Travels in a Quiet Land
North Korea is a country where time has stood still. While its former communist allies have long since embarked on new paths, the isolated regime defies all efforts to bring about change. For a Western visitor it can be difficult to know if one is getting a rare glimpse of reality or partaking in a performance.
It is a smooth landing on a seemingly endless runway, past fields of vegetables and corn, low pine groves and barbed-wire fences. After 10 minutes, the Airbus rumbles up to the modest terminal. Visitors are greeted by an enormous portrait of the “Great Leader,” Kim Il Sung, on the roof of the building. The next day North Korea’s Communist Party is holding its first assembly in 30 years. The outside world, which will not be a part of it, is speculating from afar about the country’s future leadership.
The board in the arrivals hall is empty. Only one flight arrives here on normal days, usually from Beijing and sometimes from Vladivostok. [...]