My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth. Copyright © 2016 by Wendy E. Simmons, Vendeloo, Inc., all rights reserved. Published by RosettaBooks on May 3, 2016. AVAILABLE NOW on, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, etc. Visit for more information.

At Kim Jon Suk High School, a few boys kept peeking out of windows at us. When I waved hello and snapped a photo, they quickly jerked back inside before popping their heads back out again, like “peekaboo,” albeit with high school boys instead of toddlers. Apparently, the behavior is universal. In Pyongsong.

Inside the Paeksong Food Factory, where upon arriving, we were told that FIVE MINUTES before, the factory had unexpectedly lost power,forcing it to close and send ALL 5,000 employees home. These two workers had stayed behind after their 4,998 coworkers departed to finish up the biscuits. The local guide had declared these workers “heroes!”

At the Kim Jon Suk High School, another tourist – an English teacher – also visiting, tried teaching students this lesson, which he found difficult. The students burst into laughter, while I wondered why they hadn’t bothered to kidnap and hold prisoner someone with a better grasp of English. In Pyongsong

I noticed this student staring at me. When our eyes met, he held my gaze instead of looking away, and smiled. I smiled and gave a silent wave hello, and “asked” if I could take his photo. Then he thanked me. A nice moment. Kim Jon Suk High School in Pyongsong.

Propaganda hangs on the walls inside the empty, and pristine Paeksong Food Factory where ALL 5,000 workers had been sent home a mere five minutes before we arrived when the factory unexpectedly lost power. In Pyongsong.

Inside Kim Jon Suk High School. In Pyongsong.

Propaganda and slogans adorn Pyongsong’s central Square. In Pyongson.

When I was sneaking a photo of these men by pretending to take a photo of the trees, one saw me, and ran over to report me to Older Handler, who denied it. But an international guide who happened to be there with another group of tourists, confirmed that’s exactly what happened. In Pyongsong.

An accordion class at the Kaesong Childrens’ Palace. Extracurricular activity jail, restricted to the children of the elite and party faithful, whose parents are otherwise engaged in party activities. In Kaesong.

A Young Pioneer in singing class at the Kaesong Students and Childrens’ Palace. Visits are staged, but organized to make you think you are watching the children spontaneously rehearse. In Kaesong.

Inside the Peace Museum at DMZ, where the Armistice Agreement was signed, Non General explains how the American Imperialists, so ashamed by their humiliating loss at the hands of the dear leader, rushed from the room, forgetting their flag, and why the UN’s flag is a shamble, but NoKo’s is perfect.

Non General, and two of his friends, posing for a photo of themselves standing in South Korea, in the Joint Security Area of the DM

Downtown Kaesong. I was not allowed to take photos walking around Kaesong. I was only allowed to take this photo of Kaesong from atop the hill where a giant Kim Il-sung statue stands overlooking the town.

I snuck this photo of “normal” Kaesong from inside the gate of my hotel. A policeman directs “traffic.” Locals are supposed to walk their bicycles across intersections; this woman was a rebel.

Strangely incongruent propaganda that greets you when you arrive at the DMZ on the North Korea sid

Motivational (inspirational?) posters adorn the walls of the Kaesong Students and Childrens’ Palace. In Kaesong.

Performances at Childrens Palaces all end with the NoKo Bellamy Nazi salute, illustrated in this painting on the wall at the Kaesong Students and Children’s Palace. In Kaesong.

I snuck this photo of “normal” Kaesong from inside the gate of my hotel. Another example of propaganda found everywhere in North Korea. In Kaesong.

A Young Pioneer dutifully taking notes, about what, I’m not sure, inside Moranbong Park. In Pyongyang.


North Korea

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