On a day when history was made in Singapore between the Donald Trump from the USA and Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a spotlight could be shone on what it must be like to live in this most secretive of countries. The history of North Korea goes back to its connections with Japan. After the second World War, and a defeated Japan, a unified Korea was divided with South Korea eventually becoming an entirely separate country and the north becoming the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Unhappy neighbours, the Koreans viewed each other with suspicion. Whilst South Korea embraced the western way of life, North Korea struggled to allow freedom, it became isolated and secretive, relying on its neighbours Russia and China for support. The border between North and South Korea became an area of 24-hour guards, furtive binoculars and outward pointing missiles. South Korea had reason to be worried, it was rumoured that North Korea had a growing arsenal of weapons, capable of destroying the south.
In Seoul, South Korea, bomb shelters became well-known landmarks and emergency rappelling kits (containing sling, pulley and handy instructions) a feature for many a skyscraper hotel rooms, along with a personal fire extinguisher issued to all guests. But what was life like for fire security in North Korea? As the photograph shows the first obstacle to what we take for granted in the west is that at night most of North Korea is plunged into darkness. The lack of night lighting alone would make tackling an emergency much more difficult. In addition, the isolation of North Korea economically means that their buying power for fire safety equipment is severely limited. Russia donated a number of fire engines to the country in 2014 and online there is a film of this ceremony which was clearly very important to North Korea. Further than that, there are reports that a fatal fire swept through a hotel in Wonsan-Kalma maritime tourist zone in May which killed an unknown number of workers, deeply asleep after hours of back-breaking work allegedly to meet deadlines of construction. Apart from this it is very difficult to gauge what life is really like for the fire service industry in North Korea, approved visitors are permitted with close supervision, but cameras are strictly controlled.
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