In the dark

Some South Koreans had an interesting experience when they visited North Korea recently.

Blackouts frequently interrupted a four-day stay in Pyongyang for South Koreans attending a rare joint seminar between the Cold War rivals, with the North’s showcase city often plunged into pitch darkness by power outages.

‘What is going on here?’ a North Korean border control officer said when computer terminals lost power and the lights went out at the Soviet-era Sunan Airport terminal, which serves Pyongyang, while he was processing the documents of the visiting South Koreans.

There’s another famine going on. As a result there isn’t food around to feed the gerbils that spin the wheels and produce the electricity in The Hermit Kingdom.

One of his colleagues tried in vain to keep the line of visitors moving by checking passports in the faint light from a distant door.

They must be out of flashlight batteries too.

When the sun goes down in Pyongyang, people hurry along unlit sidewalks before they have to grope their way home in near total darkness.

Giving new meaning to the North Korean philosophy of Juche.

The visiting South Koreans were treated to a performance by artistically gifted students but had to wait to applaud because the lights went out at the end of the show in an unheated hall, leaving them wondering if the darkness was part of the act.

Yes. North Korea is one great big improvisational theater. That as a result of food and power shortages.

Outside observers are equally in the dark over Mr Kim’s health and succession plans in Asia’s only communist dynasty.

Kim Jong-il was recently seen picking someone’s nose.

US and South Korean officials said Mr Kim suffered a stroke in August, raising questions about who was in control of the reclusive state and who was making decisions about the North’s nuclear weapons programme.

On a serious note, China recently massed 150,000 of their troops along the DPRK/China border. Beijing, one of North Korea’s few friends, seems to be concerned with potential regime change in Pyongyang. If the government collapses there, the Chinese moving in seems more likely than the South Koreans to me. Though I wonder if anyone really wants to inherit that disaster of a nation.

The Knucklehead of the Day award