I just came home from my trip to North Korea, which involved participating in the 2016 Pyongyang Marathon, held on April 10, and touring the city.
I am a Korean-American and was born and raised in Daegu, South Korea.
My expectations were unimaginable since I'd never been to North Korea before.
Somehow, this trip was emotional; somehow, it was entertaining and unique.
As I walked in North Korea, I began to ask the tour guide about many things, including dating, weddings, street flowers, entertainment, daily life at work, and their kids.
I found out lots of other things that I had never imagined.
I even got to see a newly married couple posing for photos in public.
However, during the trip, I made a huge mistake and several minor ones, due to cultural differences between South and North Korea.
We had a small birthday party for one of the tourists in our group.
We learned the North Korean version of the birthday song.
The tour guide who sang it was awesome.
Back to the marathon tourism: The race's official name is the ManGyongDae Prize International Marathon.
This was the 29th year for the race and the 3rd year where foreign, amateur runners could participate.
There were options for a marathon, a half-marathon, and a 10k race.
This year's race had more than 1,800 runners, with 1,100 foreign runners (professionals and amateurs) from 49 countries, and 700 of the runners were North Koreans.
The interesting thing was that the foreigners were mostly young people.
I'd say the average age was maybe 30.
In 2014, 250 foreign runners participated, and in 2015, that number went up to 600, just in case you were wondering.
For the first time, the marathon started in the May Day Stadium, the biggest stadium in the world, with a seating capacity of 150,000.
It's on the Rungrado Island in the Taedong River.
May Day Stadium The stadium is said to resemble a parachute, according to the tour guide.
What do you think?
The marathon course was simple.
It was a 10K (6.2 miles) course, and the marathon would make this loop 4 times and the half-marathon twice.
The half-race's finish line was outside of the stadium, and the full race's was inside.
Pyongyang is the capital city of North Korea.
It was built in BC 2333 and is one of the oldest cities on the Korean Peninsula.
It consists of East (right side on the map) and West (old city) Pyongyang, divided by the Taedong River.
There were no steep hills on the marathon course.
"Pyongyang" literally means "flat and cozy land."
Its population is about 3 million, said our tour guide.
The population density is 89th in the world.
There are not many buildings but a lot of parks.
There were many sponsors for the marathon… in North Korea.
"RyuGyong" is Pyongyang's other name from ancient times.
It means "the capital city of willow trees."
There are many willow trees in the city, especially near the river.
It was constructed in the traditional Korean architectural style, which adapts the castle-gate style: 3-stair stone tower and the style of putting the roof on top of pillars.
On my way home, I decided to post my trip as a series on my blog.
Part 1: " Mysterious Fruits and Flowers in Pyongyang."
Part 2: "Kids on the Street in North Korea."
Part 3: "Advertisements on Pyongyang streets."
Part 4: "Culture Shock in Pyongyang"
You know about culture, right?
No culture is superior or inferior.
Each one is just unique in its own way.
Edward S. Lee.
Read More at www.edward98.com