This is Part B of my review on my bus trip from Hamhung to Pujon County, through some of the most scenic parts of North Korea, affording us glimpses of this scenery and of everyday life in this rarely visited part of the country. If you have not read
Part A then I suggest you do so, particularly as it includes a commentary on why I have chosen to publish a number of photographs which are possibly in contravention of North Korean rules on photography.
This part of my review takes us to the highest point of our drive, a lookout point about fifteen kilometres to the south of Pujon town to the entrance area for the stone river, our destination for this trip upon which I will write in a seperate review.
View from lookout down to the valley we came up from Hamhung en route to Pujon County
Early autumn colours
The most common form of public transport in country areas. These trucks are regularly used by both civilians and the army leading some to suggest a shortage of army transport. I suspect it is more an issue of lack of fuel but it should also be remembered that North Korean soldiers are ‘soldier builders’ and, as such, are engaged in all manner of activity normally undertaken by civilians in other countries. As such, it makes sense that small groups of soldiers engaged in such activity use civilian transport.
Just when you think you are all alone in the middle of nowhere a group of workers or youth league members appear from nowhere and march by. One of those ‘only in North Korea’ moments. While they look like military personnel they are not. It is quite common, throughout the country, for work/youth groups to dress in khaki attire and march around in military style formation.
Moving on from the lookout towards Pujon we are reminded that Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are never far away!
Rural railway line. Note that this remote line is electrified. The majority of track in North Korea is electrified due to there being a lack of diesel to run the railway system. North Korea has a number of hydro-electric stations but they too are insufficient to supply the country’s electricity needs and outages, especially outside Pyongyang, are common place. The railway system is notoriously slow (outside the Pyongyang – Sinuiji/Dandong – Beijing line – which generally runs on time) due to power outages and other breakdowns – so much so that the timetable for the line connecting through to Russia via the east coast builds in an extra day for delays.
Entrance to a co-operative farm. All farms are required to meet quotas and submit a portion of their production to the government which then reallocates the food to urban regions and other non farming areas under the country’s Public Distribution System (PDS). The PDS system failed miserably during the 1990s famine with the result that a certain ‘leakage’ of output was, and still is, permitted for distribution in private markets.
High country small farm holding. The same rules as detailed above under co-operative farms apply to these farms – the land and buildings of which would still be owned by the State.
Bus station on the outskirts of Pujon town.
Picture on left – Wooden shingle (tile) roofs are common in country North Korea. I am not sure which came first on this house – the wooden shingles or terracotta tiles. In the right hand side picture, while the wooden ‘poles’ look like electric or telegraph poles they are in fact wooden chimneys, connected with the commonly installed ondal or underground heating system. I was able to experience this very efficient heating system at the Kaesong Folk Custom Hotel.
Picture on the left – Typical general store, noting the lack of window displays or other advertising. This one has a larger name than most. Picture on the right – I am not sure what the tower is for though it looks like a watchtower. Given the presence of the display board of the type used to let people (perhaps farmers here) know the extent to which work targets have been met I can conclude that the building is an official building as opposed to a private residence.
Lest my reader think that there are no propaganda posters in smaller regional towns I can confirm that there are, and lots of them. Here the top poster is an heroic North Korean soldier smashing lily-livered American soldiers, (fuzzy in the bottom left of the poster). Posters, billboards, statues of the leaders, etc are found throughout the country though I did feel there were less on farmland here than in other parts of the country I visited.
I have included this photograph because it shows (though hard to see) a mural which depicts only Mother Kim Jong-suk – Kim Il-sung’s wife and mother to Kim jong-il. Again, fear not there are larger murals (one of the standard designs seen everywhere) just around the corner from this one in Pujon.
Farmer herding his sheep and cattle along the small river passing through Pujon
Coming into Pujon on business – certainly not dropping into town for a coffee or some window shopping!
High country grazing land outside Pujon
Traditional style farming village between Pujon and the stone river (Mount Okryon). Note the fenced in cabbage patch, fenced to protect it from straying animals.
More modern chalet style farming village between Pujon and the stone river (Mount Okryon).
On the home stretch to the stone river (Mount Okryon).
My next North Korea – Hamhung review HERE
Return to the beginning of my North Korea (2018) – Hamhung reviews – HERE