North Korea


Or as they like to call themselves, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. But North Korea is neither democratic nor especially people friendly. The country is run by a despotic and paranoid regime, headed by Kim Jong Un, the third successor in the Kim dynasty of rulers who have created a personality cult where each Kim successor is said to be divine. The people are kept in line by a combination of fear, famine, disinformation and a perceived external threat in the form of the eternal archenemy “America” (especially the U.S.A.) as well as the harsh conditions in the many concentration camps.

As his reign began in 2011, Kim Jong Un’s direction is unpredictable as he has rid himself of all of the advisors passed down by his father, however, he continues verbal nuclear threats aimed at the West and in 2013 launched protest missiles. On the other hand, he seems to love American basketball as much as his father was known for loving Hollywood movies.

So what can you expect in North Korea? On the whole, most tours are propaganda excursions, taking you from one museum glorifying the Great Leader to the next glorifying the Great Leader. Expect to be bowing to various statues of the Great Leader. You will definitely visit the capital Pyongyang. You will probably see the Demilitarized Zone from the North Korean side. There will be trips to cultural sights like old Buddhist monasteries. The highlight for most visitors are the annual Arirang Games, a practice in synchronized gymnastics, though they have been cancelled the last couple of years and it is unsure if or when they will return.

Tourism is strictly regulated, and there is no freedom of movement. To enter you need to apply through a government approved tour agency, which will have a strict itinerary. As for cost, think in the region of 200 to 300 dollars a day at the time of this writing (2015). This includes everything, and as there is very little you can buy in the country you won’t need to take much money with you, except perhaps for the odd postcard. If you like bizarre, repressive regimes, or just want to go where few have ventured before, then definitely North Korea should be on your list.

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