By Michael Harrold
In 1987 Michael Harrold went to North Korea to paintings as English language adviser on translations of the speeches of the past due President Kim Il Sung (the nice chief) and his son and inheritor Kim Jong Il (then pricey chief and now head of state). For seven years he lived in Pyongyang having fun with privileged entry to the ruling periods and having fun with the arrogance of the country’s younger elite.
In this interesting perception into the tradition of North Korea he describes the hospitality of his hosts, how they have been shaken via the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the various interesting characters he met from South Korean and American GI defectors to his Korean minder and socialite pals. After seven years and having been stuck passing South Korean tune tapes to neighbors and going out with out his minder to areas forbidden to foreigners, he was once requested to go away the rustic.
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Additional resources for Comrades and Strangers: Behind the Closed Doors of North Korea
I felt someone nudge my arm and Mr Choe, who had been on my right but, since we had all turned to gaze towards 37 COMRADES AND STRANGERS the great leader, was now directly behind me, indicated that I should take a photograph. I was astonished by the look on his face; normally calm to the point of appearing lugubrious, he had never previously let slip his stoic air. But now there was a look of rapture on his face, a childish grin had transformed his normally down-turned mouth, and his eyes were shining.
If I was fair, I would admit that his English was far better than my French. At least he seemed to understand what I was saying. Mr Choe appeared earnest in whatever he said, whether it was that the great leader was the saviour of the Korean nation or that the US imperialists were its greatest enemy. It was strange how his face remained so impassive all the time, even while he used words like ‘bastards’ to describe the Americans. All part of the training for a young revolutionary, I supposed. I would be working first, Mr Choe informed me, on a historic book, On the Art of the Cinema, by Comrade Kim Jong Il.
I am too old to learn,’ he told us. I was astonished that he had a daughter attending university, since I’d placed him somewhere 49 COMRADES AND STRANGERS in his mid-30s. Some 20 years older, in fact, he seemed to have led a fairly full life and had spent some time in Africa. It was an experience that had provided him with a fund of stories, most of them incomprehensibly referring to money and ending inexplicably with someone or something being ‘in the pocket’. Clearly, the joke was lost in the translation.
Comrades and Strangers: Behind the Closed Doors of North Korea by Michael Harrold