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Friday, February 13, 2004

My obligatory DPRK entry

I never intended to make entries about DPRK or the South-North situation, but there is something I needed to get off my chest, so here it comes.

The first Korean I ever knowingly met (knowing that the person is Korean) was North Korean. I was with my friend in Berlin in the last year of German partition, and we also went to East Berlin, as we didn't need a visa for such a short visit. There we were in the Brandenburger place looking at the wall from the eastern side. Some others were there, too: a German-Russian man, who constantly tapped my shoulder with his forefinger, and a couple who we understood was from North Korea. I remember him admiring my camera; "Cosina, ooh" became the joke between me and my friend every time I took up my camera.

Ambassador Kim Pyong-il in Poland
The highest-ranking Korean (this is of course subject to debate) I've ever met is North Korean. Kim Pyong-il, Kim Jong-il's half brother (born to Kim Il-sung's second wife) served as the ambassador to Finland in the 1990s before DPRK closed the embassy in Helsinki. (Kim Pyong-il was sent to serve as the ambassador to Poland, where he still is.) There was all that talk that Kim Pyong-il was sent far away from DPRK so that he wouldn't become a threat to his older half-brother's power, as he was said to be more intelligent and capable than KJI.

So the piece of intelligence concerning Kim Il-sung's son that I hereby declassify is his visit to a Helsinki bookstore to buy a Russian textbook for his son. At the time I used to do some part-time work in that store in the language and textbook section, and I also had started studying Korean, so I knew who the guy was when he strolled in with his two children and embassy entourage. Too bad I couldn't help him as we didn't have an English-language textbook for Russian in stock.

Kim Pyong-il resembles so much his father that it's almost scary. No wonder his older half-brother doesn't want to have him around, if that talk is true.

(There weren't that many places where both Koreas had embassies before ROK-Soviet relations: Scandinavian countries, Switzerland I think, where else? An interesting history could be written of the ideological competition in those places - if it hasn't been done already.)

And now back to topics that are closer to my interests concerning Korea

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