Early wake up call, electric shocks from the lift and then breakfast as usual. Today we are heading to Nampo on the west coast of North Korea to see the West Sea Barrage, a dam project intended to raise the level of the Taedong river improving irrigation and allowing for larger shipping. In reality it ended up submerging valuable farmland leading to famine across the country which is speculated to have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. This is not acknowledge within North Korea and the barrage is still celebrated as a triumph of construction by the country. If you’re interested in a detailed history of North Korea, and how it came to be, the best book I have found by far is Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. The quality, and quantity, of information available within is second to none.

Before heading onto the highway to Nampo we stopped by the Public Library just off Kim Il-sung square to see some of the classes there and take in the views from the roof. We were shown to a counter with a little conveyor belt that protruded from wall behind, they claimed that they stocked almost every book in existence, a member of our group quickly asked whether or not they stocked George Orwell’s 1984, they said that they did although we weren’t actually shown any books except for a couple that were already on the counter.

Next we were taken up a lift, with a smartly dressed lady attending it, and shown around several study rooms and class rooms. First was a large room filled with a grid of desks all pointing to the front where a pair of portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il took pride of place on the wall. We were then told the story of how Kim Il-sung visited this building and sat at one of the desks and exclaimed that it was not comfortable to work at. He then personally set about the creation of a desk with an adjustable top allowing the user to study in comfort. I’d heard this story before visiting as many people write about it due to the grandiose way that such a mundane invention is treated.

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