Yesterday, I went to Kaesong in North Korea. I have no evidence that I visited North Korea; no visa, passport stamp, tourist card or photos that you wouldn’t find outside a tourist pamphlet.

I only have insight and words. Eights hours may sound a short time, but to someone who lives in freedom, it’s an oppressively long time.

Kaesong is North Korea’s southern most city, an ancient capital of the once unified Korea. A city full of historic relics; and crumbling buildings. Historically Kaesong was a city for learned scholars, religion and I guess wealth. In an odd way it probably still is compared with other places in North Korea. But to the outsider, it’s a city of worn out buildings, dirt laden paths, bicycles, and an eery quiet. Kaesong has to be the epitomy of a poverty stricken communist country.

The last time I experienced communism on this scale was Yugoslavia (a long time ago). When I went through Kaesong, the images of rural towns in Yugoslavia came flooding back. A patina of sadness, an era of dilapidation, all in the name of paranoic-communism.

Kaesong has potential

Surrounding the town there is beauty, peaceful, non-industrial, smogfree beauty. The small mountains and rocky outcrops are smothered in forest, which I could picture as being gloriously colourful in autumn, and lush in summer.

There are also waterfalls and mountain paths that have potential, that is, if the country opened up. Being on a strictly controlled (escorted) tour group from South Korea, I was taken to one of the region’s famous waterfalls -Bakyeon.

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  • Cate Dowman

    Like many people I'm an amateur discoverer, explorer, a person with an appetite for travel and good coffee. I've spent some tim…

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