Archive for June, 2013

Military Fashion

If Looks Could Kill

Female soldier wearing high heels – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Kim Jong-il’s New Jacket

The Kim Jong-il statue on Pyongyang’s Mansudae Hill got a new jacket this year: a massive bronze winter parka.


The Mansudae Hill Kim Jong-il statue was originally unveiled to the North Korean people on the April 15th, 2012, the 100th birthday anniversary of eternal President Kim Il-sung.  I was among the first group of tourists to visit the statue when the monument was officially reopened to foreigners the following day.  The original 2012 Kim Jong-il statue attire included a bronze medium length formal style jacket.  Apparently authorities didn’t find the formal jacket representative to late leader’s career, so master artists of the Mansudae Art Studio were tasked to cast a giant copy of the late leader’s iconic  winter parka – see Kim Jong-il looking at things.

Time examined Kim Jong-il’s parka and reported the following comments from the North Korean Rodong Sinmun:

“People around the world are attracted to and following not only the jacket our Great Leader is wearing,” Rodong Sinmun wrote in 2010, “but also his attitude, facial expressions, hand gestures, and even his handwriting.” All over the world, the parka was “the most valuable and noble item to have.”

The New Pyongyang Kim Jong-il Statue

Original Kim Jong-il statue with the 2012 formal bronze jacket.

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

Rason Special Economic Zone Textile Factory

Closed during the height of the spring 2013 tensions, the Kaesong Industrial Complex will probably never be a tourist attraction, even if reopened.  But if light industry is your thing, it is still possible to gain access and check out the behind the scenes action at various factories in the Rason Special Economic Zone.

Despite sanctions, one of the busiest factories I visited in Rason was the textile and garment plant.  During our visit my group was led to the 2nd floor production halls where we watched Chinese supervisors make rounds to oversee the quality of work of the local North Korean staff.

There were no children working at the plant, the work space was clean and well ventilated, and in the parking lot we witnessed the distribution of the worker’s monthly rations.  But for those who must have controversy and scandal when it comes to North Korean issues, I can report that the tags on the jackets being produced there claimed “Made in China”.


Rason Garment Factory North Korea



Rason Garment Factory North Korea


Rason Garment Factory North Korea

Rason Garment Factory North Korea

Rason Garment Factory North Korea

Rason Garment Factory North Korea


Rason Garment Factory North Korea

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

North Korean Kindergarden Propaganda


Framed print of children attacking US soldier snowmen at the Chongjin Kindergarten.  I have been told the Korean script on the snowmen says “American bastards” –  extreme propaganda for a kindergarten!

This painting of the North Korean missile was also found at this Chongjin Kindergarten.

Photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Update – further details on the translation from my comments:  The snowman on the left appears to have “쥐명박” (jui-myeong-bak) written on it. The name of South Korea’s former president is “이명박” (lee-myeong-bak). They have changed the family name of the former president from the original “이” (lee) to “쥐” (jui), which means “rat”. The DPRK often referred to him as a rat and Seoul as a rat’s nest. Nice find, Captain!

North Korean Wood Gasification Trucks

Wood Gasification Powered Truck North Korea

Not just for western beatniks and survivalists, trucks utilizing wood gasification technologically are commonly seen in towns and in the countryside outside Pyongyang – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

North Korean guides and authorities frown on tourists taking pictures of the wood powered trucks.  Of the many I have seen I only have three pics in my archives.  The photo above was taken from the open windows of the tea house on the way to Kaesong.

Hamhung City Square, DPRK, North Korea

Wood gas powered truck rumbling through Hamhung’s main square.

Wonsan - Pyongyang Countryside

Passing a wood gas powered truck on the journey from Pyongyang to Wonsan.


UpdateS. Kleine-Ahlbrandt just posted a picture of a North Korean wood gasification truck on her Twitter with the following caption:

“Answer to fuel shortage: “steampunk” wood-burning trucks. They pollute like crazy.”

I have never herd of steampunk; Wikipedia has the following on it:

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Therefore, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt and China Miéville. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

Steampunk may also, though not necessarily, incorporate additional elements from the genres of fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre. The term steampunk’s first known appearance was in 1987, though it now retroactively refers to many works of fiction created even as far back as the 1950s or 1960s.


Little North Korean Soldiers

North Koreans love to dress their children in mock military uniforms – below are pictures of boys in uniform proudly posing for my camera at the Pyongyang Rungna Dolphinarium fun fair.




Super Cute Kindergarten Performance


Chongjin City kindergarten performance – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Pyongyang Military Circus Trapeze


A trapeze artist prepares for the Pyongyang Military Circus finale – the inspiration for the film Comrade Kim Goes Flying?

Comrade Kim Yong Mi is a North Korean coal miner. Her dream of becoming a trapeze artist is crushed by the arrogant trapeze star Pak Jang Phil who believes miners belong underground and not in the air.

My friends at the Koryo Group continue showing the film around the world at select film festivals.  Don’t miss it at the Sydney Film Festival, June 5th – 16th, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, June 19th – 30th.

With all the action just a blur I put my camera down to concentrate on enjoying the show; readers will just have to be content with more pics of the finale setup:

Pyongyang Military Circus, North Korea









Dennis Rodman’s Homage to Kim Il Sung Revealed

Link to an article I helped with concerning Dennis Rodman’s DPRK visit:

Previously unseen inscription shows Rodman’s homage to DPRK founding leader Kim Il Sung.


NBA book shown to my tour group at the Pyongyang Grand People’s Study House.