Warning: this video is graphic and is most likely going to make you lose your appetite — or any desire for a glass of rice wine.
A recent video from VICE documents the making of Korean Children’s Feces Wine which is, alarmingly, a real thing. With real feces. The wine is a traditional treatment that’s nearly obsolete in modern Korean medicine. But VICE found a doctor who still believes in the wine’s health benefits and makes it himself. In order to make the drink, a child’s feces has to be procured through an “open-minded” mother, as the doctor explains in the video.
I can’t help but think about the urine-marinated eggs sold in Dongyang, China; the fact that some people eat foreskin; and all the other gross and weird food from around the world. All of these stories have made me completely against trying any food if I don’t know what’s in it. I had the unfortunate timing of watching this video while eating my lunch. Be sure you don’t repeat my mistake.
It’s one of the most popular attractions in Pyongyang, North Korea, and with a new coat of paint it’s ready to attract more admiring crowds for a brainwashing display of jingoism.
The USS Pueblo is a U.S. Navy spy ship captured by the North Korean Navy in 1968. While on an intelligence gathering mission in the Sea of Japan to check out the activities of North Korea and the Soviet Union, the ship was attacked by several North Korean vessels and two jets. Two of her crew were killed before the captain surrendered. The survivors spent eleven months in prison and were subjected to physical and psychological torture.
Despite this, they were defiant. When posed for propaganda photos they subtly gave the photographer the finger. When the North Koreans discovered what this meant, the torture got worse.
North Korea insisted the ship was in its waters, while the U.S. said it stayed in international waters. The U.S. had to finally admit “fault” in order to get the crew’s release, and then immediately retracted that admission.
Today the USS Pueblo is still in North Korea. It’s been a propaganda piece for some time and is moored next to the Fatherland War of Liberation Museum, where it receives a steady stream of North Korean visitors and a few foreign tours. Now the Japan Times reports it’s been repainted and restored along with the rest of the museum. Presumably the damage caused by North Korean guns was left intact, as that was a star attraction. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presided over the ribbon cutting ceremony.
According to a declassified report obtained by South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo, the naval city of Wonsan is being developed into a tourist resort. It current hosts a naval base and numerous heavy industry factories, but has apparently long been a favorite holiday destination of the ruling Kim family.
Viewed in the context of other wacky and nonsensical North Korean projects, building a beach resort in a polluted, industrialized and militarized bay seems about par for the course. But contrary to the perceived isolation of the country, North Korea does welcome several thousand tourists every year, and the Kim regime is certainly aware of the financial incentives of increased tourism. Only a few weeks ago did the country open up a city on the border with China to Western visitors.
But North Korea isn’t going to replace Cancun anytime soon. The development project seems to be stuck while the country seeks $1 million of international investment, which will almost certainly run afoul of current UN sanctions.
In the caption for this image, Mike describes something he found in his travels, has searched for elsewhere and had limited luck finding.
“Famous in Korea is the fruit called Hallabong. Seemingly a Japanese development called the Dekopan, the Koreans have adopted it and claimed it for themselves … sweet, much sweeter than most citrus, and a truly delicious fruit. I’ve not seen them in Australia yet, but … they can be found in the US.”
Have you ever done that? I did the same thing in the past. Then one day I realized that trying to bring home some of that experience is not nearly as good as being there. That I can only get them there fuels one more reason to return.
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It was a hot, sticky day in North Korea as we trudged up the steep hill on Tongil Street to gaze upon yet another massive, gilded statue of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. We were in the industrial city of Kaesong, only miles from the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. The city bears the signature architecture of the DPRK: broad boulevards leading up to the city’s high point, the pinnacle of which is decorated with the massive gold monument.
Although Korea is an ancient country with roots over 4,000 years old, a visit to the North focuses on the iconography of the modern era, monuments and museums propping up the cult of personality related to the dynasty started by Kim Il Sung, passed on to his son Kim Jong Il, and now perpetuated by Kim Jong Un. But that regime has been in place for only 75 years, the blink of an eye in the Korean peninsula’s long history. Surely there was something else to see?
Fortunately, relief was only a few miles away. From 918 to 1392, Kaesong was the capital of Korea and the home of the Koryo Dynasty, whence modern-day Korea gets its name. We boarded a bus and headed to the countryside to visit royal tombs from that era. The city’s haze melted away as we drove through winding rural roads that were surrounded by verdant rice paddies; farmers hunched over tending to their crops as ever-present soldiers on patrol strode nearby.
After climbing a narrow path that barely clung to the hillside, we pulled up to the Hyonjongrung royal tombs, the 14th-century burial site for King Kongmin and Queen Noguk. The site is remarkably unscathed despite the intense bombing and artillery fire that targeted the region during the Korean War. The tombs typify burial architecture of the era, two large grass-covered mounds perched on a hilltop with a commanding view over the valley below.
We hiked up several flights of steps to the tombs, passing stone statues of men wearing robes and traditional hats. They are the king’s advisors, there to provide guidance forever. Seven-ton stone slabs mark the entranceway to each tomb. Gray stone statues of tigers and lambs, representing strength and compassion, guard the tombs in perpetuity.
Our guide, Mrs. Lee, was proud of her country’s long history, but in a country like North Korea, current events usually cast a long shadow over the past.
“These tombs represent a time when Korea was one country. But as you can see, it is now divided. One wonders whose fault that is?” Mrs. Lee intoned, giving the official government line that the United States and its South Korean “lackeys” are preventing the reunification of the two Koreas.
Despite the message, it was refreshing to view a historic site in North Korea that truly was historic, not something manufactured after the rise of Kim Il Sung. Similar tombs on the South Korean side of the DMZ have been recognized by UNSESCO as World Heritage sites, but such attention is not forthcoming anytime soon for these tombs in the North. The flip side is that the North Korean sites are unblemished by mass tourism and can be experienced in this pristine ancient setting.
Unfortunately, the interiors of the tombs were plundered by Japanese troops during their early 20th-century occupation of Korea. However, some relics were saved and are now preserved at the Koryo Museum in Kaesong. Housed in a former Confucian Academy that trained the children of nobility, it displays relics of the Koryo Dynasty that include several royal tombs and statues. The museum is set in a green oasis, slightly removed from the city; pride of place is given to two 500-year-old gingko trees, which are much revered as a link to the past.
The docent, Mrs. Park, walked us through the histories of the various rulers in a rote, methodical fashion. Her demeanor was somewhat dour until Larissa noticed the bright turquoise pumps she was wearing and asked her about them. The shoes were a Technicolor beacon in a gray country. Mrs. Park lit up as she and Larissa traded shoe stories. This display of “shoe diplomacy” broke down some of the built-up barriers between a North Korean and an American. If only their respective governments could get along so easily.
Outside one of the temples we watched a wedding couple as they posed for their official photos, the bride resplendent in a traditional Korean choson ot dress in a scarlet red fabric, while the groom wore a Western gray suit and the slightly dazed expression exhibited by grooms everywhere on their wedding day. In a country where so much madness occurs, these were refreshing signs of normalcy.
As we saw at Kaesong, the Korean peninsula has been ruled by centuries-long dynasties. We drove out of town and passed once more under the shadow of the foreboding statue of Kim Il Sung. One wonders if that icon will still be standing and venerated centuries from now.
Larissa and Michael Milne chucked it all to travel around the world for a year. You can follow their journey and pick up travel tips at their site.