Archive for June, 2012

Vehicle Billboard Advertisements – North Korean Capitalism or Propaganda?

North Korean Auto Advertisement

A billboard advertisement for the sale of North Korean produced cars and trucks of the Pyeonghwa Motor company.

Perhaps I missed them last year, or perhaps they are new, but this year I found two more vehicle billboards each located in the countryside outside Pyongyang – In 2011 I saw only one car advertisement billboard located in the Pyongyang city center.  In my first post about the North Korean vehicle billboards I made the simple suggestion that perhaps the Pyongyang vehicle billboard advertisement is an indication of capitalism creeping its way into the North Korean system, but upon further investigation I have found it suggested that these billboards are nothing more than propaganda.

Car and Driver magazine says:

Because the private sale of nearly everything is officially banned, North Korea doesn’t have much use for billboards—other than for cartoonish propaganda, of course.  But the country is obsessive about putting on a good face, so much so that it maintains an idyllic fake village at the end of the South Korean border.  It may well be that the purpose of the billboard for the Pyeonghwa Motors model Whistle is to advertise to the small group of foreign businessmen in North Korea, but it’s more likely they’ve set it up to dupe the locals into thinking the country is doing well enough for car ads.  (It’s not.)

With such a low production output, 314 cars produced in 2003 and 400 in 2005, I think the case made that these advertisements are simply propaganda is pretty valid.

The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace

The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace, a place for the children of the privileged elite to spend time after school practicing sports, art, folk dance and music – and of course, show it all off with military like precision and forced smiles to groups of visiting foreign friends and tourists.

The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace is the largest of the many palaces in North Korea dedicated to Children’s after school activities. The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace has 120 rooms, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, and a 2000 seats theater. The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace is not to be confused with the Pyongyang Children’s Palace situated in the north of the Kim Il Sung Square and founded in 1963 – where I visited and saw a children’s performance last year.

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

A young girl opens a show for tourists and dignitaries at the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace.  This was a special performance to commemorate the Day of the Sun, the 100th birthday of ‘eternal president’ Kim Il-sung.  Many more pics from this performance to come!

Guns, Girls, and Beer – the Pyongyang Gun Range 2012

Last week I wrote about my return to the Pyongyang gun range and how I shot my own breakfast, today I am presenting a simple photo post showing the remaining pictures from that visit – the ones that don’t involve me killing something!  You can find my post about my original 2011 visit to the gun range here.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Lovely Pyongyang gun range attendants.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Pyongyang Gun Range

Pyongyang Gun Range

I bought our North Korean guide Ms. Han a round of shots,  she wasn’t the best marksman but I was thrilled that she at least gave it a try.

Pyongyang Gun Range

Pyongyang Gun Range

Pyongyang Gun Range Bar

The Pyongyang gun range bar – my favorite bar is the world!

Pyongyang Gun Range Bar

Peace Sign Photobomb!

Peace - Wonsan Town Square North Korea

Peace sign photobomb at the Wonsan main square, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Visit North Korea!

Pyongyang 100th Year Kim Il Sung Birthday Celebrations
100 Year Kim Il Sung Birthday Celebrations in Pyongyang, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Tell me a little about yourself and I will hook you up with a great DPRK travel deal for visiting!  Please leave a quick comment here (so I will know to check my email) and email me privately at with the following info:

Full name, how you learned about this blog, what your country of residence is, when you are interested in visiting the DPRK, and what you are interested in seeing.

As of Oct. 2012 I’m pleased to announce I can offer 5% off to people I refer for our scheduled trips to both the DPRK and Iran – so get in touch!

Wood Gasification Trucks in North Korea

A wood gas generator is a gasification unit which converts timber or charcoal into wood gas, a syngas consisting of atmospheric nitrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, traces of methane, and other gases, which – after cooling and filtering – can then be used to power an internal combustion engine or for other purposes. Historically wood gas generators were often mounted on vehicles, but present studies and developments concentrate mostly on stationary plants.

Trucks retrofitted with wood gasifiers are used in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in rural areas, particularly on the roads of the east coast

Hamhung City Square, DPRK, North Korea

Wonsan - Pyongyang Countryside

Gasification trucks from the east coast Hamhung region.  Keeping these trucks in operation is perhaps the reason why the military is out gathering woodphotos by Joseph A Ferris III

Bagging Your Own Breakfast – The Pyongyang Gun Range Pheasant Shoot

Dubbing the experience guns, girls, and beer, last summer’s visit to the Pyongyang gun range was one of my favorite experiences of the trip.  Having had so much fun there last year I made it a point to include another visit when I wrote out the custom itinerary for my 2012 return to the DPRK – most standard North Korean tourist itineraries don’t include the gun range.

Our visit was approved but this year the girls were prepared for us and remembered our tricks – no photos hugging the girls, beer in one hand and rifle in the other, while in the shooting area!  But that was OK, we had other tricks up our sleeves!  At 5 euros a round visitors are allowed to take a shots at live birds in a pen at the far end of the gun range.  Nobody tried during last years visit, the pen was only stocked with one skinny chicken, but this year the pen was well stocked with plump pheasants, and to temp us further a North Korean man shot and bagged one before our eyes.  I wasn’t the first in our group to bag a pheasant, one of the guys hit one on his first shot and made a gift of the bird to our bus driver – the driver was thrilled.  After getting a few drinks in me I purchased a 5 euro round for my lucky shot into the pheasant pen, then a 2nd, and a third round – eventually I bagged one!

Pyongyang Gun Range Prize

North Korean gun range attendant with my pheasant.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Me and my pheasant at the Pyongyang gun range.

North Korean Pheasant Soup

So you got drunk and shot a pheasant at Pyongyang gun range – now what?  Bring the dead bird to the dining hall of your Pyongyang hotel restaurant, pull it out in front of a bunch of horrified western tourists while they eat their dinners, and pass it over to a North Korean waitress – she wont even bat an eye but only ask for instructions on how you want your bird soup prepared for the next morning’s breakfast.  Photo above – my pheasant being dished out for breakfast.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Me and my prize at the Pyongyang gun range.

Pyongyang Gun Range

Me and my pheasant at the Pyongyang gun range.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

A North Korean man returning with his prize.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

Walking out with the gun range attendant to get my bird.