You could. I couldn’t – much as I would love to. I believe it’s rather beautiful, and it would surely be fascinating. A step back in time to a quieter, less glaringly colourful way of life, but also a step into a kind of parallel world.
The one thing that might prevent you is if you too are a journalist. We’re not allowed into the country. Which may be why it gets quite such a lousy press.
It’s certainly an oddity, sticking out against the global commercialism which has taken over the rest of the world – even its allegedly Communist neighbour, China. But how ghastly is it really to live there? And exactly how afraid of it should we be?
There is something weird in reports about North Korea being delivered from Seoul, the South Korean capital and one of the richest cities in the world. Yet there, last week, among the lit-up skyscrapers, was the BBC’s Steve Evans telling us about the North’s supposed hydrogen-bomb test.
I say “supposed” because monitoring of the earthquake caused by the test suggests the device was something smaller than a fully-blown H-bomb. Nevertheless, there is understandable fear in Seoul.
A bomb of the size this one is reckoned at would be enough to flatten that glittering downtown area and instantly kill about 80,000 people. That’s about the same number that died in the US bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
Depending on wind direction and the height the bomb was exploded at, the fallout might reach well into North Korea itself. Seoul is only 30 miles from the border. Your guess at how much that might worry Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un is probably as good as mine.
One apparently ordinary North Korean citizen shown by the BBC said developing the bomb was “inevitable” and “refreshing”. Another said: “I think it is very obvious to counter a robber waving a nuclear stick with a nuclear stick.”
This is madness thinly disguised as sanity. And exactly the argument that is used here to justify renewing Trident.
A brilliant online tool developed by nuclear science historian Alex Wellerstein at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey enables different nuclear sticks to be compared. Using his Nukemap, I find that if a Trident D5 warhead were exploded over Seoul, the death toll would rise to 940,000, with nearly four million severely hurt.
If one were dropped on Norwich, it would cause at least third degree burns to everyone from Bawburgh to Brundall, Swainsthorpe to Frettenham. These are not toys we’re playing with.
The biggest bomb yet tested by the USA would pretty much wipe out Seoul’s 10 million population, devastating the land all the way to the border and potentially spreading deadly fallout right across North Korea and deep into China.
The biggest bomb yet tested anywhere – the Russians’ Tsar Bomba – would be big enough to completely obliterate East Anglia, with fallout spreading as far as the Shetland Islands or Italy.
The idea that such monstrous weaponry could ever be part of anyone’s “defence” would be hilarious if it weren’t so troubling.
The first inkling I had as a child of issues much beyond the family home was the general dread of The Bomb that hung over us all in the early 1960s. In that period, America’s Strategic Air Command had B-52 bombers – many East Anglian-based – permanently in the air, ready to dump nuclear warheads on cities throughout the Communist bloc.
A recently released haul of formerly secret US documents reveals that the SAC had a plan for the “systematic destruction” of more than 1,200 cities from Poland to China. Some of the targets were military-industrial – others were casually listed as “population”. Airfields were to be hit with bombs 70 times as powerful as the one that devastated Hiroshima.
It’s estimated that 520 million people would have died in the Soviet bloc alone. The plan also foresaw, and accepted, that nuclear fallout would kill unspecified numbers of “friendly forces and people”. And that’s without taking into account any retaliation.
All this was essentially the plan of one madman, General Curtis LeMay. But it involved the active participation of more than 200,000 personnel, “just following orders”.
Among things said or written by LeMay was: “There are no innocent civilians.” And: “I’d like to see a more aggressive attitude on the part of the United States.”
How much more aggressive could it have been without launching the global holocaust we feared? We were right to be afraid. Perhaps we still should be.
When I wrote a month ago about the right-wing bias of BBC News, I didn’t imagine they’d get up to anything quite as blatant. To induce a shadow minister to resign live on air, just before PM’s questions? A ludicrous, scandalous stunt.
Yet that – by the detailed admission of Daily Politics editor Andrew Alexander – is exactly what he, presenter Andrew Neil and BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg got up to last week.
Am I old-fashioned in thinking it should be their job to report the news, not to manipulate it?