While there are many interesting countries in the world, some travelers will always be drawn to the ‘harder’ countries, you know-like the ones where democracy is a curse word. The fact is, the world is smaller than it was 20 or even 10 year ago, and it can be hard to get off-the-beaten-track when the track is full of tourists attempting to do the same thing.
That’s why the latest ‘tourist craze’ is North Korea. A country run by a slightly (or incredibly) insane dictator who just killed a bunch of his family members, allegedly feeding his uncle to a pack of starving dogs.
It’s easy to see why people are still traveling to North Korea though. Travel bloggers and journalists particularly want to see what’s really going on in “the happiest country in the world”, and report back to their readers. So with this in mind, should you travel to North Korea?
What is travel in North Korea really like?
North Korea receives around 6,000 foreign visitors a year, which is ten times the amount of tourists that were allowed to visit a decade ago. All tourists must be traveling as part of a tour group, which is state run. This does mean that any profit from these tours goes straight back into the regime, and the citizens who live in poverty without access basic things like food and health care don’t see a cent.
You won’t run into any of these people when you visit North Korea though. You also won’t see the estimated 300,000 people in concentration camps throughout the country. All tourists stay at Yanggakdo International Hotel, which is located on an island. They travel with guides the whole time, and while some visitors say they were not allowed to speak to locals, others say they were allowed to speak freely and even permitted to wander off occasionally.
The locals that you will see are among the richest in the country. Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are scattered throughout every city, and both locals and foreigners are expected to bow to them and show their respects. North Koreans also have to have portraits of both of them on their wall at home, and there are often random checks to make sure they are hanging up and constantly polished.
Most tourists will be taken to the Korean War Museum, also known as the Museum of American Atrocities. Anti-American propaganda is all over the place, and while it’s true that most of the population appear “brainwashed” some of them do know what’s going on outside of North Korea.
So should you visit? This depends on the type of traveler you are. If you can keep your mouth shut, bow to the many statues and portraits, and look beyond the surface you may be pleasantly surprised. As North Koreans interact with tourists, they may begin to question the lies they’ve been fed, and as more tourists visit they can also tell the rest of the world about what life is really like in North Korea.
What do you think? Would you consider visiting North Korea?