Inside North Korea – the human dimensionBy Asia Sentinel Dec 21, 2011 1:00PM UTC
With Kim now dead, what does his country look like? asks Asia Sentinel’s James Pringle
While visiting an ancient royal palace in Kaesong, north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, I was chatting to a pleasant young woman in uniform, who was my guide.
For a few minutes, my government ‘minder’ was out of earshot, and the woman leaned forward, and asked: “Do you know this?” She then sweetly hummed ‘Silent Night’ in a low voice. I was electrified. This was clearly a statement of dissent, if humming can be called that, to the North Korean regime.
I thought at that moment there was more to North Korea than met the eye.
Perhaps inspired by the militia guide, though I had not darkened the door of a church for years, being a long lapsed Presbyterian, I asked my minder, the inevitable Mr. Kim, if I might visit the Protestant church in Pyongyang ‘because on Sunday I wanted to pray to God.’
Eventually, he said yes, adding that, if I hadn’t put it the way I did, I wouldn’t have been permitted to go. I took two equally irreligious colleagues, and Kim went with us, as he did most of the time. In the church, a pastor, in reasonable English, read some passages from the Bible.
Then I asked him, to the incredulity of my colleagues, if he would say a prayer for us. I closed my eyes, although peeked to see Kim watching me carefully. Afterwards, he said “I see you really are a Christian.” I had won that round. But we had been able to see that there really was a Protestant church in Pyongyang, and probably the Catholic chapel they claimed was there too. There was no sign of a Korean congregation.