Conversation with a North Korean

By Bryan • china, personal • 26 Jul 2009

I was meaning to mention this awhile ago, but didn’t get around to it until now.  For the first month or so in Shanghai I was sharing a floor with four or five North Koreans.

At first I wasn’t sure if they were North Koreans, but the presence of little North Korean flags taped to each of their doors quickly confirmed the hunch. This was really cool.  I’ve always been fascinated with North Korea.  Without entering into too much detail, I remain baffled that a nation like that can still exist in the 21st century…it is mindboggling.

I was meaning to talk to them for awhile, but they seemed kind of shy…darting in and out of their rooms…doors shut.  Although they were quite good at staying up into the wee hours drinking and singing, hording massive amounts of consumer goods, and cooking weird smelling food. Furthermore, on my end, I’ll admit that I was a bit star struck…yeah, I know that is bizarre…but how often does one actually meet real North Koreans?  How does one start the conversation?

“Yeah, I hear Kim Jong Ill is a real asshole…”

I ran into a few of these guys in the floor kitchen last month when I was doing laundry and finally, I had my conversation.

What we believe North Koreans to look like Unfortunately, it wasn’t that great.  We had to use Mandarin which required them having to deal with my terrible English accent, and me having to deal with their terrible Korean accent.  One of the guys was a doctor who was terribly interested in Canadian women.  However, before I make him sound like a typical citizen of the iron-curtain, the man had been to quite a few other countries (mainly in Africa….as well as Russia) and I think that if we both had better language skills there would have been some good conversations.  But, that was essentially where our Mandarin took us, aside from the basic questions (name, age, profession, home country etc.).  I have been told that North Korea has amazingly beautiful women.  I assured him that Canadian girls look just like the Russians ladies.   He was impressed.

So many questions. Apparently one of the other Korean spoke English.  I was hoping to catch up with them later, yet they were leaving for North Korean in a few weeks.  These ‘few’ weeks happened to be the weeks that I as in Beijing.  Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to continue the conversation.

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4 Responses

  1. Aaaargh!! I didn’t even know North Koreans can be out of North Korea!! Wow! I wish I could talk to one too.

    • Bryan

      I believe some are allowed to study abroad in Russia and China. I’ve been told they are not suppose to talk to the South Koreans, but they seemed fine with talking to me. The whole flag on the door was odd though, I wasn’t sure if they put the flags up as a nationalistic gesture, or if it was something they had to have on their door to identify themselves.

  2. David

    Bryan… you are such a lucky guy.. and I never have chance to run into any guy or girl from NK…in my mind they look like martians probably. may I have to trespass the border like those two famale US journalists….

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