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[World News] “If South Korea Were Disney Land, North Korea Might Be Gorky Park”

[World News] “If South Korea Were Disney Land, North Korea Might Be Gorky Park”

Posted September. 02, 2005 07:16,   


“That was pretty much like the difference between Gorky Park and Disney Land.”

This was a comment by Anatoli Shamonin (44), who traveled concurrently to North and South Korea from August 10 to 28 through the first tourist trip connecting the two Koreas jointly prepared by the Moscow branch of the Korea Tourism Organization (branch manager: Park Byung-jik) and its Russian counterpart, Terra Tour.

Gorky Park is a former Soviet Union-style theme park located in Moscow. By this comment, he meant that North Korea reminded him of Soviet society back in the 1950s. With their only daughter, Lena (16), who is about to enter the Philosophy Department of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN) in Moscow, the Shamonins finished an 18-day journey from Moscow through Vladivostok, North Korea, Vladivostok and South Korea to Moscow. The tourist trip was priced at 3,720 dollars per person, costing the family of three a total 12,000 dollars. Because there was no direct flight between Moscow and Pyongyang, they had to pass through Vladivostok multiple times as going directly from North Korea to the South was impossible.

Nevertheless, the Shamonins, who run a brick factory, willingly went on the trip. For the travel-loving family members who have so far visited more than 60 countries, the Korean peninsula was somewhere they definitely wanted to visit. North Korea, in particular, was an “unknown world” that has been hard to visit even for people from its former ally, Russia.

“The trip to South Korea was very much like those to Europe and the United States, so there was nothing much new. We found North Korea more interesting,” said Shamonin. He added that the most important things were seeing North Korea’s National Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong Il in person, though from a distance, at the 60th anniversary of the Liberation held in Pyongyang during his stay, visiting the grave of late North Korean President Kim Il Sung, and going to Panmunjom from both the South and the North.

His wife, Anya (44), said she was “surprised that South and North Korea are so different in terms of their living standards and lifestyles, even though they are the same nation and are neighboring each other.” The Shamonins talked about downtown Pyongyang, where large-scale student-mobilizing mass games of the Stalin era are still held, saying that they “felt like we were some 25 years younger, as if we went back to the Soviet Union we experienced as kids.”

Lena, who said she had been interested in North Korea’s Juche (Korean expression meaning ‘autonomy’) Ideology, smiled when she said, “I found out that ironically, South Koreans are rather more ‘autonomous’ than North Koreans, who lack self-reliance and are stiff.”

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.co