THE West is on a war path against North Korea.
They accuse it of war mongering, condemn it as a despotic state which is a virtual prison for its citizens, depriving its citizens of everything normal, even starving them.
I begin to wonder what is going on, this is so different from the North Korea I know, the North Korea through the eyes of the West sounds so totally different from the one you experienced.
I visited North Korea in 1982, just after our independence.
I was one of three delegates from Zimbabwe, two male youths from ZANU and myself from the Ministry of Education and Culture.
We travelled the length and breadth of the island, attended classes on the Juche Idea, North Korea’s guiding philosophy which teaches that man is the master of his destiny.
There are a number of aspects that struck me about North Korea, from Pyongyang in the north to Mt Kumgansang in the south.
North Koreans’ ideological clarity and commitment to the Juche was impressive. Understanding the Juche makes it easy to understand where the North Koreans get the courage and strength to withstand the immeasurable hostility of the West.
They articulate very clearly that because man is master of his destiny, he can surmount any challenge, everything is subject to man’s force; he has a mission to conquer and tame the natural environment.
And indeed, we witnessed classic examples of their harnessing nature, as we travelled the breath and length of the country.
North Korea is hilly, and as we travelled throughout the country we saw each hill was combed and every square inch of soil was used to grow something, mostly apples were growing on the hills.
This left a deep impression on us especially when we remembered how much fertile soil we have here in Zimbabwe.
Our diet was mostly fish, chicken, duck, prawns, shrimp, crab and other white meat.
The West accuses North Korea of starving its people.
We had the healthiest of meals, it was not just us from Zimbabwe, there were other delegates from the African continent.
We all were well taken care of in spacious comfortable lodgings.
North Koreans were very proud of themselves, extremely confident of their capacity to contain any military aggression or invasion.
They told us they were the only country in the world which can be ready in 24 hours, meaning that in case of an attack or threat of invasion, each nook and cranny of the island can be activated to defend the land within 24 hours.
North Koreans are normal people unlike what the West purports, that they are stone cold, recluse and incapable of normal relations with others across the globe.
They are at peace, they like their friends, they are warm and friendly.
They took us on holidays to different resorts throughout the island.
The most memorable was our visit to Mt Kumgansang, its breathtaking beauty we will never forget.
We spent several days at the resort, enjoying scenic views of the mountain, its falls, the magnificent restaurants and spa.
It was during this stay that I had my first experience with acupuncture.
I was just leaving the spa after enjoying a sauna when I slipped and hurt my left knee.
I was taken to a quiet place where I could rest until the doctor came. In less than an hour, the doctor came.
Seeing the acupuncture needles, I braced myself for excruciating pain.
But no, I just felt a sharp twinge as the needle penetrated but that eased almost immediately as if the needle displaced the pain.
The doctor went on to position several needles around the knee.
In no more than 10 minutes, the doctor was done and the pain was a distant ghost, my holiday continued undisturbed.
There were many merry moments, the Korean comrades would always throw parties on our many trips throughout the island and we enjoyed them though I could never bring myself to eat crab, a delicacy they always treated us to.
There was always plenty of Korean wine, Ginseng wine, or Insam-ju in Korean, we simply called it the root wine.
There also was the snake wine, I never tried it but Comrade Lovemore did, afterwards he felt his body was on fire, and he sought to drown himself in a tub of cold water.
The Korean comrades took us shopping as well, I remember mostly the shops with rows and rows of various colourful silk material.
They bought us each a silk bedspread and some silk material.
I had never worn silk, it is not an everyday treat even in the West but after the North Korean visit, I wore silk.
A major highlight of this trip was the visits to educational institutions.
I have never encountered anything like it.
The kindergartens were mini cities, with lights of all colours, the deco so special you felt you were at a celebration, a wedding perhaps.
The children were engrossed in a wide variety of activities, dance, playing musical instruments, calisthenics, play and many others, all the time ensconced in soft beautiful music.
Watching it all, it felt like a fairy tale, a very special incandescence.
We also visited schools and here the Juche Idea was abundantly manifest.
Science and technology were hands on.
In a particular class, the equivalent of our Form 2, the pupils were assembling TV sets, we were also pleasantly surprised to find the pupils were filming our visit.
They were at home and at peace with science, applying it to solve everyday needs, preparing them to ever use it to conquer nature so it can meet their needs.
At one of the music academies we were treated to an orchestra conducted by five-year-olds.
It was an experience out of this world, a memory to last a life time.
The mastery of the cello by five-year-olds, the discipline and harmony of an orchestra of five-year-olds was mind blowing.
The visit to Children’s Palaces was the crown of the visit to educational institutions.
These are special places designed such that children of all ages can pursue areas of interest quite apart from the formal school curriculum.
The element of self-direction is a major boost to the capacities of children.
Children blossom and excel when they pursue an area of intrinsic interest outside the limits of the formal school system, be it science, music, art, history, drama or any other areas of interest.
The three-month stay in the DPRK was a memorable visit from which we learned so much, the North Korean comrades, were such great friends, so caring and solicitous, they gave us silk presents and the root wine, Ginseng.
Comrade Lovemore probably brought back some snake wine although he would have had to drink it by the pool side or the river.
The West paints DPRK black to suit their political aggravation against the country’s socialism but this is the North Korea I experienced, the North Korea I know.