Want to see the North Korean pavilion at the World Expo, but don’t want to make the trip to Milan? Here’s Choson Exchange’s review for you.
North Korea’s flag flies prominently in the heart of Milan on a street paraded with the flags of participating countries. Depending on your point of view, its either the first flag on the street, or the very last.
However, this prominence disappears on arriving at the Expo. As the Expo map only lists the more prominent, larger pavilions, North Korea’s was missing from it. Staff at the information booth did not even know that such a pavilion exists. Thinking that perhaps the isolationistic country pulled out at the last minute, I checked my phone. Yes! North Korea is in World Expo 2015. Yes! Their main exhibit is on Ginseng. Feeling vindicated, I found a digital map that placed the NK pavilion close to the Tree of Life.
The pavilion sat among a cluster of countries with smaller exhibits. It took a while to locate the pavilion, which was oddly set among the Islands, Sea and Food Cluster. Its neighbors were the Maldives, Carribean, Madagascar...etc. On the wall under DPRK’s flag, it talks about a nation struggling with the threat of rising sea levels. I assume that is the Maldives.
I visited the NK pavilion at the 2010 World Expo at Shanghai. Compared to that humble affair, this pavilion looks Spartan. The wall showcased some Ginseng products and the usual images of iconic places in Pyongyang. One shelf was proudly dedicated to a World Intellectual Property Organization patent of a Ginseng-based product.
I found a friendly English-speaking staff and told her about our educational programs. It turned out that we knew people in common from Pyongyang. She was excited at being abroad for the first time ever, and looked forward to touring Italy after the exhibition is over. And in fine international tradition, we took a selfie together.
In the short time I was there, the only other visitors were Chinese volunteers from the China pavilion, who dropped in for a friendly conversation with their North Korean counterparts.
Do visit by if you happen to be at the World Expo! For those of us who seek a North Korea more integrated into international society, it was nice to see them present at this Expo.