The North Korean defector Je Son Lee wrote in NK News: “Though the country doesn’t have an official religion, most people strongly believe in superstition. The North Korean government doesn’t officially allow this but people still seek to meet fortunetellers secretly. When your fortuneteller tells you that things aren’t going your way because your dead ancestors have been buried in ominous places, you’ll want to move the dead body to a different spot. [Source: Je Son Lee,NK News, September 28, 2015]

Sometimes North Korea broadcasts mysterious numbers. It is is not known what they mean, perhaps they are special messages to spies or commandos, or maybe something related to auspicious numbers. In 2017, UPI reported. North Korea has continued to broadcast a series of cryptic numbers in January, Yonhap news agency reported. Numbers aired by North Korea radio station Pyongyang Broadcasting, intended for the "No. 27 exploration team," resumed on Friday. The numbers that were broadcast on Friday were identical to those aired on Jan. 13, according to Yonhap. [Source: Elizabeth Shim, UPI, January 27, 2017]

Elizabeth Shim of UPI wrote: “Soliciting fortunetellers and other forms of superstitious practices are illegal in North Korea, according to penal code 256. North Korea law punishes such acts with a maximum one-year prison sentence at a labor camp, or a maximum of three years at a reeducation camp. [Source: Elizabeth Shim, UPI, October 5, 2016]

Fortunetellers in North Korea

Though fortunetelling is officially banned by some estimates it is widely practiced in North Korea. There are reportedly many fortunetellers and shaman in there. Many of them are said to be housewives in their 50s and 60s who have turned palm-reading to bring income for their families. Customers commonly pay with clean, crisp bank notes.

New Focus International, reported: “Ms. Ji is a North Korean refugee who arrived in South Korea” in November 2015. She told us, “When Kim Jong Un came to power, he repeated the declaration that ‘fortune telling and superstitious beliefs are toxins that damage society and human beings. We were given lectures saying that these reactionary beliefs were allowed to circulate in South Korea and other capitalist countries, and that it deteriorated the health of people’s minds and held their progress back,” she said. [Source: New Focus International, May 2, 2016]

“According to conversations with other refugees, a fortune telling consultation in North Korea begins with prior research into who might provide a reliable reading for the occasion, and an appointment must be set up in advance. Between midnight and three in the morning is regarded as the best time, because it is believed that the air is clearer at night and the mind has become cleansed of the day’s activities for better discerning the future.”

High-Level North Korean Officials Seek Fortunetellers’ Advice

In 2016, Elizabeth Shim of UPI wrote: “Faced with tough choices, more senior North Korean officials may be visiting fortunetellers to identify what they think is important information: an auspicious date to permanently leave the country. A source in North Korea's Yanggang Province told South Korean news service Daily NK that senior officials in the region seek solace in advice from soothsayers, although acts involving superstition are illegal in the country. "The number of officials engaging in superstitious practice, in order to inquire about defections, is quietly on the rise," the source said. "Due to pressures of being possibly purged if they are unable to carry out the commands of the central authority, they are turning to fortunetellers for answers." [Source: Elizabeth Shim, UPI, October 5, 2016]

“A soothsayer with a good reputation is often inundated with officials who seek advice, the source said. Officials ask about their prospects for promotion, but they are also concerned about their chances of a successful defection, the source said, adding seeking such advice has become a "regular event."

“But requesting a professional fortuneteller's advice on defecting comes with a hefty pricetag. While answers on issues such as personal health or marriage prospects cost about 10,000 North Korean won, advice on defecting runs much higher, and requires a payment of about 600,000 won, according to the source. There is no official exchange rate between the North Korean won and the U.S. dollar, but unofficial estimates state 7,900-8,000 won is equivalent to US$1. In a country where about 2 pounds of rice costs 5,000 won, a fee of 600,000 won is the equivalent of about 240 pounds of rice, according to the report.”

New Focus International, reported, “in Hyesan of Yangang Province, a core official of Hyesan City Party Committee was accused of having consulted a fortune teller, according to local sources. He had reportedly paid US$500 to consult a fortune teller living in the city’s Wiyeon district. The fees for such appointments are not generally affordable by ordinary citizens. Ms. Ji told us, “Despite what the party says, officials keep superstitious beliefs. Although they tell us to trust only the Workers’ Party, they spend money on bangto rituals [a form of folk exorcism for securing an auspicious future].” According to New Focus’ correspondent, “With executions of party officials increasing in the last few years, people no longer consider these as ‘safe’ jobs. It’s different from when people tried to secure them even at the expense of paying large bribes. It’s not surprising that anxious officials will seek out a fortune teller.” [Source: New Focus International, May 2, 2016]

North Korea Cracks Down on Fortunetellers with Doomsday Prophecies

Elizabeth Shim of UPI wrote: “North Korea is conducting purges of fortunetellers and others who engage in superstitious activity. People engaged in fortunetelling are the target of arrests because of their predictions of the state's future, Radio Free Asia reported. Faced with tough choices in their impoverished country, more North Koreans, including senior officials, rely on soothsayers to identify important information for their future. But as their influence grows, North Korean fortunetellers are being taken into state custody. [Source: Elizabeth Shim, UPI, October 25, 2016]

“Soothsayers have said in 2017 North Korea may wage a nuclear war, another natural disaster may strike the country, or a dormant volcano in Mount Paektu may erupt, according to the report. Other fortunetellers are saying Kim Jong Un could conduct a massacre or some other "unimaginable event," a source in North Hamgyong Province told RFA. RFA's source said four soothsayers in the flood-hit region of Musan County in North Hamgyong Province were arrested for their practice, along with 40 North Koreans who then spread the fortunetellers' claims across their communities.

“North Korea is arresting soothsayers and the people who consult them in the aftermath of a flood that has been described by the state as the worst since World War II. Sources in North Korea told Radio Free Asia more than 300 people were also recently arrested in flood-hit regions while they were attempting to flee the country. Diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infections have been reported in disaster areas after massive flooding took place from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2.

North Korea Says It's Found a 'Unicorn Lair'

In 2012, North Korea’s state-owned news agency reported that archaeologists had found a "unicorn lair" in Pyongyang. According to the report, the Academy of Social Sciences "reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom," who ruled the area between 37 and 19 B.C.

Jason Koebler wrote in U.S. News and World Report: According to the news report, the discovery of the unicorn lair "proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea," and that the unicorn is very important in North Korean history books. "The lair is located 200 meters from the Yongmyong Temple in Moran Hill in Pyongyang City," the report reads. "A rectangular rock carved with words 'Unicorn Lair' stands in front of the lair." Though there have been many hoaxes, no real evidence that unicorns have ever existed has been found. [Source: Jason Koebler, U.S. News and World Report, November 30, 2012].

Ben Quinn wrote in The Guardian: “Normally, North Korea's official state news agency is the place to go for reports ranging from the reclusive totalitarian state's unparalleled scientific achievements to the limitless love which its inhabitants reserve for their successive leaders. Yet in what appears to be a genuine world exclusive, the inimitable Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has now broken the incredible news that archaeologists in Pyongyang have discovered a unicorn's lair. [Source: Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 30 November 2012]

“Archaeologists from the Academy of Social Sciences at North Korea's History Institute were credited with making the discovery. The news story comes days after eyebrows were raised by another news story relating to the state officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). On that occasion, it was the online version of China's Communist party newspaper which hailed a report by The Onion naming North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as the sexiest man alive – not realising it was satire.”

Kim Jong Il Creation Myth

According to North Korean propaganda the birth of Kim Jong Il was foretold by a swallow who said "a prodigious general destined to rule the world will be born on February 16, 1941." On that day a new shining star and a pair of rainbows appeared above the log cabin on Mount Paektu where Kim Jong Il was born. There were even reports of a flying white horse. As a young boy, Kim was suckled by a she wolf and tutored by centaurs.

"The secret camp of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army in the primeval forest was his home, and ammunition belts and magazines were his playthings. The raging blizzards and ceaseless gunshots were the first sounds to which he became accustomed.

"Day in and day out fierce battles went on and, during breaks, there were military and political trainings. On the battlefield, there was no quilt to warmly wrap the newborn child. So women guerrillas gallantly tore cotton out of their own uniforms and each contributed pieces of cloth to make a patchwork quilt for the infant.” One propaganda report said: "When he was a child he found out why chickens raise their bills when they drink water and why there is no black flower."

When a tour guide at Paekdu mountain was asked how Kim Il Jong could have been born in Siberia (where he was really born) and on Mt. Paekdu first she dismissed the information about Siberia as Soviet propaganda and them said "Maybe our great leader was conceived in Khabarovsk and born here." A replica of the original log cabin where Kim Il Jong was born is situated on the mountain. Inside are "original" toy pistols and a knife, blankets and pillows.

Kim Jong Il’s Mythical Achievements

Kim Jong Il reportedly learned to walk when he was only three weeks old and was talking at eight weeks. Julian Ryall wrote in The Telegraph: “At junior high school in Pyongyang, he corrected and chastised his teachers for incorrectly interpreting history, according to his official biography. Moving on to higher education, he found time to write 1,500 books during his three years at Kim Il-sung University, from where he graduated in 1964, and penned six full operas in two years - "all of which are better than any in the history of music", his biography gushes. [Source: Julian Ryall, The Telegraph, 10 Apr 2015]

“Turning his hand to the film industry, Mr Kim insisted on overseeing many aspects of the nation's domestic movie output and, according to the Korea Central News Agency, "improved the scripts and guided the production of the movie "Diary of a Girl Student." Kim was also a star of the sporting arena. His biography claims that he first picked up a golf club in 1994, at North Korea's only golf course, and shot a 38-under par round that included no fewer than 11 holes in one. Satisfied with his performance, he immediately declared his retirement from the sport.

Bradley Martin wrote: “Jesus Christ as an Eagle Scout, doing many good turns, that pretty much sums up the official portrayals of the younger Kim.” Philip Gourevitch wrote in the Observer: “Most modern dictators have been self-made men, and it is the particular affliction of North Korea that Kim Jong Il's father, Kim Il Sung, was a self-made deity. In his lifetime, state propaganda spoke of him as incomparable, omnipotent and infallible - 'the clairvoyant', Korea's 'sun', 'the perfect brain', capable even of determining the weather (at least when it was good) - and in 1998, four years after his death, the constitution was revised to install him as 'president for eternity'. [Source: Philip Gourevitch, Observer Magazine, The Guardian, November 2, 2003]

“His son, Kim Jong Il, rules as much as a caretaker as he does as an heir; he is described merely as the 'Central Brain' and 'the morning star', a lesser light reflecting the sun's glow. In the early 70s, the North Korean Academy of Social Sciences expunged the definition of hereditary rule from its Dictionary of Political Terminologies - 'a reactionary custom of exploitative societies'. Yet even after he was publicly anointed successor to his father's throne in 1980, Kim Jong Il kept a low profile, tucked away in the regime's secret nerve centres, the Department of Propaganda and Agitation and the Department of Organisation and Guidance. Confucius said, 'When your father is alive, observe his will. When your father is dead, observe his former actions. If for three years you do not change from the ways of your father, you can be called a "real son".' The junior Kim earned that title. 'Expect no change from me,' he said after the Great Leader died, and for once he has kept his word.

“Kim Jong Il says he regards 'the people' as 'the most beautiful and excellent beings in the world and deeply worships them'. But he doesn't trust them. In North Korea, the truth has never been a matter of fact so much as an expression of the Kims' whim - father and son. The great preponderance of this so-called truth is a confection of outright lies - not merely false but, more perniciously, a form of unreality, imposed with such relentlessness and violence on a people hermetically sealed from any alternative sources of information that it has become their own reality. His adoration, like a jealous lover's, is only rhetorically distinguishable from contempt. To maintain a kingdom of lies is to live in perpetual fear of being exposed, and the Pyongyang regime considers its insularity its proudest accomplishment, the key to its survival, and proof, as Kim Jong Il has said, that 'we have nothing to envy the rest of the world'.

Funerals in North Korea

When person dies in North Korea, the state provides relatives with a special allowance of rice and some alcohol, as well as a small sum of money. People are often buried under small mounds in the mountains, considered the most appropriate final resting place under Korean tradition. Donald L. Baker wrote in the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”: “There are no Juche clergy to preside over weddings or funerals. At a funeral it is common for mourners to cry out, "Though this body is deceased, the spirit of the revolution still lives." [Source: Donald L. Baker, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”, Thomson Gale, 2006]

In 1946 the North Korean regime confiscated the remaining lineage land, and the elaborate ceremonies of the past lost their economic base. Since that time, the traditional ceremonies surrounding death and veneration of the ancestors have been simplified. The remains are no longer carried in a special carriage, but, in rural areas, in a cart or tractor. One Korean source reported that at the funeral of his grandmother in North Korea incense was offered in front of a photograph of the deceased; the source also said that the ceremony generally retains the outlines of the traditional rites. Relatives and neighbors apparently still donate some money to the family of the deceased. Some "revolutionary" content has been added to funeral practices. One traditional chant has been rewritten to include the phrase "though this body is deceased, the spirit of the revolution still lives." Widowers frequently remarry, but widows rarely do. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]

Gravesites are still preserved and remain a common feature of the North Korean landscape. According to one observer, if construction projects necessitate disturbing graves, relatives are notified beforehand, and graves are carefully relocated. If no relative claims the graves, they are still relocated elsewhere. The custom of visiting graves at certain times of the year apparently continues, even though large kinship groups cannot meet — not because the state has prohibited it, but because the groups are scattered across the country and travel restrictions make it difficult for them to get together.

Funeral Customs in North Korea

Je Son Lee wrote in NK News: “There are many funeral halls in South Korea, but there were none in my hometown in North Korea – we usually held funerals at home. In the DPRK, the process takes three days, and the very first thing the morticians do is clog the ears and nose of the dead person with cotton. I’ve heard they do this to prevent water from leaking out. Then they fill the dead person’s mouth with raw rice – their food for when they get to the afterlife. After that, they dress the body in clean cotton clothes. [Source: Je Son Lee for NK News, September 28, 2015]

“The body is then placed on the lid of the coffin, and covered in a white cloth. Over the course of three days, people come to pay tributes, while the family members stay beside the body. As far as I know, families spend three days like this before the burial because they hold on to the hope that the deceased may be revived. I’ve heard that in North Korea many people claim people have returned to life during this three-day period.

“If they don’t , they’re either buried or cremated. Cremation is a fairly new trend in North Korea, starting in the 2000s, but it’s mostly confined to the capital, Pyongyang. In my home town we were more accustomed to burying them. Nearby mountains were our favourite places to lay the deceased to rest. Later, we would often visit them and hold memorial services on Chuseok [an annual North Korean harvest festival].

“On Chuseok, people visit graves and hold memorial services, mowing the grass and weeding around the grave. Everyone in the family makes sure to be present during these memorial rites. Ensuring good luck Taking good care of the grave originates from a North Korean superstition that our ancestors will punish us unless we hold proper memorial services for them.

“Lately, people have begun to cremate the deceased and keep the ashes. It’s an easier way to keep the remains, and allows families to continue paying their respects, rather than travelling long distances to visit a tomb or burial site. Some people move their family graves when they feel that they’ve been laid to rest in ominous places. North Koreans often believe that their own circumstances and luck will improve if they do this.... When your fortuneteller tells you that things aren’t going your way because your dead ancestors have been buried in ominous places, you’ll want to move the dead body to a different spot.

Funeral of Kim Jong Il: Snow, Tears and Army Trucks

Kim Jong Il’s huge funeral was held in Pyongyang 11 days after his death. David Chance and Jack Kim of Reuters wrote: “Bleak pictures from state television showed a funeral cortege led by a limousine carrying a huge picture of” Kim “passing serried ranks of olive green-clad soldiers whose bare heads were bowed in homage in the main square of the snow-covered capital. A hearse carrying the coffin was led by a weeping Kim Jong-un, the son and heir, accompanied by Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and a key power-broker in the transition, and Ri Yong-ho, the army chief of staff. "Seeing this white snow fall has made me think of the general's efforts and this brings tears to my eyes," Seo Ju-rim, a red-cheeked, weeping female soldier, told North Korean television, referring to the late Kim. [Source: David Chance and Jack Kim, Reuters, December 28, 2011]

“One of the myths surrounding Kim Jong-il was that he could control the weather and state media has reported unusually cold and wild weather accompanying his death. Video showed weeping civilians who swayed with grief and shouted "father, father" as black Lincoln and Mercedes limousines and army trucks streamed past the crowds. It was not clear whether the pictures were live or recorded, although a state television announcer said it had been carried live. "I wished it was a dream, how can this be true," sobbed one middle-aged woman named Kim. "How can anything like this ever happen in the world?" At one stage, weeping women were held back by men who linked arms to prevent them surging towards the cortege. The procession ended after about three hours with 21 guns fired in salute as the top leadership looked on from a podium.

State television showed Jang Song-thaek walking directly behind Kim Jong-un alongside the limousine carrying the coffin. Jang ranked a lowly 19th in the list of names on the state funeral committee but his public elevation confirmed that he will play a key role in shaping policies. "Yes, we are watching and will be analyzing how any changes can be reflected in our policy," a South Korean government official said. "Kim Jong-un is clearly the head of the new leadership but, in terms of hierarchy and influence, Jang appears to have secured considerable position," said Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea expert at Korea University in the South.

AFP reported: “North Korean civilians were ordered not to wear hats or gloves at the snowy funeral because his son and successor "Comrade Kim Jong-Un will be escorting the General's hearse bare-handed" and hatless. Temperatures in Pyongyang on the day of the funeral fell as low as minus nine Celsius (15 Fahrenheit). Civilians were ordered not to wear hats, gloves or scarves even if it was snowing and were warned that "behind every line there will be people watching". [Source: AFP, January 3, Jan 2012]

Tears for Kim Jong Il Just for Show?

North Korean news reports said that 5 million people, about a fifth of the population, had participated in rituals during 10-day mourning period marking Kim Jong Il’s death in which demonstration of griefs are considered a patriotic obligation. Many say a lot of the outpourings of grief are just for show. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, December 21, 2011]

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Chu Sung-ha says he knows for sure that some of the people shown sobbing on television over the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il are faking it. Once, he was one of them” — at Kim Il Sung’s funeral in 1994. “If anything, this time around there will be more faking, more crocodile tears and perhaps some well-concealed smiles.

“Kim Il Sung was by most accounts genuinely beloved; “uri abogi,” he was called, the same Korean honorific used to indicate “our father” or “our lord.” His son was a more problematic figure who presided over years of famine and hardship. “There aren’t the same tears for Kim Jong Il after all the deaths and all the refugees. The people abandoned him in their hearts long ago,” said Yoo Sang-jun, 48, a defector from North Hamgyong province whose wife and young son were among an estimated 2 million North Koreans to die of hunger.

“Now, as in 1994, there is a 10-day mourning period in which a demonstration of grief is a patriotic obligation. People are mourning in front of large portraits in meeting halls and public squares. The events have followed the template set at Kim Il Sung’s death. In both cases, the deaths were announced at noon, when most people would be with their work units and under control. The same black-clad weeping anchorwoman who announced Kim Il Sung’s death appeared on television to announce the death of his son. A teacher said she thought that Kim Jong Il’s death would elicit less true emotion. “People follow Kim Jong Il out of fear and oppression, but Kim Il Sung seemed to work with sincerity for the people,” she said.

Insincere Mourners Punished

North Korean authorities are punishing mourners who failed to exhibit sincere sadness and despair after the death of Kim Jong Il, the Daily NK reported. Ben Forer of ABC News wrote: “The online North Korean newspaper, which is published by opponents of the governing regime, said a source in North Hamkyung Province revealed the information. The source told the paper "authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn't participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn't cry and didn't seem genuine," according to the Daily NK. [Source: Ben Forer. ABC News, Associated Press, January 12, 2012]

“The late Hwang Jang Yop, a North Korean defector and former official, described similar punishments after the death of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il's father and the founder of North Korea, in 1994. "The party conducted surveys to see who displayed the most grief, and made this an important criterion in assessing party members' loyalty," Yop wrote. "Patients who remained in hospitals and people who drank and made merry even after hearing news of their leader's death were all singled out for punishment."

The Daily NK said its source also reported that North Koreans who were accused of being critical of the country's dynastic system were being sent to re-education camps or banished with their families to remote areas.

Sun Myung Moon and North Korea

Sun Myung Moon was born in what is now North Korea and spent some time in a prison-labor camp there. Later he would invest in the country and become engaged in its politics and putting political pressure on it. Armin Rosen wrote in The Atlantic: Moon's relationship with the country of his birth was a complicated one. But for all the focus on the eccentric mogul's quirks and U.S. investments, his role in North Korea may turn out to be his most enduring legacy, a fascinating story of how one man opened one of the very few cracks in this modern hermit kingdom. [Source: Armin Rosen, The Atlantic, September 6, 2012]

“Moon, who was born in 1920 in the present-day North Korean province of North Pyongan when the Korean peninsula was still a Japanese colony, was a unique figure in the highly fraught history of inter-Korean relations. A Christian (or Christian-influenced) cleric who enjoyed close personal ties with the officially atheistic Kim regime, Moon's staunch anti-communist beliefs were partly informed by his experiences in a North Korean labor camp in 1950. But his death nevertheless prompted a "message of condolence" from North Korean premier Kim Jong Un himself.

“In his extensive dealings with Pyongyang, Moon revealed both the potential and the limitations of the hard-edged yet increasingly open policy towards North Korea that Japan, South Korea, and the United States embraced immediately after the Cold War. The Unification Church's approach to the country was an early and important part of a larger international effort to pry open the hermit kingdom. But these efforts — like those of the numerous governments and international organizations that have sought to moderate the Kim regime's stance towards its southern neighbor, and towards its own citizens' human rights — ultimately highlighted the resilience of one of the world's most oppressive states.

“Moon's organization was headquartered in South Korea, where aiding the North is still punishable under the country's National Security Law. The economically powerful and politically connected Unification Church was not as constrained as other South Korean organizations — or, at times, as restrained as the region's governments — in dealing with the regime in Pyongyang.”

Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Political Involvement and North Korea

Armin Rosen wrote in The Atlantic:Moon was an early practitioner of the kind of conciliatory politics that the South Korean government would eventually embrace in its now-abandoned "Sunshine Policy," which it introduced in the late '90s in an effort to build friendlier ties with the North. In 1991, the self-made mogul visited North Korea's founding leader, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, nine years before South Korean president Kim dea-Jung's groundbreaking visit to the North Korean capital. "Moon began his efforts to engage with the North Koreans at a time when the South Korean government still formally opposed that kind of interaction," says Scott Snyder, a Korea expert with the Council on Foreign Relations. [Source: Armin Rosen, The Atlantic, September 6, 2012]

“But Moon had hardly been coopted by his hosts. The Washington Times published a conspicuously defiant opening paragraph about the meeting: "President Kim Il-sung of North Korea, one of the last of the Stalinist states, yesterday discussed reconciliation of the two Koreas with a man he once imprisoned, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the fiercely anticommunist Unification Church." Moon's flagship American media property published original reporting about the "horror" of the country's "communist gulag," even at a time when the Unification Church was engaged in precedent-setting investment in that same country. This approach was not without its drawbacks for Moon and his business empire. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius discussed the tension between Moon's North Korea outreach and the Times' editorial line in a 2004 column:

“Coverage of the Korean Peninsula has been an especially delicate issue. The paper's stance has been aggressively anti-Pyongyang. But the church has embraced a conciliatory line, including investment in North Korea. Moon has bankrolled Pyonghwa Motors, which plans to produce cars in the North, along with a hotel, a park and a church there. A senior church official, Ahn Ho Yeol, told a South Korean newspaper last year: "It is our principle to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula by promoting mutual prosperity." Again, that's a dovish sentiment you won't often read in the Times.

“Still, this combination of moderation and hawkishness toward North Korea might have been more coherent than it seemed. After all, in 2004, U.S.-North Korean trade was worth over US$25 million (including, amazingly, US$1.5 million in North Korean exports to the U.S.), despite the escalating nuclear crisis in the peninsula. And, in 1999, the year that Unification Church-related business interests opened Pyonghwa Motors, the U.S sent over a quarter billion dollars in aid to North Korea, even though it had launched a Taepodong missile toward Japan the year before. In the late '90s and early 2000s, the U.S. used aid and economic support as a confidence-building measure with a country that many external observers believed was on the brink of collapse. Moon's approach to the country was of a similar vein, even if it meant certain contradictions within his organization.

“Pyonghwa Motors, the joint business partnership between a Church-owned South Korean company and a state-run North Korean consortium, was the centerpiece of the Church's investment in North Korea, which also includes a hotel in Pyongyang. Private auto ownership is extremely rare in North Korea, and only about 1000 vehicles roll off the assembly lines every year. But Snyder says that Pyonghwa was still an important moment in North Korea's relationship with the outside world, since its factory provided "early socialization" for northerners who were unschooled in modern manufacturing and the global economy. "It is an interesting exercise as one of the first efforts to do production of that type in North Korea, and so in that sense it was a path-breaking effort," says Snyder.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, Daily NK, NK News, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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