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Photos show what it’s like inside the North Korean summer camp where Russian kids will go


North Korean schoolchildren rowing, water slide in backgroundSongdowon International Children’s Camp has a full-size water park with waterslides and a boating lake.

Courtesy of Rowan Beard

  • Russian children will attend a summer camp in North Korea in late July.
  • The camp visit follows a strategic partnership agreement between North Korea and Russia.
  • Songdowon International Children’s Camp has regularly hosted international schoolkids.

A group of Russian schoolchildren will attend a summer camp in North Korea at the end of July.

Songdowon International Children’s Camp has welcomed international kids in the past, but the latest initiative to host a group of Russian children comes amid deepening ties between North Korea and Russia, following the signing of a strategic partnership agreement last month between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un.

Take a look inside the vast campground, which offers a rare glimpse into life in the hermit kingdom.

The summer camp in Wonsan has a maximum capacity of about 1,200 children.The main building of the Songdowon International Children's CampThe main building of the Songdowon International Children’s Camp.

Courtesy of Yuri Frolov

According to Young Pioneer Tours, which leads tours to the campsite, a 2014 renovation led by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un increased the Wonsan campsite’s capacity to around 1,200 children.

Most kids are North Korean, though some come from Russia, China, and other parts of the world.Songdowon international children's camp buildings, Kangwon Province, Wonsan, North Korea on September 10, 2012Campers at Songdowon International Children’s Camp.

Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Getty Images

Rowan Beard, a tour manager for Young Pioneer Tours, told Business Insider that the camp has previously accepted schoolkids from Russia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, Mexico, and other countries.

A former camper told BI that the North Korean kids are largely segregated from international visitors.The lobby of the dormitory at the Songdowon International Children's Camp is painted in pastel colors, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in Wonsan, North KoreaThe dormitory building of Songdowon International Children’s Camp.

Wong Maye-E/AP Photo

Yuri Frolov, a Russian who went to the camp in 2015 and 2016, told BI that the North Korean children were largely “segregated” from the international campers.

He said they only met briefly on their last day of summer camp.

Some kids went because it seemed like a cheap beach holiday, a former camper says.North Korea girls showering at beachGirls shower at a beach in Songdowon.

Wong Maye-E/AP

Frolov, who went to Songdowon to see North Korea with his own eyes, told BI that many others in his cohort were there for a different reason — a chance to go on a beach vacation for very little money.

The summer camp is heavily subsidized by North Korea, and he said it only costs visiting campers about $300 to $400 for the trip.

It also has a private beach area.

The dorms are supervised, but kids still get up to trouble, one ex-camper says.Bedroom in songdowon international children camp, wonsan, north koreaInside a dorm room at Songdowon International Children’s Camp.

Eric LAFFORGUE/Getty Images

Frolov, the former camper, said it was easy for kids to buy alcohol and cigarettes in North Korea.

Though the dorms were supervised, he said that it didn’t stop his cohort, most of whom were about 12, from getting blind drunk during their first couple of nights of the camp.

There are relics from North Korea’s former leader.A North Korean woman shows a tent visited by Kim Jon iL at Songdowon International Children's Camp on April 17, 2008 in Wonsan, North Korea.A tent visited by Kim Jong Il at Songdowon International Children’s Camp in 2008.

Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

The camp was opened in 1960. Relics, such as a tent visited by Kim Jong Il, are on display.

The camp was set up to foster relations with foreign countries through hosting their children.

Kids sing propaganda songs about the country’s former Supreme Leaders, an ex-camper says.The concert hall where campers at Songdowon International Children's Camp sang songs about North Korea's leaders.The concert hall where campers at Songdowon International Children’s Camp sing songs about North Korea’s leaders.

Courtesy of Yuri Frolov

International campers are still expected to partake in patriotic rituals.

Frolov, the former camper, said they had to sing songs in Korean about North Korea’s former leaders using Russian-language lyric sheets.

This would take place in a large concert hall called the International Friendship Children’s Hall, he said.

He added that they also needed to polish a statue of North Korea’s founder.Kim il Sung statue in Songdowon international children's campKim Il Sung statue at the Songdowon summer camp in 2008.

Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Getty Images

Another unusual ritual, Frolov said, was being made to polish the statue of Kim Il Sung.

Although it was professionally cleaned weekly, he said, they were expected to polish it for dust to show respect for the country’s founder.

There are lots of facilities on the vast campsite.FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) visits the Songdowon International Children's Camp in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 6, 2014. KCNA via REUTERS/File PhotoNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Songdowon International Children’s Camp.

Thomson Reuters

The vast campsite has many facilities, including amusement park rides, an arcade room, a rock-climbing wall, and an aquarium.

The Sindok Aquarium has turtles and sharks.Aquarium at at the Songdowon International Children's Camp in Wonsan City, North Korea on Saturday May 10, 2014A tank at the Sindok Aquarium at the Songdowon International Children’s Camp.

Courtesy of Rowan Beard

The Sindok Aquarium was the first aquarium to be built in North Korea, according to aquarium company Marinescape.

By international standards, it is small, Marinescape said.

According to Aquamarine, which also worked on the construction, it has sharks and turtles.

There’s also an aviary.North Korean schoolchildren look at a raptor inside an aviary at the Songdowon International Children's Camp in Wonsan City, North Korea on Saturday May 10, 2014Children look at a bird of prey at the Songdowon International Children’s Camp aviary.

Jon Chol Jin/AP Photo

Songdowon also has an aviary. One visitor blogged that the birds, including love birds, lived in “very small enclosures.”

As pictured, it also features some birds of prey.

As well as a show room for stuffed animals.guide showing a stuffed seal offered by kim jong il in songdowon international children camp,A tour guide shows a taxidermied animal at the Songdowon International Children’s Camp.

Eric LAFFORGUE/Getty Images

According to the Korean Friendship Association USA, Songdowon has an educational showroom of stuffed animals.

Those on display include a stuffed northern goshawk, North Korea’s national bird, the group said.

Campers have an athletic track, as well as other sporting facilities.Children talk in the centre circle after taking part in a game of football at Songdowon International School Children's Camp on August 22, 2018 in Wonsan, North Korea.A view of the athletics track and playing field at the Songdowon International Children’s Camp.

Carl Court/Getty Images

Songdowon has an athletics track and playing field. It also has a basketball court and archery range so campers can stay active.

One camper said there are often swimming races.North Korean school children play in the aquatic center at the Songdowon International Children's Camp in Wonsan, North Korea, on June 23, 2016.Children swim at the campsite’s indoor swimming pool.

Wong Maye-E/AP Photo

According to North Korean state media, Kim Jong Un visited the summer camp in 2013 and ordered the construction of a new indoor swimming pool.

Frolov, who previously attended the summer camp, said campers often competed in swimming races.

There’s a full-size waterpark, also supposedly requested by Kim Jong Un. North Korean schoolchildren rowing, water slide in backgroundSongdowon International Children’s Camp has a full-size water park with waterslides and a boating lake.

Courtesy of Rowan Beard

According to North Korea Leadership Watch, which analyzes North Korean news, Kim Jong Un instructed camp officials on how to improve the complex in 2014.

One request was to include sailboats so campers could enjoy marine sports.

Songdowon features a full-size water park with waterslides and a boating lake.

There are also cooking lessons.Children take part in a cookery lesson at Songdowon International School Children's Camp on August 22, 2018.Children take part in a cookery lesson at Songdowon International School Children’s Camp on August 22, 2018.

Carl Court/Getty Images

Campers can learn how to cook traditional Korean food.

But the food is not good, said a former camper.Food is laid out in a birthday hall at Songdowon International School Children's Camp on August 22, 2018 in Wonsan, North Korea.

Carl Court/Getty Images

Frolov, the former camper, told BI he struggled to find food he wanted to eat. He said he mainly survived on rice, bread, and potato wedges.

He said that about once a week, seafood was on offer, but otherwise the food was bland or outright untasty.

Russian kids will get to experience Songdowong again this summer.Children walk through Songdowon International School Children's Camp on August 22, 2018.Children walk through Songdowon International School Children’s Camp, where Russian children will be sent this summer.

Carl Court/Getty Images

A group of Russian children is scheduled to stay at Songdowong from the end of July until early August.

This will be the first trip in a while, given that trips to the summer camp were paused during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grigory Gurov, the chair of the Movement of the First, told Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti that conditions there will be “excellent.”

Read the original article on Business Insider