Pyongyang Crowd Shouts, “Wow, it’s Im Soo Kyung!”

[imText1]Cars from all over the country decorated the city of Pyongyang. The cars as well as their license plates were all different. The license plates, which varied by district, were a bit rustic, but novel nonetheless.

Most of the cars were being driven with temporary license plates, and for the first time, Pyongyang was bright with change. There were quite a few cars with either no plates or plates that were made from paper or wood.

In order to attend the 13th annual International Student Youth Festival, Im Soo Kyung left South Korea without the government’s knowledge, traveled through Japan, West Berlin, East Berlin and finally arrived in Sunan Airport in Pyongyang on June 30, 1989. Upon hearing this news, hordes of North Korean citizens lined up, starting at the airport, in order to welcome Im Soo Kyung. In Pyongyang, there was a slight drizzle that later cleared to a beautiful day. There was a traffic surrounding the Koryeo Hotel area, and for awhile, there was chaos.

The 1988 Seoul Olympics grabbed the attention of the international community and ended successfully. The fact that the Russians participated en masse was a historically monumental event. North Korea, not willing to be outdone, decided to start a festival for Communist young adults. This event was opened with a great deal of investment, second only to that of expenditures on the Olympics.

From the Americas, including Canada, airfare was the individual’s responsibility, while North Korea provided lodging and the necessary preparations. Among Korean-Americans, North Korea invited the 26 who had been chosen. From these, 12 were from the west coast of the U.S.

[imText2]The twelve of us who traveled together visited the Sangwon cement factory, which was the one thing that North Korea could confidently boast about to foreigners, and then returned to Pyongyang. It was a little before lunchtime. In front of the Koryeo Hotel, traffic was deadlocked, and it was pure chaos with hordes of people milling around. I, who had been there on site, heard that the representative from South Korea had arrived at the airport and was on her way to the hotel.

The speakers on a moving car continuously updated the crowd on the current status starting from the airport. The welcoming crowd, holding flowers, fought to get a closer look at Im Soo Kyung.

The speakers broadcasted to the citizens that of the 8 people coming from Germany, one of them was a female student, coming as a representative of Jeondaehyeop (Hanchonryeon’s previous name). We couldn’t even leave to eat lunch, since we did not know when the arrival time was. We couldn’t even go to use the restrooms.

We had to wait endlessly under the scorching sun. About 10 or so female students from Kim Il Sung University, holding flowers, had been standing for a good 3, 4 hours. While on their way from the airport, they were said to have been delayed by the crowds of people who had stopped and blocked the streets to welcome her.

A robust voice sounded strongly over the speakers of the moving car

“Citizens of Pyongyang!
Let’s warmly welcome the South Korean representative arriving in Pyongyang, the city of the festival! The South Korean youth, whom we only dreamed about, whom we wanted to meet. The youth of the world, who traveled over mountains and across oceans to be here.

How can we express the joy of meeting and welcoming the South Korean youth in Pyongyang who wanted to rush to the Pyongyang festival so that they fought with the South Korean government? Upon hearing that the South Korean youth were coming, even those who were just passing by stopped and waited breathlessly to see them.

Our students who came to Panmunjom, one step at a time, ripping their hearts and bleeding, our wish is reunification! No one can stop those 70,000,000 in the South who shouted until their voices are hoarse and who went through all kinds of torture and violence in order to express their patriotic sentiment for reunification! Everyone! Let’s warmly welcome the South Korean youth!”

[imText3]Because there were too many people blocking the front door of the hotel, she secretly went in through the back door, escorted by Canadian Taekwondo professionals. At that moment, with a shout of, “She’s here!”, the crowd began to rush into the hotel lobby. I used their momentum to propel myself quickly into the elevator that Im Soo Kyung stepped into. I rode the elevator with her, followed her to her room and took a quick photo with her before I came back out.

Im Soo Kyung arrived casually in a grey short-sleeved t-shirt and beltless, faded jeans. 30 minutes after her arrival, she held an official press conference in the hotel’s 2nd floor reception room.

Only reporters with armbands were allowed in, but I pretended to be a Korean reporter from the U.S. and went into the conference room, holding a video recorder. (Continued)