Having checked into our hotel there were a couple of hours before dinner so it was determined that this would be spent in the Folk Park across the road from the hotel.
The park comprises a fairly narrow strip of land between the railway line and National Route 1 and runs from Kim Il-sung Square to the Eternal Life monument a distance of less than a kilometre though we didn’t cover the entire length on either of two visits to the park.
Laid out in the 1950s and little modernised since, the park is pleasant enough for a stroll, a picnic or some exercise and, indeed, this is what the local people use it for. Its ample grass area is punctuated with flowers, shrubbery, rock features, a look-out, rudimentary exercise equipment, swings and concrete sculptures of animals and story book characters. I guess the latter accounts for its designation as a ‘folk park’.
Perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t come across any pictures or sculptures of or monuments to Kim Il-sung or his descendants and not a note of piped revolutionary music could be heard. Not a bit of Kimobelia (I just invented that word!) in sight. To be fair, we encountered none of this when we visited the Moranbong Youth Park in Pyongyang either (outside that was brought in and supplied by visitors who were celebrating the Eternal President’s 102nd birthday on the day we visited there). All in all, this is a very pleasant park were people come to enjoy a bit of time and its presence adds a bit of greenery and colour to an otherwise pretty drab frontier city.
While photography was generally permitted in the park we were specifically asked not to photograph workers who, during our visit, were sweeping, weeding and manually planting grass, strand by strand, close to the entrance we used. Our guides indicated that the workers were shy and didn’t like their photos being taken – easier to say than the fact that photography of people going about their normal work is on the taboo list in North Korea.
While on photography, the rules around the taking of photos in Sinuiju were more strictly enforced than elsewhere. This may have been due to the particular guides we had here or perhaps stricter official policy for this city, only opened to western tourists for less than a year. In any event, as we now had two guides and a driver for two people as opposed to for 18 people we were obviously more closely monitored. Added to this was the fact that we didn’t want to provoke a full check of all our photos on departure the following day so we complied with official photography rules while here – ok, 99% complied, as my last photo attached is probably non compliant!
In addition to the visitors engaging in activities mentioned above, this park is also heavily frequented by newlyweds. The pre-nocturnal habits of newlyweds in North Korea is worthy a separate review which I have entitled just that – Pre-nocturnal habits of newlyweds in North Korea.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my trip to Sinuiju, North Korea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Pre-nocturnal habits of newlyweds in North Korea – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – In North Korea – On the Border with China.