Namp'o Things to Do

  • Petrol Baked Clams - Adding Petrol
    Petrol Baked Clams - Adding Petrol
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  • Kim Jong-il Visits the West Sea Barrage
    Kim Jong-il Visits the West Sea Barrage
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  • Petrol Baked Clams - Clearly we liked them!
    Petrol Baked Clams - Clearly we liked...
    by wabat

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    And all they wanted was sex

    by wabat Updated Aug 23, 2014

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    No-one outside North Korea really knows how many people died in the 1994-2000 famine and estimates range from 240,000 and 3,500,000. The collapse of the Soviet Union left the country without its traditional external support, a series of droughts and floods lead to failed harvest after failed harvest and the centrally planned economic system failed so disaster resulted.

    So, what do you do when your country is going through a horrific famine and thousands of people are dying of starvation or hunger-related illnesses?

    You build a 46km long, 10 lane, highway between Pyongyang and Nampo, notwithstanding that a perfectly acceptable road already existed and that there really were no vehicles to drive on it.

    Western cynicism aside, our guide informed us, as we took the Young Hero Motorway back from Nampo to Pyongyang, that times were hard in the late 1990s because of the famine (caused by US sanctions, etc, etc) so the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, decided to build a highway with a view to kick-starting the economy and as a nation building exercise.

    The youth of North Korea volunteered to build the highway to show their allegiance to the Dear Leader and to advance his vision. Our guide explained how the youth did not seek to profit from this activity and “all they wanted was sex”.

    This was certainly not what we expected to hear and I was surprised that our, to now, demure and proper guide would be so forthright and utter such an expression.

    The whole bus broke out in laughter and the guide looked stunned and turned to our western guide, presumably for an explanation as to why we were all laughing. Seconds later she turned around, red faced, and tried again. This time being more careful with her pronunciation she explained that “ all they wanted was sacks so that the could carry building materials ….”.

    According to the Korean Central News Agency:

    “Kim Jong-il said that the young people are very admirable and he would like to seat all of them on cushions of gold and that a monument to the young builders should be erected to commemorate the large-scale motorway at the hard time.”

    Instead, the Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Kore, on 11 October 2000, issued a decree naming the Pyongyang-Nampo Motorway the “Young Hero Motorway.”

    The road took only two years to build – between 1998 and 2000 and today is little used (as it would have been then too). It is crumbling and falling apart with little evidence of any maintenance being carried out. Our 46 km trip back to Pyongyang from Nampo (with no traffic to contend with) took the best part of two hours.

    Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of the road – we were not supposed to anyway. The attached picture is copyright Business Insider Australia (Allure Media) with personal, non-commercial use of material permitted.


    This is my last review on Nampo. Thank you for reading my reviews. I hope you found them interesting, useful and/or both. Please do return to my Nampo introduction page and leave a comment if you wish. I appreciate your feedback.

    Young Hero Motorway
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    Try some petrol baked clams

    by wabat Updated Aug 23, 2014

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    It had been a long day but having finished dinner around 10pm there was still one more activity prior to calling it a day. It was time for some petrol baked clams.

    Petrol baked clams are exactly as the name suggests – clams cooked in petrol via a barbeque (bbq) process.

    Given that bbq business is man’s business in North Korea it was time for our main (female) guide to step aside and let our bus driver and our male guides take over.

    No Weber or other propriety branded bbqs here. The bus driver arrived with two manhole covers that were to serve as bbq plates. The plates were raised slightly off the ground and then covered in clams, tightly packed, opening side down, in such a way that they would not open wide on cooking – you will realise why this is important if you read on.

    Clams so arranged, petrol was doused on them from a plastic bottle and the whole thing set alight. As the flames weakened more petrol was added and so the process continued until our ‘chef’ adjudged the clams cooked after about five minutes. All this cooking was done outside my villa and under the headlights of our bus and with torches as there didn’t appear to be any outside lights to switch on, or maybe the power was off again – I can’t recall which.

    Ensuring that the clams didn’t open (upwards) while cooking was important for two reasons. One so that the clam meat did not catch light and get burnt to a cinder and two, to ensure that they didn’t fill up with, and taste of, petrol. Despite the care taken I was sure they would taste of petrol.

    I reckon I had about 20 clams, washed down with soju (distilled rice liquor) and vodka, and they were delicious. I didn’t detect the taste of petrol once though one or two others did. I think the petrol tasting ones (and there were very few – our chef was an expert) were from the outside where, presumably, the petrol did not fully burn off before the flame extinguished.

    This delicacy, over and above our included food fare, came with the price tag of 5 euro per person, a bargain.

    I recommend my reader refrains from petrol-baking of any kind except if under the supervision of an experienced North Korean.


    Now well fed and watered it was time for bed. The following morning we boarded our bus bound this time for Pyongyang via Nampo City where were joined the motorway for the final 46kms of our trip. Let me tell you about the Youth Hero Motorway and what those who built it wanted.

    Petrol Baked Clams - Adding Petrol Petrol Baked Clams - Adding Petrol Petrol Baked Clams - Setting them up for cooking Petrol Baked Clams - Nicely set up for cooking Petrol Baked Clams - Clearly we liked them!
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    West Sea Barrage and Museum

    by wabat Updated Aug 23, 2014

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    The 8km long, $4billion, West Sea Barrage across the mouth of the Taedong River was completed in 1986 to manage water levels in the Taedong River and alleviate irrigation and drinking water problems in the region. The exact location for the barrage was, we were told, personally selected by the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, – engineering, hydrology and geology being but a few of this great man’s limitless talents. Foreign critics of the project claim that the increase in the level of the river and resultant loss of arable land contributed to the severe famine conditions that the country experienced in the late 1980s and 1990s while others, fancifully, contend that it was constructed to stop foreign warships making their way up the river to Pyongyang.

    Clearly a major engineering feat for North Korea, the Government is keen that tourists see it (a classic example of socialist tourism) hence our long detour en route back to Pyongyang from the Demilitarised Zone (though we did also have a stop at the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities on the 2-3 hour journey to the barrage from the DMZ). Even former US President, Jimmy Carter, was taken here to view the barrage – by none other than Kim Il-sung himself. We had to make do with our government guides from the Korean International Travel Company (KITC).

    As it was, we were already running late after a very big day so it was around 5pm when we got to the barrage. As two ships were passing through (clearly ranking higher in the pecking order than us) we had to wait for well over an hour before we could pass the locks and cross the dam. While we were required to stay on the bus, and no photography was permitted, we did have a good view of the lock gates in operation and the ships passing though and out into the West, or Yellow, Sea. The lock gates area is indeed impressive and hosts three lock chambers, and 36 sluices, allowing the passage of ships of up to 50,000 tons. The photos attached were (legally) taken from the small museum located on the Nampo side of the locks.

    While we waited to get through, the guides were presented with a bit of a dilemma – the call of nature. A few of our group needed to go to the toilet! What was to be done? Toilets were situated through the locks and as a big ship was passing through one of the lock gates there was no way forward and they clearly couldn’t have tourists wandering around in this sensitive area. After some discussion between the guides and local workers a solution was found. Armed with torches, our needy tourists were escorted into the unlit bowels of a ship moored along side the road a couple of metres from the bus. After a bit of searching loo’s were found and everyone was relieved!

    Having finally passed the lock gates we called into the museum (located on P'i Do island, a small islet in the estuary) where, given the lateness of the hour (it was starting to get dark and we were still some way from our hotel), we spent only a short time. While we got to view the large picture of one of the Dear Leader’s (Kim Jong-il) visits to the barrage (he provided regular advice and guidance to the engineers and solved all their difficult construction issues) we didn’t get to see the (apparently amusing) video on how the courageous and loyal workers heroically built, in a tireless revolutionary spirit, the barrage in record time due to their love for the Great Leader and thinking only of the everlasting prosperity of the Fatherland. The museum contains a few fairly uninteresting models and lots of tributes to the Kims, all of which were trumped by the toilet facilities for those of us who didn’t venture in the bowels of the ship earlier on!

    On top of the museum building is a quite nice looking lighthouse/ monument resembling an anchor but, off course, everyone was more interested in getting photos of the barrage, which we were now permitted to take from the elevated location of the museum.

    On leaving the museum we made our way across the estuary atop the dam wall which also has a train track. It was now dark so we could not see the indomitable spirit of self sacrifice made by the military and civilian workers for the prosperity of the nation, apparently (according to our guide), evident in every part of the structure. The lack of light did not however prevent us noticing the distinct lack of traffic on the barrage, as per everywhere in the country. Interestingly there were lots of cyclists and pedestrians making the 8km journey across the barrage.

    For the poets among my readers, I will leave you with the official poem written for the barrage.

    ‘O shine for all centuries to come;
    Great monument of the 80's built
    By our design, our technique, our strength;
    The great creation made in our own way.
    Only a great leader
    A great party can conceive the idea.
    Only a great people can build you
    West Sea Barrage, the world's greatest.
    Rise high to symbolize the power of self-reliant Korea
    And tell and retell the everlasting achievement
    Of our Great Leader
    Forever and ever and ever.’


    Ok, enough I hear you say! Ok I say, lets move on to our accomodation for the night, the Ryonggang Hot Spring House

    West Sea Barrage - Locks and Slucies West Sea Barrage - Dam Wall with Road/Rail Link Kim Jong-il Visits the West Sea Barrage West Sea Barrage - Museum and Light West Sea Barrage - Sunset on the Yellow Sea
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    Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities - Part 3

    by wabat Updated Aug 23, 2014

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    Warning

    This review, in three parts, contains details and pictures related to the alleged mass murder of civilians and communist sympathisers in Sinchon by the US military in 1950. While I have deliberately not displayed images of the most graphic material on show in the museum some readers may still find this review and/or pictures attached disturbing. I am relaying what I saw and heard. It is one-sided in the extreme. If this is not for you please do not continue reading the review and continue with my West Sea Barrage Review.

    If you have not read Part 1 of this review I suggest you start with it, as it provides important background information.

    In Part 2 of this review I included images of some ‘historic' art work displayed in the museum to cover events and messages which the curators want to get across to visitors and for which actual photographs, artifacts and other evidential material is not available.

    The majority of exhibits in the museum are actual black and white photos of atrocities. The vast majority of these are extremely gruesome and certainly not for the faint hearted. I have attached two of the most mild photos on display (pictures 4 and 5), the more gruesome ones having been taken as/when the victims were killed. Those interested in exploring further should Google - 'Sinchon Massacre images'.

    Intermingled with the photographs are various belongings (pictures 2 and 3) of the deceased and guns and instruments of torture captured from the aggressors.

    In addition to covering the actual atrocities, a section of the museum is devoted to the popular resistance to the killings. This section includes photos of the People's Guerrillas (many of whom the US allegedly had assassinated), mass leaflets and newspaper articles.

    How do I sum up this place?

    While I found this museum very disturbing I was able to grin and bear it as I have sufficient knowledge and opportunity to put it into perspective. I know (or can ascertain) the other side of events, not portrayed here. Sadly, for North Koreans who visit the museum what they see and hear here is all they will see and hear on this subject.

    Awful though it is, I am glad I got to visit this museum, by far and away the most confronting stop on our tour, as it has added to my understanding of how the party faithful think and, to some degree, why they think as they do.


    Having savoured the 'delights' of this museum we continued our drive through the country side to the West Sea Barrage and Museum. Some fresh air was needed - do join me.

    Sinchon Museum - Our Guide (right) and Translator Sinchon Museum - Victim footwear Sinchon Museum - Victim belongings Sinchon Museum - Massacre Victims Sinchon Museum - Massacre Victims
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    Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities - Part 2

    by wabat Updated Aug 23, 2014

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    Warning

    This review, in three parts, contains details and pictures related to the alleged mass murder of civilians and communist sympathisers in Sinchon by the US military in 1950. While I have deliberately not displayed images of the most graphic material on show in the museum some readers may still find this review and/or pictures attached disturbing. I am relaying what I saw and heard. It is one-sided in the extreme. If this is not for you please do not continue reading the review and continue with my West Sea Barrage Review.

    If you have not read Part 1 of this review I suggest you start with it, as it provides important background information.

    While the museum contains roomfuls of tortuous black and white photographs and items belonging to the victims of, and aggressors in, the Sinchon Massacre (see Part 3 of this review) first hand evidence was not available for various events and messages which the museum’s curators wished to cover.

    These events and messages are covered via graphic ‘historic’ paintings, some of the less graphic of which I have attached to this part of my review. A common feature in these paintings is the depiction of US military officers smiling, laughing and taking photographs while they commit the heinous acts they are accused of committing.

    My first picture, actually from a diorama rather than a painting, recalls a specific incident when 2000 people were allegedly pushed to their deaths of the Sokdang Bridge in 1950. The other pictures are self-explanatory and really need no comment from me.


    Please continue to Part 3 of this review which covers photographs and other articles on display in the Museum.

    Sinchon Massacre - Sokdong Bridge Sinchon Massacre Sinchon Massacre Sinchon Massacre Sinchon Massacre
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    Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities - Part 1

    by wabat Updated Aug 23, 2014

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    Warning

    This review, in three parts, contains details and pictures related to the alleged mass murder of civilians and communist sympathisers in Sinchon by the US military in 1950. While I have deliberately not displayed images of the most graphic material on show in the museum some readers may still find this review and/or the pictures attached disturbing. I am relaying what I saw and heard. It is one-sided in the extreme. If this is not for you please do not continue reading the review and continue with my West Sea Barrage Review.

    Those who have read others of my North Korea pages will be aware of what North Korea thinks of the United States. Since 1866 when the US warship, the General Sherman, was destroyed and all its crew killed after it sailed up the Taedong River seeking to engage in trade with, and land missionaries in, the country against the expressed wishes of the Korean Imperial Court, the United States has been seen as the very devil incarnate. The US continues to be held responsible for everything negative in North Korea. Every opportunity to demean, belittle, humiliate and insult the US is availed of.

    This rather bland looking building (picture 1) in the small township of Sinchon, between Kaesong and Nampo, is home to the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities. The museum, opened in 1958, covers all alleged American war atrocities against the Korean people since 1866 but it is primarily focused on remembering those committed in Sinchon in 1950 (during the Korean War).

    Readers who have been to what is now called the War Remnants Museum (formally the Museum of American War Crimes) in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam will see some similarities here. While the worst images in Saigon (mild in themselves compared to what is on display here) are now covered from the view of more sensitive visitors no such sensitivities are catered for here. This museum is a no holds barred, non apologetic portrayal of US atrocities in Sinchon where 35,000 citizens were allegedly slaughtered by the US in the 52 days between 17 October and 7 December 1950.

    None of the signage is in English, but most of the exhibits really do not need interpretation. That said, a guide (some of them local Korean War survivors) accompanies visitors through each of the 15-20 small rooms and the external exhibits explaining in unambiguous language and explicit detail the US atrocities against the Korean people.

    A 2008 Korean Central News Agency article sums up, in a few sentences, what our guide relayed to us in great detail.

    “On display at the museum are evidences proving the bestial, vicious and cruel nature of the atrocities committed by the U.S. imperialists and class enemy in Sinchon County…………… and materials about the heroic struggle of the patriotic people. ………….during the {Korean}war the U.S. imperialists massacred at least 35,000 patriots and innocent people or a quarter of the population of the county by the most brutal methods. They tortured civilians in a savage manner, buried them alive, hung and burned them to death and drove nails into their heads.”

    While I like to portray sights (through pictures) exactly as I saw them I cannot do so here. A very large percentage of the pictures, artwork and other items on display are so gruesome that I could not post pictures here. Those interested can Google – 'Sinchon Massacre images'.

    There is no argument that large scale atrocities took place here and that some portion of these were carried out by US personnel. Both sides frequently violated the Geneva Convention. Outside sources hold that a portion of the atrocities were carried out by local rival factions and vigilantes and subsequently blamed on the US. Irrespective, and accepting that at least some dastardly deeds were committed by the US, the content of this museum and the verbal commentary provided go well beyond what is necessary to get the desired message across.

    The images attached to this part of my review depict:

    Picture one – The main museum building.

    Picture two – A mass grave holding the remains of over 5,600 victims of various Sinchon massacres. In addition to this mass grave there are two similar, though smaller, mounds close by holding the remains of 400 mothers and 102 children.

    Picture three - Over 900 people perished in this air-raid shelter when US soldiers allegedly poured petrol (gasoline) into the ventilation hole and ignited it. Other individually significant alleged atrocities (in addition to the Sokdong Bridge one depicted in Part 2 of this review) include 1,000 women thrown into the Sowon Reservoir, 600 thrown into in the Pogu Reservoir and 1,200 people forced into an icehouse and burned to death.

    Picture four– one of two large anti US murals on display outside the museum, one on either side of the main museum building

    Picture five – I came across this picture when I was researching for this review. It is a 1951 painting by Pablo Picasso entitled ‘Massacre in Korea’. The picture, which reminded me of one of Picasso’s other political paintings represented in Derry, UK (see my review The Museum of Free Derry, depicts, in Picasso style, the 1950 Sinchon Massacre and is seen as the artists direct criticism of American intervention in the Korean War. The original work can be seen in the Musee National Picasso in Paris.


    Please continue to Part 2 of this review which covers ‘historic' art work’ on display in the Museum.

    Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities Sinchon Museum - Mass Grave Sinchon Museum - Air-Raid Shelter Sinchon Museum - Anti US Mural
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    Chonsangri Cooperative Farm - Kim Il Sung's visits

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    This wall shows all the dates that Kim Il Sung visited this farm - 89 times in total to offer his special 'expertise'. We asked the guide, who was showing us around, what valuable contribution had he made but we didn't really get a straight answer back.

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    Chonsangri Cooperative Farm

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    On our way back to Pyongyang from Nampo, we stopped off at this cooperative farm but is more like a museum than a farm. We were met by another guide who showed us round a large building full of photos of Kim Il Sung's visits here and on other farms. There are even some lecterns from which he gave rousing speeches.

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    Nampo city

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    These are some photo's I took from the bus when we drove through Nampo City after visiting the West Sea Barrage. It's a pretty drab looking place made even more so by the rain. We didn't stop in the city at all but I don't think we really missed much.

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    West Sea Barrage Visitor's Centre

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    When we visited the West Sea Barrage, we first went to the Visitor's Centre which is located on top of a small islet called Pi Islet. Inside we watched a short film about its construction which began in 1981 and the film started in black and white before turning to colour after the first couple of years of the barrage's construction. Next, the guide at the Visitor's Centre explained the barrage's operations and key features via a large scale model of it. On the walls of the Visitor's Centre were pictures of both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il overseeing its construction plus some of the gifts presented to Kim Jung Il including a car presented by Hyundai.

    Model of barrage Guide explaining model Guide Black and white film Colour film

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    West Sea Barrage

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    This is probably the only sensible project to have been built under the 'Kim' regime. The West Sea Barrage is located 15km (9 miles) west of the city of Nampo and was built from 1981 to 1986. It is a huge, eight-kilometre-long system of dams, three lock chambers, and 36 sluices, allowing the passage of ships up to 50,000 tons. It closes the Taedong River off from the Yellow Sea in order to supply fresh drinking water and water for irrigation but cost 4 billion won. We visited it on a rather wet day and it does, indeed, look very impressive.

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    Country houses

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    These are some photo's I took of the country houses in the surrounding countryside around Nampo City as we made our way to the West Sea Barrage. Some are very simply whilst others are quite large with large windows at the front. More photo's can be found in one of my travelogues.

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    Surrounding countryside

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    These are some photo's I took of the surrounding countryside around Nampo City as we made our way to the West Sea Barrage. Lots of people were working in the rice paddy fields and other farmland where most of the work is done by hand. It was good to see some of the rural countryside of North Korea and as we passed by, young children would wave to us and so we waved back. More photo's can be found in one of my travelogues.

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    Youth Hero Highway

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    This is the 10-lane 42km Youth Hero Highway that runs between Pyongyang and Nampo with, of course, not much in the way of vehicles using it. I'm sure it was built to double as an emergency runway. It was built in the year 2000 by, as some reports I've read state, 50,000 young "volunteers" by hand as North Korea can't afford fuel to run machinery. Human rights campaigners have said that some of these "volunteers" were as young as 8 or 9 years old. Just think of this when you're riding along it in disbelief.

    Spot the traffic! Still spot anything? A checkpoint

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    Chonsangri Cooperative Farm - Vegetables

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 9, 2008

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    After visiting the 'museum' part of the farm, we went outside and were shown around some glasshouses and small plots of land growing vegetables and fruit.

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