Mount Kumgang, North Korea (UPI) Oct 03, 2005
A visit to North Korea's Mount Kumgang or Diamond, gives South Korean visitors a rare view at the fabled valley in the peninsula's most scenic mountain on the east coast.
The journey across the Demilitarized Zone, no-man's land dividing the two Koreas, also offers a public view of the North-South division.
In addition, it is a visit for South Koreans to learn how pervasive a personality cult in North Korea and why the regime reacts emotionally to criticism on its leader Kim Jong Il and his family, which enjoys royal treatment.
The intense personality cult is evident in every corner of the mountain -- from slogans cut into the rock face to the lips of North Korean tour guides.
Huge granite cliffs were engraved with honorific expressions for Kim Jong Il and his father and national founder Kim Il Sung, terms written by them, or slogans calling for people's loyalty to the regime.
"Long live Suryong (top leader) Kim Il Sung, who has sacrificed his lifetime to bring happiness to us," read a red-and-white slogan carved into a five-meter-high rock in the entrance of Nine Dragons Valley. It was made in 1974 to mark Kim's April 15 birthday.
"Let's devote our lives for Suryong Kim Il Sung," read another erected on his birthday in 1972. Kim died in July 1994 at age 82 after ruling the country from 1948.
"Mount Kumgang is really the national spirit of Korea," read Kim Jong Il's autography cut into a three-meter-high granite cliff. "Kim Jong Il, born to be a great general," other rock face read.
Such propaganda rocks are scattered over major mountains in North Korea. In a rock on Mount Kuwol carved with the two-letter term, each of the letter is 9 meters high and 8 meters wide and is carved in to the rock 70 centimeters deep, according to the North's publications.
The trekking routes were dotted with monuments and granite slabs decorated by fresh flowers celebrating the "historic" visits by Kim Il Sung and his family. Monuments were built at spots where Kim made comments and drank spring water.
Another was erected at mark the spot where Kim's "faithful" wife, Kim Jong Suk, had to give up the rest of her hike to "prepare lunch for the Great Leader." North Korean minders posted along the trekking route up the mountain to care for the stone monuments.
The minders, called "environmental rangers," and tour guides, believed to be propagandists, wearing a red badge of the late Kim Il Sung were ready to praise their leaders to South Korean tourists.
They approached a group of tourists to say how strong their country is under Kim Jong Il's "brilliant leadership," in a bid to extend the cult worship campaigns to South Koreans.
"We are thoroughly united under General Kim Jong Il. We are ready to do everything only if the General places an order," Kim Un Chol, North Korean rescue worker, told a group of South Korean tourists on a steep stairway to a mountaintop.
"I am sure there is no country like our republic." Beside them, a female guide hummed a song, "precious fatherland," swearing public loyalty to the communist regime.
The environmental rangers also monitor behaviors of South Korean visitors. Heavy fines are immediately handed out if South Korean visitors point their finger at the portraits of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. In addition, they were forced to write a long letter of apology, according to South Korean tour conductors.
When using the names of the North Korean leaders, South Korean visitors are forced to use their honorific titles. For example, it should be General Kim Jong Il or President Kim Il Sung.
In the Samil-po coastal lake close to the mountain, a North Korean female guide said, "This is historic place Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung visited with his wife Kim Jong Suk."
"Let's get together again when the fatherland is unified," she told the South Korean visitors. "If and when the fatherland is unified, you can enjoy a panoramic view here everyday," she said.
Along with the road that link tourist buses to the mountain resort, huge billboards stand calling for national reunification and compliance with the North's ruling ideal of juche, self-reliance or self-identity, apparently blaming the South's dependence on the United States.
In front of the Kumgangsan Hotel where most South Korean visitors stay, a huge billboard stands, saying: "Long Live General Kim Jong-Il, the Sun of the 21st Century."
Beside it, a huge monument picture stands, which features Kim Il-Sung surrounded by a group of children. Every early morning, two girls clad in clean hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, place fresh flowers on alter in front of the monument.
Tourist impressions suggest that North Korea, even though it has economically benefited from the South through the tour program, wants to demonstrate its political philosophy to the Southern visitors. North Korea opened this scenic enclave to South Korean tourists in 1998 in return for badly needed cash.
But the North's intense propaganda activities indicated its fear that the opening of the mountain to South Korean tourists may weaken the regime grip over North Koreans.
Isolating its people from outside information is vital to the cult worship in the North. Influx of outside information could damage the decades-long cult worship, which has played a key role in keeping the troubles country afloat, despite the global collapse of communism.
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N.Korea Mountain Tour Popular In S.Korea
Kosong, North Korea (UPI) Oct 03, 2005
Han In-kyu, a 70-year-old resident of Seoul, and his family had to wait for more than a month to get tickets for popular tours to North Korea's scenic Mount Kumgang.
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