This past week I circled back around to one of my biggest curiosities : North Korea.
A few years ago I was lost in the depths of the internet and googling backpacking trips in Iran. I had no intention of going, but I was pretty amazed to see the vast number of travel companies, and the large number of rave reviews from travelers all over the world. That spurred me thinking about tourism in places that never really seem to make the front of the brochure, the last places you’d actually take a holiday. Thus beginning my obsession with North Korea.
Usually the more I investigate travel somewhere the more doable it seems. You read good reviews. You find reputable travel agencies. But there is nothing usual about North Korea. The travel websites I’ve found are less than settling, such as New Korea Tours which has a section called “Testimonies” where American tourists write bizarre reviews and the same sketchy man is featured in every picture. There is also a severely terrifying page of travel rules, where you can learn interesting facts like in 2003 children would be afraid of you but now they might even reply with hello. I guess that’s what you get after 12 years of successful tourism.
Everything about a trip to North Korea sounds bizarre and dangerous. There’s a great article spelling out the 20 most interesting things about a visit to North Korea, and from what I’ve read it sounds every bit as strange as I imagine it.
Why do I want to travel North Korea:
To see beyond the veil into the land of mystery. It’s off the grid. There’s no internet. It’s an entire hermit country. This also means it’s wildly different from anywhere I’ve been and I’m pretty curious to see what’s going on. I’ve heard that there’s nothing like going there – and there are a lot of really beautiful areas (even if they are possibly staged for the benefit of tourists). Of course there’s also mass poverty, famine,and oppression, just for starters.
Why I don’t want to go :
Well… these reasons can be found on the U.S. government travel advisory page
The below excerpt is the beginning of a long line of reasoning.
Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens have been subject to arrest and long-term detention for actions that would not be cause for arrest in the United States or other countries. North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally or intentionally crossed into DPRK territory without valid visas. The Department of State has received reports of DPRK authorities detaining U.S. citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country. North Korea has even detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours. Do not assume that joining a group tour or using a tour guide will prevent North Korean authorities from detaining you or arresting you. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.
Since the U.S. government has no consular services in North Korea, you’re basically doomed.
If there ever comes a day when North Korea is considered safe to visit, I’d love to go. Of course that would mean that things there would have to change extremely drastically, so I’d also miss out on all of the oddities which currently intrigue me. For now, the intrigue doesn’t outweigh the almost certain detainment by authorities and lifetime of hard labor.