Pacman, Peso, and I recently returned from a 16-day Asia trip that included a five-day stay in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (as in America, the N-word is taboo in DPRK). This journey started in August when our record label, Forest Hills Tenleytown Music Group, launched a Kickstarter seeking $6,000 to fund the trip and a music video called "Escape to North Korea." With the help of a five-page feature in the Washington Post Style section and a generous $5,100 donation from James Passin (aka "The American Who Bought Mongolia”), we were able to raise $10,400 and get a lot of attention in the process. People actually cared, for some reason.
Swedish underwear brand Björn Borg have made good on a pledge to "love bomb" 450 pairs of underwear in Pyongyang. The company hired a "journalist" who went "undercover" and threw the garments from the 41st story of a hotel window.
We're a bit late to this, which is a shame, because the paintings sampled here are some really nice pieces of work by North Korean artists. As explained on the Koryo Tours blog, they were part of an exhibition called "The Beautiful Future" that, sadly, ended on October 3. (Surely they'll be brought out again sometime in the future.)
Dennis Rodman has returned from Pyongyang. No Kenneth Bae (of course), but Reuters reports he "spent quality time" with Kim Jong-un, and has pictures (above) to prove it. That's something. The hilariously mismatched friends apparently watched a basketball game, according to KCNA news agency.
Dennis Rodman arrived back in North Korea today for the first time since March, when he became the first American to meet Kim Jong-un since the marshal took power. Rodman was greeted at Pyongyang Airport by the Associated Press, to which he said:
If it bleeds, it leads -- and if it contains porn, firing squads and Kim Jong-un, play it up! (Whether it's true or not is a different matter.)
The Independent, a British newspaper, has managed to squeeze all these things into one glorious headline:
Kim Jong-un, who studied in Switzerland when he was a lad, enjoys skiing, so much so that he wants to build a ski resort in his home country. (Or is it because South Korea's getting the 2018 Winter Olympics and he can't be seen as falling behind?) Kim picked out a spot, ordered the military to complete construction by the end of this year, and has reportedly made multiple on-site checks. Everything appears to be going smoothly -- except one big, huge hurdle: international sanctions.
North Korea scholar Andray Abrahamian was rudely informed recently that his Barclays bank account, which he's held for 20 years, had been cancelled. And all because he works for a Singaporean non-profit that dares to engage North Korean citizens.
"Mr. Kim Jong Un! Channel 4 News, UK!” yelled the journalist at the back of Kim Jong Un’s head.
The Great Marshall stopped. He slowly turned and smiled, his visage a million shining suns. The room, which had been full of raucous cheers, came to a hush. In perfect English he replied, “Yes? How may I help you?”
Just kidding. That last part didn’t happen.
They don't really do it small for the annual Arirang Festival in Pyongyang, so the "small twist" in the headline is somewhat of a misnomer. Nonetheless, this year's Arirang -- a.k.a. the Mass Games -- that opened on Monday featured something new -- a slight, possibly noteworthy change for the tea leaf readers out there -- as one attendee told NK News.
North Korea Tech and Tech in Asia have a wonderful story about the perils of hacking -- you can end up hooking the wrong fish.
On June 25 -- the anniversary of the Korean War -- affiliates of Anonymous sought to take down North Korea websites, but wound up spraying fire at friends. "Confusion at start of attack," writes North Korea Tech:
Kenneth Bae, a Korean American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea for crimes against the state, will not be used as a bargaining chip, says the DPRK. “Some media of the U.S. said that the DPRK tried to use Bae’s case as a political bargaining chip. This is ridiculous and [a] wrong guess,” Korean Central News Agency reported, via Washington Post. But would the regime, you know, release him, just because, pretty please, if Dennis Rodman asked?
We know our friend Andray Abrahamian to be both a beer and coffee snob, so who better than he to discover an unnamed cafe in Pyongyang, next to the Pyongyang Hotel View Restaurant, that might well be North Korea’s first “third-wave coffeeshop.” (As Dray describes it: “For those of you unfamiliar with the term, ‘third wave’... Read more »