North Korean Shin Dong-Hyok was born 26 years ago in Camp 14 in Pyeongan province, known as a ‘complete control district’, where the only sentence is life. No one born into a North Korean prison camp has ever escaped before. Dong-Hyok will be at the supremely brilliant Frontline Club with Blaine Harden whose book Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West recounts his extraordinary journey. I read an excerpt from this in bed this morning. It wasn’t really 6am reading but then I don’t really know when the time is to curl up with this one.
A quick note about Frontline – this is top three best hangouts in London. It has a small clubby bar with great beers from around the world such as Lao Beer; tons of brilliant subscriptions to wade through (not one of them Now or Heat); a restaurant; a lecture room. It even has cheap rooms in the attic for members.
The Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ 020 7479 8950
N.B. If you do make it to Frontline – although their restaurant is good there are two cracking alternatives which could seriously rock a theme night after a lecture: The Queen of Sheba – a very good Yemeni restaurant and London’s only Burmese cafe Mandalay Way – which is insanely cheap.
It might be time to confess that I went to North Korea a few years back. They need to be exposed to foreigners, at least that is what I told myself. I don’t regret going, I think about it all the time. Who knows what Kim No3 has up his sleeve, we shall see.
It was by far the strangest place I’ve ever been, almost lunar and certainly about as lonely. But also the most photogenic as you will see – yes these are actually my own pics, not culled from t’internet. We couldn’t leave our hotel without our government appointed guide. We were transported around at night – it’s so uber controlled it was an anti-holiday. We went to the DMZ border, a university without real, honest humanities taught, Kim il Sung’s mausoleum (with the longest travelator and even a wind tunnel to make sure you are particle free) and the Mass Games. And that really was as mind-blowing as I hoped, seeing as I had pretty much schlepped all that way to see it. I saw it twice just to make sure.
North Korea properly spun me out all week. But without any cars, shops or advertising to aggravate the mind – and set against a backdrop of the most beautiful Asian Autumnal skies it was also intensely and unsettlingly relaxing.
Also worth introducing one of my top 3 blogs though I guess there won’t be any new material arising. Perhaps his son will pick up the pointing mantle?