Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Journey to the land of Mt Paektu

By Dermot Hudson
Dermot Hudson, Jose Blazquez and Alex Meads

A Korean Friendship Association (KFA) delegation consisting of Dermot Hudson, Alex Meads and Jose Blazquez visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) last month to take part in the 5th International Festival in Praise of the Great Persons born of Mt Paektu. It was my 14th visit to the DPRK, the third for Alex and the first time ever for Jose.
Our delegation landed in Pyongyang on 11th August. We were greeted at the airport by comrade Ham Sung Jin, who is secretary general of the Korean Committee for Friendship with the British People.
The splendid 47 storey Yangkaddo Hotel, where we stayed, is on an island on the River Taedong in Pyongyang. My room had a great view of the capital, including the Juche Idea Tower. I could also see the Koryo Hotel in in which I had stayed many times.
Comrade Ham made a short speech on the coach on the way to Pyongyang, saying that we had come at a very difficult time, a time of very acute tension. Only days before we travelled the increasingly deranged and idiotic buffoon who occupies the position of US president talked of unleashing "fire and fury" against People's Korea; this followed the imposition of severe sanctions by the United Nations (UN) Security Council, a corrupt and venal body entirely controlled by US imperialism and the big powers.
The Yankee imperialists had been stunned by the Hwasong-14 ballistic missile tests in July – the DPRK has emerged as a socialist nuclear power. In their death-throes the US imperialists are resorting to desperate and reckless moves to try to prevent the emergence of a nuclear DPRK and to stifle to socialist system of the country. It is a fact that when the US and the south Korean puppet government talk about the de-nuclearisation of the DPRK they really mean breaking up the socialist system of the country. The US defence secretary even talks about the "destruction of the people" of the DPRK.
The DPRK has not taken these threats laying down. The Korean People's Army declared that they would submit a plan for a missile strike on the US-occupied Pacific island of Guam. On the 15th August, whilst we were staying in the DPRK, Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that if the US persisted in its foolhardy and reckless provocations then the strike plan will be carried out.
The people in the DPRK are not cowed or intimidated by the US imperialist threats, they are going about their business quite normally and calmly. Indeed, when I attended the dinner on the last night the idea of war seemed quite surreal and far off; the Korean people, however, have a heightened anti-US, anti-imperialist spirit.
Two days before we arrived there was a massive rally against the UN Security Council sanctions. New anti-US posters have gone up in the streets of Pyongyang. We also saw members of the Red Young Guards marching with red flags and placards that called for smashing the 'secret warfare' and 'regime change' plans of the US imperialists. This was a deeply inspiring sight because it showed the revolutionary and militant nature of People's Korea guided by the great Juche idea. No other country in the world is so strong in anti-imperialist spirit and revolutionary ardour!
Holding the Festival was in itself a blow against US imperialism. Some 300 delegates from all over the globe had braved threats of war by US imperialism to come to the land of Juche. In fact there were so many countries that it was hard to list them all.
One imperialist lie is that the DPRK is isolated but there were so many overseas delegates in Pyongyang including a former Nepalese premier, and representatives of the World Peace Council and the Organisation for Solidarity with Asian, African and Latin American Peoples (OSPAAL).
The KFA was represented by delegations from Britain, Spain, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Switzerland, Thailand and Ireland. There was a great buzz meeting all sorts of different people.
Undoubtedly the high point of the trip was going up Mt Paektu, the sacred mountain of the Korean revolution and spiritual birthplace of the great Korean nation. Although I had visited the DPRK over 10 times I had never been to Mt Paektu. We travelled to the far northeastern part of the DPRK by Air Koryo, my first time on a DPRK domestic flight. Our plane landed at the charming Samjiyon airport.
Mt Paektu
The scenery was breathtaking, awe inspiring and like nothing I had seen before. What is incredible is that we drove through thick forest for over an hour. This shows that the DPRK takes care of the environment. The air in the area around Mt Paektu and Samjiyon is even purer and cleaner than in Pyongyang. I would love to live in this area, I know that I would feel very healthy and live long.
Samjiyon, in the north of the DPRK, is very clean, neat and tidy,. Here people looked just as well as in Pyongyang and had mobile phones. There was no sign of poverty or destitution. Friendly people waved to us. We saw new buildings under construction there.
We went first to the Samjiyon Grand Monument. A truly remarkable place that shows the great exploits of the great leader Kim Il Sung in leading the anti-Japanese armed struggle to victory. I had seen pictures of this place in books but never visited it before.
We were accommodated in the Pegabong hotel where we were treated to an excellent open air performance by the local school children.; the educational level of the children here is the same as Pyongyang. I had heard some negative reports about the Pegabong Hotel but it was warm, well run, and had hot water and electricity all night.
On the morning of Monday 14th August we woke up early and left the hotel by 6am to go to Mt Paektu by bus. Mt Paetku is 2,700 metres above sea level.
The buses ascended the steep road to the peak, we got out where it was no longer possible for the bus to travel. You have to see Mt Paektu in reality not just read about it. The scenery is simply breathtaking! I had been up mountains in Scotland but Mt Paektu was really different to these. We could look down and see Lake Chon, a volcanic lake that had clear blue water.
We held a rally on the mountain with both speeches and poems; there were speakers from Guinea, Pakistan and Peru. The meeting adopted the Paektusan declaration and we then marched down the mountain with a banner.
The adoption of the Mt Paektu declaration was highly significant. The spirit of Mt Paektu is the spirit of independence, Juche and self-reliance that permeates the whole of the DPRK. It is this spirit that is enabling the Korean people to smash the American-led sanctions regime. It is worth adding here that we saw no effect of sanctions on the DPRK – new buildings are rising and I could hear construction work going on outside my hotel all night. The DPRK seems to become more self-reliant each day, for example canned iced coffee is a popular drink in the DPRK, previously this had been imported or produced under licence in the DPRK but now the DPRK is producing its own cans of iced coffee.
We also visited the Secret Camp on Mt Paektu that is the birthplace of the dear leader Kim Jong Il and was the headquarters of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army (KPRA). A red flag was proudly flying from the log cabin that had been the guerilla HQ during the struggle against Japanese colonialism.
The scenery here is just as breathtaking as on Mt Paektu. We could see Jong Il Peak rising in the distance with sheer incredible majesty. There were clear streams that were refreshing to look at and it was tempting to drink their water.
On 15th August a conference was held at the People's Palace of Culture, attended by leading figures of the people’s government such as Kim Yong Nam, Kim Ki Man and Ri Su Gyong. The chairwoman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations presided over the gathering, with keynote speeches made by Peter Woods from Australia and Madhav Kumar, a leading Nepalese communist and former prime minister of Nepal.
On Wednesday our delegation participated in the international Solidarity meeting with the Korean People, which was presided over by a leading official of the World Peace Council. A representative of OSPAAL addressed the meeting and I also spoke.
We were able to witness first hand the pain of the division of Korea caused by brutish US imperialism at Panmunjom, where the US admitted its defeat in Korea and signed the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953. We also saw for ourselves material on captured American and south Korean spies.
At Panmunjom we saw the monument to the signature of President Kim Il Sung on the document for national reunification. Had Kim Il Sung’s proposals for national reunification been accepted by south Korea and US troops withdrawn, Korea would have been reunified long ago.
We also travelled to Mt Myohyang to see the International Friendship Exhibition. Travelling to different parts of the DPRK by road we saw lush fields of crops. The imperialists claim that the DPRK was affected by drought and that there would even be massive famine. During our visit, however, it rained several times and we were told that the effects of the drought had been overcome.
Another lie was proved false during our visit. Wikipedia claims that the DPRK has a 10-year term of compulsory military service – in reality it is usually 3 years, and there is no conscription because everyone wants to join the Army to defend the country. So there is no shortage of recruits and no need for conscription.
We also learned another interesting fact. In the DPRK a mobile phone costs only the equivalent of 24p for three months with 200 minutes of calls per month. This is incredible when you compare it to the high costs of mobiles in Britain. Most people in the DPRK have mobile phones. It is a true people’s paradise.
In Pyongyang our delegation was able to enjoy an excellent performance by the Samjiyon band at the majestic East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, and visited the splendid Manyondae Children’s Palace and the Fatherland Liberation War Museum.
the streets of Pyongyang
We paid our respects to the great leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at the mausoleum in the Kumsusan Palace and visited the birthplace of Kim Il Sung at Mangyondae.  Our delegation and the Swiss delegation had an excellent meeting with our comrades in the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front of south Korea (AINDF). The chief of the Pyongyang Mission of the AINDF explained the struggle for reunification in south Korea and demolished any illusions about the so-called 'liberal' government in the occupied south of the country.
I also attended a function organised by the Korean Association of Social Scientists (KASS) held at Okryu restaurant. The food was excellent and the staff were very helpful. The next day I had a separate meeting with KASS professor Kim Chang Gyong.
We took part in many state functions and events, including a meeting with Kim Yong Nam, Chair of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly. For me, most memorable was the impromptu dinner and karaoke session organised by the Cultural Relations Committee. I amazed myself by participating in the karaoke after a beautiful waitress took my hand and led me on to the stage. I was greatly honoured to receive the Order of Friendship Second Class and also to win a prize in the International Literary contest.
Such a great atmosphere it was sad to leave

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