Nampo (or Namp’o), having started out life as a small fishing village, is now North Korea’s most important industrial and port city. It is located about 50 kms to the south west of Pyongyang and 15km from the mouth of the Taedong River.
Its major industries include shipbuilding, truck/tractor manufacture, smelting, glass manufacture and all other types of heavy engineering, together with the manufacture of all sorts of (well those necessary) consumer produce for the local market. Many of the factories here are joint ventures with Chinese companies. The city is also home to a number of universities and other vocationally orientated higher learning institutes.
Nampo benefited greatly from the construction of the West Sea Barrage, an 8km long sea wall across the mouth of the Taedong River with three lock gates permitting access for ships of up to 50,000 tons. The Barrage’s construction solved drinking water problems and irrigation issues for a wide area and provides control over the level of the Taedong River. Some observers think otherwise – see my relevant review. The majority of North Korea’s on again, off again, foreign aid shipments come into the country via Nampo.
Occasionally tours include a visit to a factory or the large orphanage here but I have yet to see or hear of any stops in the city centre, let alone walks in the street. We were advised that it was not possible to visit a factory or the orphanage while we were here and, in any case, our schedule would not have permitted it, time-wise. We had to get back to Pyongyang as today was the 102nd anniversary of the birth of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, and the people of Pyongyang awaited us, so that the party could begin!
Not having any official business in Nampo, we passed through the city at relatively high speed lest we see anything too closely. That said, I did notice something!
In what would normally be a dull, drab and colourless city I came across two sources of colour.
Firstly there were flowers (I can’t believe I am writing this, but it is amazing the things you notice in North Korea), mainly red geraniums, adoring the balconies of the otherwise faded and ugly Soviet era apartment blocks. Interestingly, similar apartments in Pyongyang went flowerless so, perhaps, these flowers normally reside inside here in Nampo but were put outside today in celebration of the Great Leader’s birthday?
Secondly, today additional colour was provided in the form of groups of women dressed in colourful traditional dresses ( Chosŏn–ot), carrying bouquets of equally colourful flowers. These women were en route to statues of, and other memorabilia connected with, the Great Leader where the flowers would be deposited to mark their respect for the Great Leader on this his birthday. As Eternal President of the DPRK, Kim Il-sung continues to live, at least in the hearts and minds of the people. We would see his mortal remains later in Pyongyang.
Why were we here?
The primary purpose of our visit south of Pyongyang (3 days / 2 nights) was to visit the Demiliterised Zone (DMZ), down the centre of which runs the border with South Korea.
While we could have gone back to Pyongyang directly from the DMZ, we didn’t.
It was necessary that we see the West Sea Barrage, experience a ‘resort’ type hotel and sample a regional delicacy – petrol baked clams.
En-route from DMZ to the West Sea Barrage we could not resist the temptation to remind ourselves of the wickedness of the United States lest any of us had forgotten on the two or so hours bus journey to the bluntly named “Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities”.
As these sights are scattered around the Nampo region and are visited together I have put them on a Nampo page notwithstanding that we merely passed though the city without stopping.
This blog entry is the first in a group (loop) of reviews on Nampo in North Korea which I recommend you read in a particular order starting with my next entry – The Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities.