that could stop a charging rhino in its tracks.

Our local guide carries on, explaining how Kim Il Sung’s ancestors were grounds keepers and grave keepers, how they tended this land for others, how Kim lived in a cemetery, his father a tenant farmer. There is furniture, farming implements, household items, all preserved, or ostensibly preserved, from the young life of Kim Il Sung. Even a misshapen daenjang jar, a testament to the low wages of Kim’s ancestors that they had to settle for such pottery.

We are taken to the typical tourist shop in the park, and waved to by the school kids visiting the famous site. Then it is quickly shuttled off to the bus to begin our journey to what will turn out to be one of the most bizarre elements of the entire visit – the Children’s Palace.

No comments: