By Alpha Chan
Jaded by days of visits to monuments and museums glorifying and worshipping North Korea’s supreme leaders, the excursion to the Kaeson Youth Park seemed a treat.
Tourists are forbidden from interacting with locals and strictly monitored by tour guides. But the amusement park seemed a place to lower defenses.
Local tour guides said North Koreans strictly follow their life routines. They have regular scheduled working hours and everything shuts down early.
But after dinner, in the dark, the amusement park lit up the sky and bustled with people.
The 40 hectare Kaeson Youth Park is one the older of a number of amusement parks in and around Pyongyang. Many of the rides were imported from Italy when the park was renovated in 2010.
In 2012, Kim Jong-un visited the park and told workers to make sure safety standards were maintained and that their clothes needed to match the scenic beauty of the funfair.
The rides are modern, including a Superman-style upside-down roller coasters where riders lie facedown as if they were flying and a freefall tower which suspends riders high up in the air for almost a minute before dropping.
Soldiers still wandered the grounds, but the noise from the park was the loudest and merriest heard in the somber city. Though most screamed, I saw two girls on one of the scarier rides with completely expressionless faces, echoing my feelings about North Koreans: a place of repression.
Most people in the park seemed middle-aged. Some flashed victory signs in a photo with tourists. Women wearing high heels flocked to queue up for a ride and a woman in yellow-shirt drove a bumper cars all alone. There are rumours that the country orders North Koreans to attend the park, feigning joy and excitement for the tourists, but there is no way for us to verify that.
Watch a video of the freefall drop tower at the Kaeson Youth Park by Joanna Wong: