Driving from Hamhung to Pujon County, North Korea – Part A
The main activity for our second day in the Hamhung area was a trip to an amazing stone river at Mount Okryon in Pujon County together with a look at some very special trees which played an important part in the fight to end Japanese colonial rule in Korea. In this review (in two parts) I will cover our bus trip from Hamhung to Pujon County, three hours each way, through some of the most scenic parts of North Korea, affording us glimpses of this scenery and views of everyday life in this rarely visited part of the North Korea.
After about twenty minutes we had passed through Hamhung city and on crossing the railway line which also linked Hamhung to Pujon (the main town that we would pass through) we started our journey north, through a gorgeous valley and along the Songch’on River before climbing up into the mountains. This part of a two part pictorial review of the trip will take us to the highest point of our drive, a lookout point about fifteen kilometres to the south of Pujon town. In Part B I will continue our journey to the entrance area for the stone river.
I want to point out that I have included a number of photographs in this review which possibly do not meet the guidelines for photography in North Korea – in particular the prohibition on taking photographs of anything which might portray the country in a bad light. The reason for this prohibition is not because North Korea does not admit there is poverty within the country or that life is hard for its citizens – it readily admits both – but it is because it feels that people (not necessarily those who take the photographs) misuse photographs, as propaganda material, to make things seem worse than they are. Also, North Koreans are a very proud people and only want to visitor to see and experience the best they have to offer.
I have thought long and hard about whether to include certain photographs here but have proceeded to include some of those I have included below, not to portray the country in a bad light but rather, by illustrating openly admitted shortcomings, to portray the resilience and dogged determination of a downtrodden people to overcome everything that much of the outside world and ‘the country’s internal situation’ can throw at it. Also, in reality, the photos I have included portray conditions or ways of life that are no worse than in numerous other developing countries and, ‘Yes’, I was not let see conditions which, in all likelihood, are much worse than anything I have included here.
I will leave my reader to draw their own conclusion as to whether ‘the country’s internal situation’ means (a) a despotic Leadership which does not care about its own people, or (b) a Leadership which is forced to divert scare funds to military expenditure (including building a nuclear arsenal) to protect itself and its citizens and a Leadership which is unable to develop the country (and cope with otherwise manageable natural disasters such as floods and droughts) due to this diversion of funds and strangling US led sanctions which have been in force, at one level or another, for decades, or (c) something in between these two extremes.
In Part B of this review I will share with you the views from the lookout and move on to the Stone River via Pujon township.