By Michael Harrold

In 1987 Michael Harrold went to North Korea to paintings as English language adviser on translations of the speeches of the overdue President Kim Il Sung (the nice chief) and his son and inheritor Kim Jong Il (then expensive chief and now head of state). For seven years he lived in Pyongyang having fun with privileged entry to the ruling sessions and having fun with the boldness 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 some of the interesting characters he met from South Korean and American GI defectors to his Korean minder and socialite buddies. After seven years and having been stuck passing South Korean song tapes to buddies and going out with no his minder to locations forbidden to foreigners, he used to be requested to depart the rustic.

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Additional resources for Comrades and Strangers: Behind the Closed Doors of North Korea

Sample text

There he died at the age of 32. His wife, Kang Ban Sok, dutifully supported her husband in his revolutionary struggle and accompanied him to Manchuria, 8 In 1866, the General Sherman sailed up the River Taedong and was assaulted by local farmers, who set fire to the ship and killed all the crew. 23 COMRADES AND STRANGERS where at the age of 40 she, too, passed away without ever setting foot on Korean soil again. An uncle, Kim Hyong Gwon, had got in on the revolutionary act. He was arrested for his anti-Japanese activities and thrown into Seoul’s Mapo Gaol, where he died.

So I felt rather awkward to be standing on the platform at Puhung with him, while the station manager gave a little speech of introduction, which included an uncomfortable reference to all the foreign guests who had visited ^ he didn’t say travelled on, I noted ^ the Pyongyang Metro and had unanimously declared it to be the finest underground train system in the world. When Mr Choe had announced that an official visit to the Pyongyang Metro was being arranged for me, I had wondered whether I should tell him there really was no need, as I was already a regular passenger.

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. The dear leader, it transpired, was the greatest master of artistic creation.

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