The Western world is absolutely fascinated by North Korea — tourists from all over the world take great risks visiting the isolated land with its secrets too good to pass up. Within this secrecy, unknown to most of the world, is what North Koreans enjoy as entertainment.
Not ones to disappoint, North Koreans show tourists attractions like the Pyongyang Central Zoo and Circus. There, animals from across the globe are on display to the delight of both citizens and tourists alike.
The zoo and circus are tourist spots for wealthy citizens and curious foreigners, according to Barcroft. Swedish zoo expert, Jonas Wahlstrom, has been served as a patron and advisor to the zoo for 30 years, even donating many of the animals on display. He ensures that the animals are happy, healthy, and live a high-quality, enriching life. “I’m trying hard to teach them the importance of enrichment. I try to get them to bring in trees for the chimpanzees exhibits. It’s a bit slow, but finally they’ve listened to what I’m trying to say. Being in the far east, the zoo is good. Like some old cages where they’re keeping big cats but overall the exhibits, trainers – they’ve really turned it around.”
Some of the attractions include a parrot who can recite poetry about Kim Il Sung, trick-performing dolphins, and monkeys who can play basketball. At one point, they had a female chimpanzee who smoked cigarettes, but Wahlstrom quickly put an end to the unethical practice. “I strongly told them that it’s absolutely not possible to do that. That’s what you could see in European zoos 30 years ago. Luckily they’ve stopped it, now, at least they’ve told me they have.”
And although the rest of the shows were certainly entertaining, tourists are often unable to discern if they were truly amused or if their fanfare and applause is part of the show as well.
According to the photographer Exithamster, “I was surprised about number of guests in Pyongyang Circus. The best seats in the mid section were occupied by foreigners. The rest was 80 percent military. Almost all seats were taken. The show was fantastic and lasted around an hour. Some breathtaking moves on ropes in the air, flips on turning iron-wheels and a little flying-hat-game with a foreigner participating made the crowds applause.”