Alex Kvassay, a native Hungarian and long-time Wichitan, hasn’t stopped traveling extensively although it’s been years since he zig-zagged the world selling business jets for Olive Ann Beech and Bill Lear.
At over 80 years old, there’s not many places Kvassay hasn’t been. Recently, he’s added the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to the list.
Kvassay recently traveled to North Korea as part of a small western tour group — about the only way one can visit the Communist country. Travel is severely restricted. A policeman and tour guide checked into the hotel when the group arrived and warned them not to leave without one of them.
“I fully recognized I was an enemy in a city with no American Consulate, so I had to behave myself,” Kvassay joked.
There are no private companies, no private property and no free press. There’s also no cell phones or Internet service.
But there are soldiers — 1.3 million of them. And there are plenty of statues, photos and tributes honoring the late founder of North Korea, Kim ll-Song and Kim dictatorship.
“Everything is named after Kim ll-Song,” Kvassay. He’s still referred to as “our president,” Kvassay said, even though he died in 1994.
The group visited the Memorial Palace, the leader’s final resting place. They were warned not to go if they weren’t prepared to bow to the leader. It is mandatory.
“I did that,” Kvassay said. “But I had my fingers crossed.”
In the capital city of Pyongyang, a team of female traffic wardens direct traffic. Although, Kvassay said, there are few vehicles to direct.
A young girl in the military who spoke good English asked Kvassay why he left Hungary.
But when you’re in a Communist country, how do you explain you left to escape Communism? Kvassay said. He changed the subject.