Friendship Exhibition

On our first day in North-Korea we visited the Friendship Exhibition in the north of the country. This huge exhibition is located in an underground structure in a very scenic, mountenous area. The exhibition has a huge collection of presents that the Great and Dear Leaders received through the years. Most of them, of course, from the Soviet Union, China and other (former) communist countries. Since the demise of communism in most of these countries the leaders got less and less presents. The presents from the last couple of years mostly came from countries like Cuba and Libya, as well as some nondescript small communist movements from western countries. Also a suprisingly high amount of presents from South-Korea from the last couple of years - "rare" items like flatscreen TV's and computers.

Taking pictures inside the Exhibition was forbidden, so I can only show some pics from the wonderful surroundings.


Kaesong is a large city in the south of North-Korea with 300,000 inhabitants. It's special because some historical parts survived the Korean war undamaged; so unlike other North-Korea cities, it has still some parts from before the Korean war.

Besides, I also found it fascinating to walk around in another city besides Pyongyang. While Pyongyang is really a showcase city, things are different in cities like this. People look more poor and there are almost no cars on the streets, only lots of pedestrians and cyclists. Unfortunately, our guides didn't allow us to make pics on regular streets; although I managed to take a couple.


Very close to Kaesong is the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) a 4 km wide area around the border with South-Korea. In fact it is not demilitarized at all; the armies of both countries are standing face to face there, reminding of how the Iron Curtain was in Europe during the Cold War.

The most special place is the Joint Security Area (JSA). Here there's no fence on the border, only a very low concrete wall. In theory both countries have the right to maintain the security in all parts of the JSA, but since a couple of incidents both armies now stay on their own side of the border. Right in the middle of the JSA there are a couple of barracks, in which talks used to be held between the two countries. The border goes straight through the barracks.

The visit to the DMZ is something I will never forget. It's a strange and sad place, an institute that devides families and friends on both sides of the border. It's a bit scary standing in a place with so much international tension. Not in the last place because we were "guarded" all the time by two North-Korean soldiers and an officer...

On the road

Two pics of North-Korean freeways. Wide, impressive roads in a terrible condition. Almost no traffic, save for some crowded buses and military vehicles. North-Koreans are not allowed to travel without permission. Therefore there are many checkpoints on all roads.