Trouble at the Border

Before the Joint Security Area at the Korean Demilitarized Zone is a slate of marble – an ostentatious memorial that commemorates the Eternal Leader’s visit to the buffer zone. It’s decorated with a number of stone Kimilsungia flowers (yes, Kimilsungia flowers) and features a massive inscription of Kim Il Sung’s signature the size of his ego.

There was a European traveler in our small group from one of those Scandinavian countries. I can’t recall which one as they all tend to look alike to me. He pulled out a tissue to temporarily relieve himself of the stuffiness that bothered him throughout our little excursion to the border. He stuffed the used rag in his back pocket.

Ms. Kim motioned us to move along but I lingered behind. I wanted an unobstructed view of the marble for a photograph. Before I could position the viewfinder to my eye, I saw the tissue. It was on the ground, resting in front of Kim Il Sung’s handwriting. It had fallen out of the Scandinavian’s pocket.

There were two North Korean soldiers that accompanied our group, appropriate supervision considering the tense environment in which we were in.

The senior of the two saw the litter on the group and erupted in a fit of disciplined fury.

“Look at this piece of shit foreigner, blowing his nose in front of our Dear Leader’s monument and leaving his trash behind. The nerve he has!” he shouted in Korean.

It was funny to see at the end of our tour, the Scandinavian pleading with the same soldiers for a photograph together, not knowing why they were so short with him.

If he only knew what they said about him only moments before.

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