Sunday, 13 July 2008

Trip to North Korea

[see the whole set of photos from tour to North Korea]

From Gwangju we took the bus shortly after midnight to go for a trip to North Korea. The students did a great job in organizing ISUVR and the trip. It was great to have again some time to talk to Yoosoo Oh, who was a visiting researcher in Munich in our group.

When entering North Korea there are many rules, including that you are not allowed to take cameras with tele-lenses over 160mm (so I had to take only the 50mm lens) and you must not bring mobile phones and mp3 players with you. Currently cameras, phones and MP3 players are visible with the human eye and to detect in an x-ray. But it does not take much imagination to see in a few years extremely small devices that are close to impossible to spot. I wonder how this will change such security precautions and whether or not I will in 10 years still possible to isolate a country from access to information. I doubt it…

The sightseeing was magnificent – see the photos of the tour for yourself. We went onto the Kaesong tour (see http://www.ikaesong.com/ - in Korea only) It is hard to tell how much of the real North Korea we really saw. And the photos only reflect a positive selection of motives (leaving out soldiers, people in town, ordinary buildings, etc. as it is explicitly forbidden to take photos of those). I was really surprise when leaving the country they check ALL the pictures you took (in my case it took a little longer as it was 350 photos).

The towns and villages are completely different from what I have seen so far. No cars (besides police/emergency services/army/tourist busses) – but many people in the street walking or cycling. There were some buses in a yard but I have not seen public transport in operation. It seemed the convoy of 14 tourist buses is an attraction to the local people…

I have learned that the first metal movable type is from Korea – about 200 years before Gutenberg. Such a metal type is exhibited in North Korea and in the display is a magnifying glass in front of the letter – pretty hard to take a picture of…

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