Photo by John Riceburg
I left my Neukölln home to spend a week as a tourist in North Korea – I wanted to experience a society completely different from the one I know. But as former Neukölln mayor Heinz Buschkowsky famously said: "Neukölln is everywhere", and it turns out that applies to Pyongyang as well. NK and NK have more in common than you might think.
1. Fat cats
Society is run by an overweight, authoritarian ruler who stayed in power for decades. Kim Il-Sung died back in 1994. Heinz Buschkowski stepped down at the beginning of this year. But both of them left their marks.
The shops only offer cheap goods from China or fashion from the 1950s.
3. No-go area
The whole world considers us dangerous. And we like to present a threatening image. But most visitors consider us cute.
4. Prestige projects
Investments go to monumental buildings, while housing is in increasing demand. In Neukölln we got the boring Arkaden, in Pyongyang at least they can enjoy the Munsu Water Park.
Deteriorating housing gets a bright coat of paint so it will at least look a bit happier.
Once, in the 20th century, we were flattened by bombers of the US Air Force.
7. Changing image
Until recently we were considered "No Go" (see #3). But now we're a chic destination for tourists. (AirBNB hasn't made its way to Pyongyang yet, but that's surely coming soon.)
8. Annoying neighbours
We're at war with our southern neighbours. Sure, formally Neukölln is part of the same Bezirk as Rudow, but these two societies couldn't be any more different. In Korea, the border is called the 38th parallel or the Demilitarized Zone – in Neukölln it's the S41/42 or the Ringbahn.
9. Nice neighbours
In our fight against the South, we can rely on our Northern neighbors. If Nazis demonstrate in Rudow, Neukölln can count on the support of our eternal ally Kreuzberg, the Mao of the West – just like the Chairman held a protective hand over the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea.
10. Poor but cool
Sure, we're poor, but that won't hurt our natural feelings of superiority: We know we're the best.
Didn't get enough of my sharp observations in English? Come to my show at Laika on November 10 and get more insight in German.