On Birds
and North
Korea

Doves and pigeons, crane, seagulls and goshawks galore

The Koryo Tours Opening Page

On your first visit to the Koryo Tours homepage, you may recall that there is a bird on it. Yes, we ‘put a bird on it’. (In fact, there are three birds.)

Birds are common symbols in Korean paintings. Cranes represent longevity. Magpies are auspicious. The Goshawk, national bird of North Korea, represents the state. In the following video, the Smithsonian Channel gives us a ‘Rare Glimpse of the Elusive Northern Goshawk’.

For once we are glad to see ‘rare glimpse’ applied to something other than photography of North Korea (see here, here, here, here, here, and here (among many others) for articles all with the tired phrase ‘rare glimpse in the title’).

Seagulls also make their way into North Korean culture quite often. There is a Seagull brand radio (I’ve got one behind my desk), the Seagull football team, and seagulls often work their way into songs about the sea (of which there are many). Korea is, after all, surrounded on three sides by water. Such is the nature of a peninsula.

Like around the world, the dove (or white pigeon) is a symbol of peace. The symbol of North Korean automobile manufacturer Pyonghwa (Peace) Motors is a dove. Here a song about doves (and their pigeons friends) flying high.

And while we are on the subject of pigeons, do check out this fascinating read and photo essay from the New Yorker entitled ‘The Turn-of-the-Century Pigeons That Photographed Earth from Above’. It isn’t really related to North Korea, but the shots are reminiscent of the Sniper photo series, a recent winter of the Felix Schoeller Photo Award, shot by Scotland-native Matt Hulse from a window of the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang.

With rumors of a peace treaty to end the Korean War on the table for next week’s inter- (intra-?) Korean talks at Panmunjom, we are hopeful that the coming months may bring significant progress and constructive cooperation on the peninsula for not only its 75 million human inhabitants but also its many types of rare and endangered birds (North Korea is a major stop on the East Asian Australasian Flyway for migratory birds).

See this article for more on migratory bird habitat in North Korea and for some important work done by friends of Koryo.

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