In September 2015, I traveled to North Korea to see, first-hand, what life was like inside the Hermit Kingdom. Much of the country was what I had expected: strange, ersatz, thick with propaganda, and every so often, seriously unsettling.
And yet, the journey was also filled with some truly wonderful, completely unexpected surprises. One thing’s for sure: North Korea really is unlike any other place on Earth.
Since my return, I’ve had a lot of people, friends and strangers, ask me about my trip. There has been way more curiosity about North Korea than I would have imagined — so much so, that I thought I’d write down some of my experiences, and share them with you here.
Pictures and stories alone can’t do justice to what it’s really like being on the ground in North Korea. As a visitor, you’re watched 24/7, you have no freedom, and you’re constantly tense and on edge. But hopefully, this post will at least give you a glimpse into what life is like in one of the most restricted, enigmatic destinations in the world.
I was bringing a fair bit of photography equipment with me: two cameras, a portable hard drive, lens filters, a bunch of spare batteries, and lots of extra memory cards. Upon seeing all this camera gear, security guards pulled me out of line and escorted me to a walled off, secondary security area, where they closely examined all my equipment.
I also had a smartphone and tablet with me, and had to hand these over for inspection. North Korea now records the serial numbers for all smartphones brought into the country. I watched as a security guard entered my devices’ digits into a log book, before he handed them back to me.
The government is particularly paranoid about foreigners bringing in any kind of literature that could be used to influence their people (e.g., the Bible). Finding nothing offensive in my bags, or stored on my memory cards, I was finally permitted to enter the country.
As it turned out, a lot of what I had previously read about North Korea was true. You are assigned government-trained “minders” who are with you 24/7. They monitor your activities, manage your itinerary, and tell you what you can and cannot do. You are in their custody for the entirety of the trip. There are always at least 2 minders assigned to a group, because the minders also have to mind each other, making sure their comrades don’t succumb to the devious devilry of us American imperialists. No joke.
Before our shuttle had even left the airport parking lot, our minders were already beginning to walk us through all the rules we had to obey, including:
- We must always travel in a group. For the entire trip, we almost never got to walk around outside. Instead, we were bused from place to place, even if we were only traveling 4 blocks. You’re definitely not allowed to do things like leave the hotel at night or explore the city on your own.
- No photos of military sites or soldiers. This often proved to be difficult, given that nearly 40% of North Korea’s population serves in the military.
- No photos of construction sites or any people at work. The government wants the world to see their country represented only by pristine pictures of perfection. Photographs of half-finished buildings and sweaty laborers apparently don’t make the cut.
- If you take pictures of any of their Dear Leaders, you have to capture their whole figure. You can’t crop out any part of their bodies.
- If you have any printed materials depicting the Dear Leaders (e.g., newspapers, magazine), you can’t crease their images. You also can’t throw these materials in the garbage, or use them as wrapping paper.
- Whenever you visit a statue of a Dear Leader, your group will need to line up single-file in front of it, and bow. Your hands must be at your side; not in your pockets or behind your back.
The country has propaganda vans trolling the streets with giant megaphones perched on their rooftops.
Even the people themselves are part of the propaganda machine. Nearly every North Korean wears a red pin patriotically emblazoned with the faces of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. I tried really hard to lay my hands on one of these pins, but tourists aren’t allowed to have them. They have to be earned through loyal servitude.
Our Gilded Prison
The Pyongyang Elite
If you’re living in Pyongyang, you are the 1%
And with this status comes privilege that you won’t find elsewhere in the country:
You’re given free housing in high-rise apartments in return for loyalty and service to the country.
You have access to grocery stores that are stocked with Nutella, Oreos, Absolut Vodka, and… jelly shoes. Some of these pictures are a bit blurry, because you’re not allowed to take pictures inside any of the country’s stores. So, I had to get creative with my photography.
You get to ride on Soviet subways.
You get to use a smartphone.
You even get to go to amusement parks and water parks on the weekend.
A Soviet Concrete Jungle.
Overall, Pyongyang was much more developed than what I had imagined.
The North Korean elites love revolving restaurants. They’re seen as a must-have for any high-end, luxury hotel. The top two hotels in Pyongyang — the Koryo Hotel and the Yanggakdo Hotel — both have one. So, to ensure its supremacy in the world of hospitality, the Ryugyong Hotel was designed to have not one, not two, but FIVE revolving restaurants! You can see them in the cylindrical cone at the top of the tower in the photos below.
The dorm rooms were very basic. Women slept 7 to a room, and they were literally packed in like sardines, with their beds stacked side-by-side-by-side. The beaming portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il hung overhead.
They had prepared a model dorm room for us to see (the same one that Kim Jong Un was shown when he came to tour this factory, we were proudly told). When we were ushered inside, there was a woman fast asleep on one of the beds. This was pretty awkward, but our hosts didn’t seem to think so.
Our factory guide also proudly told us that Marshall Kim Jong Un himself personally picked out the paint color for the dorm walls (pink) and the wallpaper (some kind of a peach-taupe concoction).
The Car Dealership
And that’s when you can’t help but wonder:
They would only be showing us this place if this is the best they’ve got. So, if this is the best, what does the worst look like?
The Dear Leaders
President Kim Il Sung — The granddaddy of The Dear Leaders. Literally. Kim Il Sung was the founding Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and is referred to as the nation’s “Eternal President.”
General Kim Jong Il— Son of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il served as the DPRK’s Supreme Leader until he passed in 2011.
Amongst the North Koreans we were exposed to, the Dear Leaders are revered like Gods. Everywhere you turn, there are statues, paintings, mosaics, songs, and books dedicated to the greatness of these men.
On any given day, you’ll find North Koreans making pilgrimages to giant statues of their Dear Leaders, and paying their respects by bowing deeply and laying flowers at their feet.
Even newlyweds will visit these sites to take pictures, and to pay tribute.
Both of these school visits were simultaneously touching and disturbing
On one hand, the kids were truly adorable, and some of them were really impressively talented.
Internet vs Intranet
However, there did appear to be a national Intranet. It didn’t seem like most citizens had access to this either, but a couple institutions we went to did seem to be wired in.
The looming specter of war is ever-present in North Korea
The drive from Pyongyang to Panmunjom, the border city at the DMZ, is 3 hours long — placing Pyongyang twice as far from a potential border battle, compared to Seoul, which is less than a 90 minute drive away.
The drive down to Panmunjom was really interesting. The highway was 6 lanes wide, and yet the road was almost completely devoid of cars for the entire 3 hour drive. We mostly just saw people biking and walking along the edge of the asphalt. The only other vehicles we saw were military jeeps and an occasional bus or two.
As we got closer to the DMZ, the military checkpoints got more and more frequent, and the soldiers at these checkpoints looked more and more fierce. Each time we approached one, our minders would emphatically remind us not to take any pictures.
Our rather intimidating military tour guide at the Korean War Museum
On display outside was a wide collection of damaged US warplanes and tanks.
Battered US warplanes and tanks at the Korean War Museum
I suppose it’s not too surprising that children and teenagers were far friendlier and more curious, compared to the adults. Perhaps they hadn’t been fully-indoctrinated by propaganda yet. Perhaps the hardships of life hadn’t begun weighing down on their shoulders.
Whatever the reason, seeing this next generation of North Koreans gave me hope — hope that someday, change will come for the North Koreans. And when it does, their country, and the entire world, will be better for it.
Top Ten Tourism Destinations Around The World
For those hodophiles who are willing to explore the world and perplexed to predetermine their destinations in their wish lists, here are top ten most popular tourist destinations based on the data and statistics of the number of tourism arrivals in 2018.
As per the 47 Tourism Statistics: 2020/2021 Market Share & Data Analysis | CompareCamp.com, the following the are top 10 most visited countries.
France (89.4 million visitors)
France is one of the most popular and first tourist destination because it has become the hotspot location of 89.4 million international tourists according to 2018 statistics. Mass tourism can clearly be noticed in the most renowned places of France such as the Eiffel tower, louver museum, the palace of Versailles, Provence, Chamonix mont blanc, Carcassonne, etc. Until 2019, the overall spending of visitors is 60.4 billion euros contributing 9.6 percent of GDP share only by the tourism sector. This is why France is one of the leading destinations in the world.
Spain (82.72 million visitors)
Spain is one the most beloved destination of mass tourism making the position the second most visited destination. As per the 2018 data,82.72 million tourists explored Spain contributing 11.8 percent of GDP share. The most visited place in Spain is Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Palma de Mallorca, Gradana and so on. It is UNESCO’s third-largest heritage country. Tourists around the globe spend their precious time observing and understanding the architecture, culture, and history of Espana.
United States (79.62 million visitors)
Among the flourishing tourism destination, the tourism of the US is also one of them encountering 79.62 million international visitors from around the world in 2018. The major attractive places of the US are the Grand Canyon, Niagara falls, the statue of liberty, white house, Walt Disney World resort, etc where every year a great number of tourists arrive.in 2018, the domestic tourists singly expended $972 billion while $155 billion was spent by international tourists contributing 7.9% in GDP.So we can say that the US is a famous tourist destination both domestically and internationally
China(62.9 million visitors)
China is the fourth most visited country in the world. The intriguing destination in China is The Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City & the Imperial Palace, Beijing, The Summer Palace, Beijing, Cruising the Li River, Guilin many more. The number of tourists arriving in 2018 is 62.9 million from various countries. and the spending of tourists is USD 277.27 billion maintaining its GDP contribution of 11% successfully in successive years 2016,2017 and 2018. Despite being the origin country of coronavirus, China still as a tourist destination offers limitless scope for exploration
Italy(62.15 million visitors)
Italy is also considered as the top 5 desirable counties in the world where 62.15 million international tourists visited this country in 2018. The most popular places which are desired by tourists around the world in Italy are Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Siena, Milan, Venice and so on. The tourism inbound spending in 2018 is 25.48 billion million euros accounting for 228 billion euros in GDP contribution. Italy is also known to be a popular vacation destination.
Turkey(41.45 million visitors)
Turkey became the sixth most popular destination accounting for 41.45 million international travelers in 2018 gaining $29.5 billion . The top-rated tourism attraction in turkey is Aya Sofia, Ephesus, Cappadocia, Pamukkale mount nemrut, etc. which reflects the ancient culture, monuments history, and overall the beauty of turkey. The GDP contribution of tourism in turkey was 12.7% in 2019 increasing $34.5 billion in revenues and setting the new record.
Mexico( 41.45 million visitors)
Mexico is counted to be the seventh top world’s popular tourist destination for a vacation with 41.45 million international visitors arrivals in 2018. Mexico possessing about 100 islands is a beautiful country with attractions such as Cancun, Yucatan peninsula, Acapulco, riviera Maya, etc which are the ultimate destinations of tourists. According to 2018 data tourism in Mexico contributed 8.7% of GDP directly employing 2.3 million people residing in Mexico.
Germany(38.88 million visitors)
Germany is increasingly being the most popular destination securing its rank in the eighth position. The major purpose of Germany to travel are for its culture, outdoor activities, sightseeing and so on and the best places where it can be experienced are Berlin, Munich, the romantic road, the Mosel valley and so forth. The total number of international tourists who visited Germany in 2018 is 38.88 million in numbers and contributed 8.6% in GDP share.
Thailand(38.28 million visitors)
Thailand is the ultimate destination for tourists who is culturally, naturally, and historically captivated by the place.in 2018, Thailand has been successful to attract 38.28 million international tourists in the country spending over 20 billion US dollars. the popular tourist attraction in Bangkok is Thai massage, street food, water fight during Songkran, stunning beaches, temples and so on.
United Kingdom(36.32 million visitors)
The UK belongs to the tenth position in popular tourists destination in the world as per the tourism significance. Statistically, in 2018, 36.32 million foreign visitors travels along with the UK popular destination such as Stonehenge, Tower of London, the British Museum, Eden project, etc. The spending amount of foreigners in ul in 2018 was $26.9 billion, similarly, the value of 76.7 billion contributions was in GDP of UK economy.
The bottom line is if so many people are visiting these destinations, it surely is a worthwhile place to travel. What are you waiting for?!
Anime is not only for kids
Comic books was part of my growing up, and then came English movies and series. I am that “Government school guy,” which means my English was terrible (it still is but it was worst). Thanks to the subtitles, I would watch anyway and with time, things started getting smoother and easier for me as English didn’t seem that hard. Until now, I was still a Hollywood fanboy. It’s only after meeting that one friend in college, who happened to be a big fan of anime, that I learned about that thing. At first, like everybody else, I thought anime is cartoons made for kids. The friend introduced me to anime world, and through him, I learned that there is this one anime called “One Punch Man” that anime community is going gaga about. So, I got curious by the title and gave a shot. Guess what? I got hooked with anime like magnet to iron. And here I am giving my opinion about anime and why it is superior form of entertainment in this world filled with movies and TV shows. Yes, SUPERIOR!
So, what is anime?
Anime is just the animated motion picture version of comic book called Manga. Manga is the original source materials for the anime. It is a picture book with all the actions, dialogues, and everything that a comic book contains produced by exceptionally good and creative artists. It can differ from simple kid shows to shows which deals with heavy real world politics too.
The original source of these mangas and anime are from Japan but nowadays it’s spreading into other countries like Korea and China too. Mangas and anime are so popular in Japanese culture that it is part of school curriculum.
There are lots of high quality animes out there. Some of my favourites are:
This is my favourite among all the favourites. This was first published around the year 1999. The storyline is about pirates and their shenanigans. It’s kind of light hearted with touch of comedy but it actually sends out the message related to an oppression of the people by those from a higher power; it covers racism, slavery; shows what real freedom feels like, so for people who like deep characterization, value of friendship, value of dream and tackle of real world problems, then this show is definitely for you.
This is another boundary breaking show. It gives the message that if you do bad things with good intention for good of the people, it’s still bad. This anime is about hero who wants to save others, and a psychopath who will kill all for achieving peace. It is detective-type story with main character being Kagami Light and Detective L. So for people who like cat-mouse race story, this show is definitely for you. This anime generally falls under starter pack for new comer in anime world.
It’s not boundary breaking in terms of characterization or in a story too but its boundary breaking in animation. When it first came out, people lost their mind over its animation. With awesome cinematography using excellent animation, this anime defined the new era in anime world. So, those who like to feel the evolution of anime world should not miss this one to feel the differences and how anime world changed with time.
The Promised Neverland
This anime belongs to the horror genre and took the genre to a whole new level. It has simple story with no as such monsters like creature, but it deals with a bunch of kids from age 4/5 to 12 years old, who are kind of genius for their age and are trying to run away from their orphanage which they found out is the place meant to harvest these kids for the monsters living out in the world. If you like horror genre then this shows is definitely for you and its animation is also of topnotch.
Okay, I am done! Now go check out on your own some of the best animes available and you know will what I meant. All I can say for now is, if you are multimedia entertainment fan then anime is something you have been missing for a long time. Containing entertainment of every genre, with topnotch cinematography using crisp animation and dealing with real world problem in a very subtle and metaphorical way, then anime is what you need to watch right now. Go watch it.
What is communication and how to communicate effectively?
Communication is what we are trying to do through this writing. We are trying to communicate to you what communication is and how to communicate effectively. Here, we are trying to communicate through writing. If you were watching us on YouTube, we would be communicating to you through verbal and visual means of communication. If we were to communicate with you on the same topic via graphics, that would be another form of communication. So, basically communication is to convey what’s inside us through mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic conventions.
There are basically three sides to communication. One is source (communicator), another is receiver (audience), and third being channel (air, phone, tv, book, paper, picture, etc).
Types of Communication
There are basically three types of communication,
- Verbal communication: Communicating verbally (by speaking out)
- Non-verbal communication: Communicating through body language, facial expression, touch, gesture, etc, in a form of non-linguistic representations.
- Visual communication: Communicating through arts, photographs, graphics, etc.
- Written communication: Communicating through writings.
Purpose of Communication in humans
Purpose of communication in humans varies for a range of reasons but the ability to communicate effectively is what makes humans different from the rest of other animals.
Have you watched the movie, “Rise of The Planet of The Apes?”
What happens in the movie is that there is this one ape which has a relatively higher degree of intelligence that it can think and reason. But until that point, the ape was not still that powerful. It was still a pet. The ape then learned to communicate, and through communication, it learned to influence other apes. That discovery of communication made it possible for apes to act collectively, that led to desire for independence, self rule. The movie actually tells what made humans so powerful and superior through the story of the apes.
Only reason humans could rule the world is because it could communicate with fellow humans for a range of reasons. Think of it. It’s because of the ability to communicate, humans could tame a mammoth. “hey! look back. Okay, now it’s turning other side, so hit the other side. Hey you, you attack from back and you from front.” If we were not this good at communicating with fellow humans, we would be just like monkeys, screaming and shouting but no clear instructions or tips and tricks to fight against other species. Not only that, but we share our knowledge and understanding to other humans and new generations so that they learn from our mistakes and lessons, and thus their life and time is saved to learn further and progress further.
Here is another example,
There is this water tank at my neighbor’s house. The tank gets filled once in 15 days. Other times, it is as dry. On one of the dry days, some or other pigeon comes to nest to lay eggs but as the tap gets on, the nest gets destroyed. It feels really sad to see how she struggles to protect the eggs, but what could she do. Eggs get spoiled and she leaves the nest. Again, some other day another pigeon comes and tastes the same fate. So far three pigeons, I have witnessed, testing the same sad fate. That’s the difference between humans and other creatures. If the pigeon was human, she would spread her lesson. If any pigeon tries to repeat the mistake, she will be warned by other pigeons. The pigeons as well will pass down the story and lesson to new ones saving even them from making the mistake.
You see? What makes humans so powerful is our ability to communicate, our ability to spread lessons and knowledge and ability to accept those lessons even without experiencing it. This saves lots of our time and energy without which we would be repeating the same mistakes just like the pigeons.Same applies to human society or country. The country or society where there is a culture of effective communication, knowledge sharing, culture of documenting history, such a society or country as a whole becomes smarter, grow more rapidly as they waste less time repeating the past mistakes. The society or the country that lacks such culture are doomed to get stuck in the same loop.
Hope, you got the point of how important communication is for progress and success. Everything that we know now is the result of accumulated knowledge passed down through communication channels.
Good communication versus bad communication
Now, since we know the importance of communication, we should be aware of good communication from bad communication. We all have been in the situation where the receiver misunderstood us, we got into conflict, we didn’t get things done and many other troubles because there was a “communication gap” or “miscommunication.”
As we learned earlier, the sole purpose of communicating is to transport what’s in our mind – be it knowledge, or thoughts or ideas – into the head of the receiver as it is. When there is a difference in what we want to convey and how the receiver decodes, the miscommunication occurs. SO BAD COMMUNICATION IS NOTHING BUT FAILING TO COMMUNICATE PROPERLY.
What would happen if a hunger-gather had failed to communicate properly while hunting a mammoth? One of the members would die. What will happen if a teacher fails to communicate properly? Students will misunderstand or do not understand the subject.
So the burden always lies on who is communicating more than who is being communicated. It’s the responsibility of the source to communicate effectively. In good communication, the communicator successfully transports/transmits his/her message to the receiver as s/he wanted it to be, whereas in bad communication s/he fails to do so.
There are various reasons why bad communication happens, some of which are:
- Lack of clarity – not being precise and concise in what is trying to be conveyed; lack of clarity in voice or presentation.
- Ambiguity of words/phrases – Words sounding the same but having different meanings can convey a different meaning altogether. Hence the communicator must ensure that the receiver receives the same meaning.
- Cultural differences – where one being said being understood differently due to cultural interpretation. For example, calling someone a monkey may mean ugly in one culture whereas it may mean smart in another culture.
- Intellectual differences – Use of jargons, being too technical or academic, that the receiver doesn’t get. It’s easy to say “society evolves over time” for someone who knows what is evolution but if the receiver does not know what is evolution in the first place, the whole sentence may be understood per his/her own level of understanding and interpretation.
- Attitude/psychology – Certain attitudes can also make communication difficult. For instance, presenting with ab angry or intimidating tone or style can affect how the receiver decodes the message.
Thus, good communication is the type of communication where the aforementioned things are absent. In good communication, there is clarity and precision on what is trying to be conveyed, in tone and style and pattern and level that the receiver can grasp without feeling intimidated and all that being done considering the cultural background of the receiver.
How To Communicate Effectively
Since you now know the difference between good communication and bad communication and what causes them, effective communication is to consider components needed for good communication and frame your communication accordingly.
So to communicate effectively, there are fundamentally three things to consider:
Message – What are you really trying to convey?
The sole purpose of communicating is to convey something – it could be knowledge, or thoughts or ideas or opinions. Whatever it is, the first thing to consider and be very clear about is what we really are trying to convey to the receiver. As said above, it is the responsibility of the communicator to frame and present in the way the receiver can decode. Most people fail to communicate effectively because they think “it’s the responsibility of the other side to understand what I am trying to say.”
Audience – Who are you communicating with?
Have you ever wondered why you speak like a child while talking to a child? Why do we speak in a professional tone and language in the professional world but same thing when we have to speak in a casual setup or with friends in a cafe, we speak differently? Why do we speak purely in our mother tongue when speaking with grandparents or someone who does not understand English, but while speaking with people who seem to understand English, we speak a mix of English and mother tongue? That’s because we speak according to our audience. So to have effective communication, we should always know who our audience is and communicate accordingly.
Aesthetic – how are you communicating?
Okay so now you know what you are trying to convey, and you know your audience and putting yourself at the par to speak accordingly. All good, but let’s say, you presented yourself in a very unpleasant way. In that case, you will still be failing to communicate effectively. Many of us have stopped watching YouTube videos just within 15 secs because we didn’t like the way the host was talking. Or we stopped reading because the first few paragraphs turned us off. There are many instances where we didn’t give a serious listen to our teacher or elder because we didn’t like how they started or presented themselves while delivering their speech or lecture. Thus, in effective communication, another important thing to consider is the aesthetic side of the presentation. If it is verbal communication, ears get to decide if it is pleasing enough or not. In visual communication, eyes get to decide, and in written communication, our brain, while processing the first few lines and paragraphs and scanning the overall presentation, decides if it is pleasing or not.
This writing itself is an example for you of what effective communication looks like. If we have succeeded to make you read till the end, and you have understood as we wanted you to understand, and we succeeded to write it in a way you could understand, then we have effectively communicated with you through this writing.
With that, thank you so much for reading. If you have any questions to ask or points to add, please feel free to write to us ([email protected]).
NOTE: This article is created for our participants of Online Writing Workshop, and thus only necessary details and information are included as per the need and the objectives of the training.
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