The Bridge on the Border over the Yalu River. Picture has been taken from China’s side, city called Dandong.

I got feedback from one of our British reader (thank you for your email Paul) that he would like to hear more about my trip to North Korea, which I wrote shortly in my first blog post. You can imagine that Paul isn’t the first person to ask how it was.

It was so different than any other trip in my life that I have always answered to the question: “I really don’t know what to say. Or if I do, I don’t know how. Can’t find right words, hard to give good and comprehensive overall image.”

Few minutes of pondering and I figured it out. I could translate text I wrote (in Finnish) to a golf magazine into English. As it was 9-page long story, I’ll cut it in four parts. This is the first part of my story “In the Middle of Dictatorship”, published in the Finnish Golf Magazine, issue 4/2011. Please understand that English isn’t my mother tongue and I’m not English-speaking journalist either. I’ll do my best though 🙂

Please also notice that when this article was published, Kim Jong-il were still alive and the leader of North Korea.

In the Middle of the Dictatorship

The closed borders of North Korea opened for the first time for a group of Western golfers. How and why? I wanted to found that out and therefore took a part to the trip to Pyongyang. And to prove Finnish golfers’ double victory.

North Korea. Officially The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the world’s most closed country and the Public Enemy number 1 for the world peace. With their nuclear deterrent it keeps other countries outside of its own business and oppresses its own starved citizens with propaganda starting from early child. Military is the fifth largest in the world, and actually the largest when comparing to the population. North Korea is at the same time poor and strong in scary way.

Most of us have read barren and sad truth of North Korea from Western media. Practically 100% certain information is impossible to get because they’ll open their gates only for 2000 tourists per year. Journalists are permanently banned.

Amnesty International estimated in their latest research that there are over 200 000 people in North Korean prison camps all over the country. And there are orphan waifs equal. About 40 percent of people in prison camps will die because the undernourishment and heavy punishments. Hunger is huge among the citizens. Daily food serve was recently decreased to 360 grams.

With that people should be wellbeing and be able to work hard for the government

And in the middle of this all, there’s a golf course – Pyongyang Golf Club – which is familiar for many non-golfers as well. This is the course where North Korean dictator, “Dear Leader, General” Kim Jong-il as they called him there, made famously 11 hole in ones and played course record score 34.

A competiton that was created by an accident

This was maybe the worst meal we had during our trip. Local beer were suprisingly good though.

In January I noticed very unusual news from golf.fi website. The first North Korean Amateur Open will be played on late April, and for the first time it’s an open tournament for all golfers. Sounded way too special, had to found out what this was about.

It took two months. Several emails, mail posts, phone calls from them to my University and to my mom for example. Authorities wanted to make sure I was who I told them. Afterwards it all went well and on 25th of July I was in Dandong, China ready to step over the North Korean border.

 

… This story will be continue… Stay Tuned!

 

Olli

@OlliLehtonen in Twitter