Pollyanna in North Korea: I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker a long time ago which I still love. It's called "Pollyanna in Hell" and shows a perky young lady with backpack and walking stick and dog against a background of hellfire and brimstone. She's smiling and saying, "Gee, this looks like a neat place to hike!" [I may have mentioned that before....]

I've since heard other versions of it like, "Great! I won't need my down vest anymore!" Etc.

Here, Pollyanna winds up in Pyongyang on holiday. Neat! She even looks like the girl in the cartoon.

"As an American resident in Beijing, I've known a handful of people who have gone to North Korea, and I have always been fascinated by their stories." Cool.

"Before we set off, we were forewarned that the tour guides might tease us for being "American imperialists," but that they would eventually warm up to us. To be honest, I was surprised with how friendly and warm-hearted they were." Wow.

"Though North Korea has been labelled the Axis of Evil, the people there didn't fit the stereotype - in fact they shared many of the same values as we hold; concern for family, politeness and courtesy." Dear, I doubt whether George Bush meant that everybody in those three countries was evil incarnate. You know the one about 'it's not that we hate Americans, we just hate their government'? Something like that in reverse maybe. And...politeness? Get back to the US or UK more often.

Oh, but look: it's coming! "But we got the feeling, as [the guard] continued to talk to us - holding a box of American-made [by pirates in China] Marlboro cigarettes in his hand - that it was possible for people to separate the US government with [sic] the American people." Awesome.

"We stayed at the three to four star Koryo Hotel, which has clean rooms and typical facilities - a billiards room, swimming pool, tea room and bar, and we had no problems with electricity, heat or water. US tourists were allowed into North Korea for the annual mass games. But outside our hotel, it's hard to say what local people were experiencing." It's hard to say, darling, because you don't read the widely available information about just how mind-bogglingly grim life is in North Korea for its people. Oops, sorry, that was a bummer.

And this: the piece ends with the BBC editor's note, "Carol Rueckert travelled with Koryo Tours. The last opportunity for US citizens to visit North Korea this year is on a tour from 25-29 October." The dick is advertising a tour agency in a straight news piece! Hurry, we still have vacancies for the last tour! The only thing he forgot is their telephone and email address.

Steve | 09:00 |