After the meal was over, he kindly agreed to show us his cultural center upstairs. The first two rooms were of non-political art, the same kitsch and sentimental pictures as in the restaurant, a kind of tasteless craft rather than art. But then he took us into his inner sanctum, where, he said, there was political art as well as literature. For he conceded that there were political aspects to North Korea, as there were to everywhere else.
Here he showed us his posters of angrily determined North Korean soldiers endlessly smashing imperialist aggression, as well as his collection of photographs, which, he said, came to him through Moscow. Here at last was the goose-stepping, rather than the peony-perpetually-in-bloom, side of the regime: rockets being driven along the broad streets of Pyongyang (the only traffic they ever witness, in fact, apart from parades of hundreds of thousands), the perfect formations of men-automata as far as the eye could see. Again from politeness I did not laugh when he showed me a picture of the tribune of the politburo with Kim Jong Il in the chair: a row of prune-like men, the majority military in Soviet-style caps several sizes too large for them, and weighed down by medals, and not a smile between them, only the visages of men sucking lemons.