Wednesday, November 16, 2022
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North Korea

travel guide

North Korea is an East Asian nation located in the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang is both the capital and the biggest city in North Korea. The nation is bordered to the north and northwest by China and Russia, respectively, along the Amnok (known as the Yalu in China) and Tumen rivers. South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea) borders the nation to the south, with the highly guarded Korean Demilitarized Zone dividing the two. The Korean state’s roots may be traced back to 8000 BC, with three kingdoms thriving in the first century BC. Korea derives its name from the Kingdom of Goguryeo, sometimes spelt Kory, which was one of East Asia’s most powerful dynasties. With the creation of the Hangul alphabet by Sejong the Great in 1446, Korea during the Later Silla and Balhae dynasties experienced almost a millennium of relative tranquillity under long-lasting dynasties throughout the 7th century.

Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910 and remained so until the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II in 1945, when it was divided into two zones along the 38th parallel by the United States and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets occupying the north and the Americans occupying the south. Negotiations for reunification fell down, and in 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south established two distinct administrations. The Korean War (1950–53) was precipitated by an invasion launched by North Korea. The Korean Armistice Agreement induced a cease-fire, but no formal peace treaty was ever signed. In 1991, both nations were admitted to the United Nations. The DPRK legally defines itself as a self-sufficient socialist state and conducts elections. It is seen as a totalitarian government by critics. Several media sources have labeled it Stalinist, citing the extensive personality cult around Kim Il-sung and his family.

Human rights abuses in North Korea have been classified as a distinct category with no counterpart in the modern world, according to international agencies. The Workers’ Party of Korea, headed by a member of the ruling family, governs the country and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, of which all political officials must be members. North Korea has progressively drifted away from the global communist movement. Juche, an ideology of national self-sufficiency, was included into the constitution in 1972 as a “creative application of Marxism–Leninism.” The state owns the means of production via state-run businesses and collectivized farms. The majority of services, including as healthcare, education, housing, and food production, are subsidized or financed by the government.

North Korea had a famine from 1994 to 1998, killing between 0.24 and 3.5 million people, and the nation continues to struggle with food production. North Korea adheres to the Songun, or “military-first” strategy. With a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary troops, it is the nation with the most military and paramilitary personnel. Its active duty army of 1.21 million is the world’s fourth biggest, behind only China, the United States, and India. It is armed with nuclear weapons. North Korea is an atheist state with no official religion and a prohibition on public religion.

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North Korea - Info Card

Population

25,971,909

Currency

Korean People's won (₩) (KPW)

Time zone

UTC+9 (Pyongyang Time)

Area

120,540 km2 (46,540 sq mi)

Calling code

+850

Official language

Korean

North Korea | Introduction

Geography Of North Korea

North Korea is located between 37° and 43° north latitude and 124° and 131° east longitude on the Korean Peninsula. It is 120,540 square kilometers in size (46,541 sq mi). To the north, North Korea has land borders with China and Russia, and along the Korean Demilitarized Zone, it shares land boundaries with South Korea. The Yellow Sea and Korea Bay are to its west, while Japan is to its east across the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea).

Because of the numerous consecutive mountain ranges that crisscross the peninsula, early European travelers to Korea noted that the land resembled “a sea in a strong gale.” Mountains and uplands cover a significant portion of North Korea, which are divided by steep and narrow valleys. North Korea is home to all of the Korean Peninsula’s mountains with altitudes of 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) or higher. Paektu Peak, a volcanic mountain with a height of 2,744 meters (9,003 feet) above sea level, is North Korea’s highest point. The Hamgyong Range in the far northeast and the Rangrim Mountains in North Korea’s north-central region are two more notable ranges. The picturesque splendor of Mount Kumgang in the Taebaek Range, which extends into South Korea, is legendary.

In the west, the coastal plains are broad, whereas in the east, they are sparse. The plains and lowlands are home to the vast bulk of the people. Forest comprises approximately 70% of the nation, mainly on steep slopes, according to a United Nations Environmental Programme study from 2003. The Amnok (Yalu) River is the world’s longest river, with a length of 790 kilometers (491 mi).

North Korea has a mix of continental and oceanic climates, although the majority of the country has a humid continental climate according to the Köppen climate classification system. The northern and northwestern winds that blow from Siberia provide clear weather mixed with snow storms throughout the winter. Because to the southern and southeastern monsoon winds that bring moist air from the Pacific Ocean, summer is by far the warmest, most humid, and rainiest season of the year. From June through September, about 60% of total precipitation falls. Between summer and winter, spring and fall are transitional seasons. Pyongyang’s daily average high and low temperatures are 3 and 13 degrees Celsius (27 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit) in January and 29 and 20 degrees Celsius (84 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit) in August.

Climate Of North Korea

The climate is classified as continental, with summer being the wettest season. Summers are hot, but winters may be very cold, with temperatures as low as -30°C. Droughts in the late spring are often followed by heavy floods. During the early fall, there are a few typhoons.

Demographics Of North Korea

North Korea’s 24,852,000 inhabitants are racially homogenous, with the exception of a tiny Chinese minority and a few ethnic Japanese. The population was expected to rise to 25.5 million by 2000 and 28 million by 2010, according to demographic analysts in the twentieth century, but owing to the North Korean famine, this never happened. It started in 1995, lasted three years, and resulted in the deaths of 300,000 to 800,000 North Koreans each year. Malnutrition-related diseases such as pneumonia and TB, rather than hunger, were more likely to blame for the fatalities.

To fight the hunger, international donors headed by the United States began sending food via the World Food Program in 1997. Despite a significant decrease in assistance under the George W. Bush administration, the situation progressively improved: the number of hungry children fell from 60% in 1998 to 37% in 2006 and 28% in 2013. In 2013, domestic food production almost returned to the required annual level of 5.37 million tons of grain equivalent, but the World Food Program stated that nutritional variety and availability to fats and proteins remained limited.

The famine had a major effect on population growth, which fell from 0.9 percent per year in 2002 to 0.53 percent per year in 2014. Late marriages following military duty, limited living space, long hours of labor or political studies all add to the population’s exhaustion and slow its development. The national birth rate is 14.5 births per 1,000 people per year. Two-thirds of households are made up of extended families that live in two-room apartments. Marriage is very ubiquitous, and divorce is uncommon.

Religion In North Korea

North Korea is an atheist regime that forbids public worship. In North Korea, no official data on faiths are available. According to Religious Intelligence, 64.3 percent of the population is non-religious, 16 percent practices Korean shamanism, 13.5 percent practices Chondoism, 4.5 percent practices Buddhism, and 1.7 percent practices Christianity. The right to religious rituals and freedom of religion are guaranteed under the Constitution, although faiths are officially regulated by the government.

Buddhism and Confucianism continue to have an impact on cultural life. Buddhists, according to reports, are doing better than other religious groups. Because Buddhism plays such an important part in traditional Korean culture, the government provides them with limited money to promote the faith.

The Chongu Party, which is controlled by the WPK, is the official representative of Chondoism (“Heavenly Way”), an indigenous syncretic belief incorporating aspects of Korean shamanism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Catholicism. The Open Doors mission, on the other hand, says that North Korea is home to the world’s most severe persecution of Christians. There are four state-sanctioned churches, but proponents of religious liberty argue that they serve as displays for outsiders. Religious persecution in North Korea is a source of concern for Amnesty International.

Language In North Korea

Korean is the national language. It’s worth noting that North Koreans prefer to call Koreans Choseonmal rather than hangungmal. North Korea, unlike South Korea, has abandoned Chinese hanja characters in favor of Choseongul, or hangeul characters.

Your guides will speak English reasonably well (some better than others) and will translate if necessary. Mandarin, German, Russian, Japanese, or Spanish are among the languages spoken by some guides.

Although there is no official rule prohibiting residents of the DPRK from engaging with visitors, locals may be discouraged from communicating with foreigners owing to government propaganda that suggests outsiders are usually up to no good, and language may be an additional obstacle. A trip to the DPRK during their holidays may allow you to engage more with the people.

Internet & Communications in North Korea

Phones

You may now bring a mobile phone into North Korea from outside the nation as of January 2013. However, you will be unable to use your existing SIM card in North Korea. The local network, Koryolink, is the only network you are permitted to connect to using one of their SIM cards. Your phone must support the 2100MHz 3G frequency band and be a 3G WCDMA phone.

Pyongyang launched a 3G mobile phone network (Koryolink) in 2008, which currently serves 42 of the country’s major cities. Locals who can afford it and long-staying foreigners who submit an application utilize it extensively. Sim cards and phones may be bought at the International Communication Center, located at No. 2 Pothonggang-dong in Pothonggang District, just across from the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, as well as at Pyongyang airport and certain hotels. Foreigners may now use 3G mobile internet through Koryolink as of February 25, 2013, but price is still unclear. Keep in mind that these SIM cards will only allow you to make international calls to a limited number of international-enabled phones in North Korea. For your SIM card, you may select from three options:

  • For €50, you may get a prepaid SIM card. This includes the SIM card, which you may retain forever for future trips, as well as a modest amount of calling credit (less than €30).
  • For €50, you may rent a prepaid SIM card for two weeks. This package also includes €30 in calling credit.
  • For €75, you may rent a prepaid SIM card for a month. This package also offers €55 in calling credit.

Calling rates are as follows:

  • China and South-East Asia: €1.43 per minute.
  • Russia: €0.68 per minute.
  • France and Switzerland: €0.38 per minute.
  • U.K. and Germany: €1.58 per minute.

International calling is usually available from hotel landlines, but it is costly (€2 per minute as of February 2012) and all conversations are likely recorded and monitored.

Local calls from call boxes need the elusive 10 chon coins, although they may also be made from hotels and post offices.

Furthermore, your phone conversations in North Korea may be extensively monitored, so you should be cautious about what you say on such calls.

Internet

Internet access is restricted since just a few residents have authorization to use it. Most of the bigger hotels provide Internet connection, although it must be requested several days in advance. Provide advance notice of your needs to your tour operator or inviting party so that access authorization may be obtained. In the hotels, there are no public internet cafés or business centers with internet connection. Mobile internet is accessible via a local SIM card on Koryolink’s 3G network (see above), although specifics are presently sparse. Also, even if you have Internet connection, your traffic may be watched, so be cautious about what you write in your email, and be aware that a firewall prevents access to many websites that people outside of North Korea use.

Economy Of North Korea

Since the 1940s, North Korea has had one of the world’s most restricted and controlled economies. It followed the Soviet model of five-year plans with the ultimate aim of attaining self-sufficiency for many decades. North Korea was able to quickly recover from the Korean War and achieve very high growth rates thanks to extensive Soviet and Chinese assistance. When the economy transitioned from broad to intense development about 1960, systematic inefficiencies started to emerge. Long-term development has been hampered by a lack of trained labor, energy, arable land, and transportation, which has resulted in a continuous failure to achieve planned goals. The economy’s significant downturn contrasted with South Korea, which by the 1980s had overtaken the North in terms of absolute Gross Domestic Product and per capita income. In December 1993, North Korea proclaimed the previous seven-year plan a failure and ceased presenting new goals.

Throughout the 1990s, the loss of Eastern Bloc trade partners, as well as a succession of natural catastrophes, resulted in extreme difficulties, including widespread hunger. The situation improved by 2000 as a result of a major international food aid effort, but the economy continues to be plagued by food shortages, crumbling infrastructure, and dangerously low energy supplies. In an effort to recover from the financial crisis, the government started structural changes in 1998, which officially recognized private asset ownership and decentralized production control. In 2002, a second wave of reforms was implemented, resulting in the growth of market activities, partial monetization, flexible pricing and wages, and the implementation of incentives and accountability methods. Despite these reforms, which were allegedly reversed shortly after they were implemented, North Korea maintains a command economy in which the government controls almost all means of production and sets economic goals.

North Korea has the structural character of a moderately industrialized nation, with industry accounting for almost half of GDP and human development at a medium level. The GDP is projected to be $40 billion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, with a per capita value of $1,800. In 2012, the country’s gross national income per capita was $1,523, compared to South Korea’s $28,430. The North Korean won is the country’s official currency, issued by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Central Bank.

The economy has a high level of nationalization. Food and housing are heavily subsidized by the government; education and healthcare are also free; and taxation was eliminated in 1974. Pyongyang has a range of products accessible in big stores and supermarkets, but the majority of the populace still shops in small-scale jangmadang marketplaces. The government attempted to rein in the expanding free market in 2009 by prohibiting jangmadang and the use of foreign currency, heavily devaluing the won, and restricting the convertibility of savings in the old currency, but the resulting inflation spike and rare public protests forced the government to reverse these policies. Women dominate private commerce since most males are obliged to be present at work, despite the fact that many state-owned companies are non-operational.

Industry and services employ 65 percent of North Korea’s total work force of 12.6 million people. Machine construction, military equipment, chemicals, mining, metallurgy, textiles, food processing, and tourism are all major industries. North Korea outperforms its southern counterpart in a few key areas, such as iron ore and coal output, where it generates about ten times more of each resource. Natural catastrophes of the 1990s devastated the agriculture industry. Around 1980, its 3,500 cooperatives and state farms were among the world’s most prolific and profitable, but today face chronic fertilizer and equipment shortages. Rice, maize, soybeans, and potatoes are just a few of the main crops grown here. Commercial fishing and aquaculture provide a major contribution to the food supply. For the last decade, tourism has been a booming industry. Through initiatives like the Masikryong Ski Resort, North Korea hopes to raise the number of international tourists from 200,000 to one million by 2016.

Foreign trade exceeded pre-crisis levels in 2005 and is still growing. North Korea has a variety of special economic zones (SEZs) and Special Administrative Regions (SARs) where international businesses may operate with tax and tariff benefits while North Korean businesses benefit from better technology. Initially, there were four such zones, but they had little overall effectiveness. In 2013, 14 additional zones were added to the SEZ system, and the Rason Special Economic Zone was reorganized as a joint Chinese-North Korean enterprise. The Kaesong Industrial Region is a special industrial zone where 52,000 North Koreans are employed by more than 100 South Korean businesses. Outside of inter-Korean commerce, China accounts for more than 89 percent of all foreign trade. With $100 million in imports and exports in the same year, Russia is the second-largest international partner. North Korea’s debt was written off by Russia in 2014, and the two nations agreed to conduct all transactions in rubles. External trade was $7.3 billion in 2013, the highest level since 1990, but inter-Korean trade fell to an eight-year low of $1.1 billion.

Entry Requirements For North Korea

Visiting North Korea may be difficult, and you will not be able to see the nation without being escorted by a North Korean, whether as part of a group or on an individual trip. Depending on the geopolitical environment, entry conditions vary often and without warning. For example, between October 2014 and March 2015, North Korea was largely closed to tourists owing to an Ebola fear, despite no instances of the illness in or around the nation.

Foreign embassies are increasing their diplomatic presence in Pyongyang. Find out ahead of time which nation can help you in the event of an emergency, such as a medical issue or a police encounter.

Because Sweden protects Americans, Australians, and Canadians visiting North Korea, the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang may be able to provide limited consular services to these tourists. The US Department of State strongly advises American citizens to alert the Swedish embassy (through email) about their travel to North Korea, as well as the US embassy in Beijing, China, especially if their trip to North Korea includes a stopover in China.

Except for Singaporeans and Tanzanians, whose governments have chosen to opt out of this system, the British embassy provides consular services to Commonwealth nationals who do not have representation via other nations.

Visa & Passport

Almost all citizens of the world will need a visa, which will be granted only after your trip has been scheduled and authorized by North Korean officials. Singaporean and Malaysian passport holders who are entering for 30 days or fewer for official, business, or tour reasons and have previously obtained the necessary paperwork are the only exceptions.

Tourists usually get a tourist visa by arranging a trip via a travel operator that specializes in such excursions. The visa is generally handled by the travel companies on their behalf, but in certain instances, tourists are needed to conduct a brief phone interview with the North Korean embassy to verify their identification and employment. The interview is usually done in a pleasant way, so there is no need to be concerned. Visas are often only verified the day before the trip, although tourists are seldom turned down unless they can demonstrate that they are a political figure or a journalist.

Tourist visas for North Korea are often granted on a tourist card. When joining a tour group, group visas are often given on separate pieces of paper listing all of the group’s participants, along with a tourist card with the tour leader’s name. Tourists are never allowed to keep this visa, but they may ask to have a picture taken of it. In any event, there will be no stamp in the passport. Only when a visa is granted inside a North Korean embassy in Europe will a visa and entry stamp be placed on the passport.

Additional restrictions

Journalists and anyone suspected of being journalists are need to acquire special authorization, which is difficult to obtain. Journalists are not permitted to visit North Korea on a tourist visa.

In 2010, the majority of restrictions on American citizens were removed, but visitors are still not permitted to travel by rail or engage in homestay programs. Tours organized by exchange organizations such as Choson Exchange and The Pyongyang Project are exempt from these limitations.

South Korean citizens are not allowed to enter North Korea unless they obtain permission from the North Korean government for entry and the Ministry of Unification for the South. If South Korean nationals do not get authorization before returning, they may face a long jail term under the National Security Act. Citizens of South Korea who go to North Korea using a passport from another nation are still at danger of being prosecuted.

Israelis and Jewish citizens of other nations do not suffer any extra limitations, contrary to popular belief.

Tours

North Korea can only be visited on a guided trip, which may be for a big group or for a single person. Prices for a 5-day group trip from Beijing, which includes lodging, food, and transportation, start about USD1,000/€700/GBP580, but may skyrocket if you wish to travel across the country or “independently” (as your own one-person escorted group). The following tour operators/travel companies organize their own trips to North Korea:

All tours (with the exception of a few, such as Choson Exchange and The Pyongyang Project, which both work directly with different government departments and local DPRK NGOs) are organized by the Korean International Travel Company, and its guides will show you around. The average number of visitors per group that each business accepts varies significantly, so you should inquire about this before scheduling a trip.

The majority of individuals traveling to North Korea will pass via Beijing, and you will most likely pick up your visa there, but some agencies may arrange visas abroad ahead of time. The North Korean consulate is located around the corner at Fangcaodi Xijie, apart from the main embassy complex on Ritan Lu. It’s open 09:30-11:30 & 14:00-17:30 M, W, F; and 09:30-11:30 Tu, Th, Sa. Bring your passport, USD45, and two passport pictures with you.

For “security concerns,” or simply because your entrance and departure dates must be recorded, as shown by the black stamps on the back of your visa or passport, your guides will take your passport and retain it throughout your stay in North Korea, or at least for the first couple of days of your trip. Make sure your passport is in good shape and matches the most popular passports in your nation.

Visiting the North Korean border area from South Korea

The Panmunjom Joint Security Area (often referred to as Panmunjom) is the only location in North Korea that ordinary visitors may visit from the south. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which separates the two Koreas, has a jointly managed ceasefire town. It offers one-day bus excursions from Seoul on a regular basis. Specific nationalities are subject to restrictions.

Until 2009, group bus excursions from the South to North Korea’s Kaesong and Kumgangsan were possible. It’s unknown when or if they will be operational again.

How To Travel To North Korea

Get In - By plane

Sunan Foreign Airport in Pyongyang handles all international flights. There is no other airport in North Korea that handles international aircraft. Sunan is served by just two commercial airlines: Air Koryo, North Korea’s official carrier, and Air China. Aeroflot and China Southern Airlines do not travel to North Korea as of August 2013.

Air Koryo

Air Koryo, North Korea’s only airline, presently operates regular flights from Beijing departing at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays and returning at 09:00 a.m. on the same days. Every Wednesday and Saturday, Air Koryo flies to and from Shenyang, as well as every Tuesday morning to Vladivostok. There are additional flights to Kuwait and Kuala Lumpur.

Air Koryo has been the sole 1-star (lowest) airline on Skytrax’s ranking for the last four years. It was formerly prohibited in the EU owing to safety concerns. Despite the fact that Air Koryo last had a fatal accident in 1983, the airline only runs a few trips with its fleet of ten planes. Flying Air Koryo is mostly for the experience; otherwise, it is generally preferable to fly Air China. The Air Koryo fleet comprises solely of Soviet or Russian-made aircraft, with two Tupolev Tu-204s serving as the pride of the fleet, which currently mostly serve the Beijing–Pyongyang and Beijing–Shengyang routes. Otherwise, you’ll most likely be flying on one of their Ilyushin IL-62-Ms, Tupolev Tu-154s, or Tupolev Tu-134s (1979-1988 era).

Air China

Air China, a Star Alliance member, operates Boeing 737s three times weekly from Beijing to Pyongyang. Most people prefer Air China over Air Koryo because of its much more modern fleet.

Get In - By train

Train K27/K28 runs four times a week between Pyongyang and Beijing, China, via Tianjin, Beidaihe, Shanhaiguan, Jinzhou, Shenyang, Benxi, Fenghuangcheng, Dandong, and Sinuiju. On the international railway between Beijing and Pyongyang, there is just one class: soft sleeper. It is possible to reserve it at the Beijing station, but reservations must be made many days ahead of time. Unless you’re traveling for business, your tour agency will generally handle this for you. Space on the Beijing–Pyongyang line is becoming more scarce, so reserve your tickets as soon as possible.

Train K27/K28 also transports straight sleeper carriages from Moscow to Pyongyang through China once a week. Moscow – Novosibirsk – Irkutsk – Chita – Harbin – Shenyang – Dandong – Shinuiju – Pyongyang is the route. Every Friday evening, a flight leaves Moscow and arrives in Pyongyang one week later on Friday evening. Saturday morning departure from Pyongyang, Friday afternoon arrival in Moscow.

There is also a direct train connection into Russia, which runs via Tumangan/Khasan and across the North Korean/Russian border. This route is serviced by a direct sleeper carriage that travels twice monthly (on the 11th and 25th from Moscow) and arrives in Pyongyang 9 days later. However, this has not been an officially authorized tourist route since the mid-1990s, and KITC refuses to arrange excursions using this route; a few Western visitors have been able to ride this train into North Korea, but reports suggest that additional journeys on this route would be fruitless.

Some travel agencies (Lupine Travel, for example) may arrange for a minivan to take you from Dandong to Sinuiju, where you can then catch a domestic North Korean train to Pyongyang. On most cases, you’ll be placed in a hard seat carriage with KPA troops and party employees who are traveling with their families. A restaurant car with foreign beers (Heineken) and soft drinks, as well as various local beers and spirits, is available. The journey to Pyongyang is intended to take about 4 hours, although it has been known to take up to 14. Prepare for temperatures as low as -10°C inside the carriages while traveling in the winter.

Get In - By boat

Between Wonsan and Niigata, Japan, there was an unplanned cargo-passenger ship. The boat service, which was only accessible to select Japanese and North Korean people, has been stopped indefinitely as a result of North Korea’s suspected nuclear tests; Japan has prohibited all North Korean ships from accessing Japanese ports, as well as North Koreans from entering the country. If you’re on a boat, be cautious not to go too near to the North Korean border; many South Korean fisherman are still waiting to exit the country.

A cruise ship runs between the coast of Northeastern China and Mt Kumgang, in addition to the unscheduled ferry. The cruise company utilizes a 40-year-old ship that is jointly managed by China and North Korea. The voyage is 44 hours long in total, with each leg lasting 22 hours, however non-Chinese nationals are not allowed on the boat to Mount Kumgang.

Get In - By bus

A bus from Dandong, China, to Sinuiju may potentially be taken over the Yalu River. The “Dandong China Travel Company” runs it, although it is currently exclusively accessible to Chinese residents.

How To Travel Around North Korea

Your tour operator will take care of all of your transportation requirements. The majority of the time, this implies buses, but tour groups visiting isolated locations (such as Paekdusan and Mount Chilbo) may utilize Air Koryo’s chartered aircraft. It is not permitted to wander about on your own, and you must be accompanied by a guide at all times.

Most visits to Pyongyang involve a carefully staged one-station ride on the Pyongyang metro, but using any other form of local public transportation is usually impossible. Some trips also include a rail journey from Pyongyang to the border city of Sinuiju, where you may stop for a 1-day tour, but US citizens are not eligible for this option.

It is also feasible to arrange a walk around select districts of Pyongyang with some travel agencies if you are traveling in a small group (Koryo).

Destinations in North Korea

Regions in North Korea

  • Donghae Coast (North Hamgyong, South Hamgyong, Kangwon, Kŭmgang-san)
  • Baekdu Mountains(Ryanggang, Chagang)
  • Pyongan(North P’yongan, South P’yongan, Pyonyang, Shinuiju)
  • Hwanghae(North Hwanghae, South Hwanghae, Kaesong)

Cities in North Korea

  • Pyongyang was the capital of Goguryeo during the Three Kingdoms era.
  • Chongjin is a North East industrial city that is seldom visited by visitors.
  • Hamhung – a northern city where official travel is uncommon. itinaries
  • Former capital of the Goryeo dynasty, Kaesong
  • Nampho is a port and industrial center on the western coast of the country.
  • Rason – A free trade zone featuring a casino on the Russian border.
  • Sinuiju is a desolate industrial city near the Chinese border. From the outside, this is perhaps the simplest method to get a glimpse of the nation.
  • Wonsan — An east coast port city that is progressively opening to visitors, as well as the country’s first ski resort

Other destinations in North Korea

  • Kumgangsan – the beautiful Diamond Mountains, which may be reached by excursions from the south.
  • Myohyangsan — the Mysterious Fragrant Mountain — is one of the finest trekking destinations in the North.
  • The legendary birthplace of the Kim dynasty is the Baekdu Mountains, Korea’s highest peak.
  • Panmunjom is the final Cold War outpost in the DMZ between South and North Korea.

Accommodation & Hotels in North Korea

This will most likely be your largest outlay while in North Korea. Only “approved tourist hotels” are allowed to stay, and you must pay in hard money. Discounts may be available if you request lower-class accommodations, travel in a group, or visit during the low season (November to March). Depending on these variables, the cost of your trip, which includes lodging, all tourist activities, and meals, will vary from USD70 to USD200 each day.

Before you depart, you usually pay your tour operator for all of your meals, accommodation, and Beijing–Pyongyang transportation. At peak season, a week in a four-star hotel will cost between €1,300 and €1,600, depending on your tour operator, but may cost as little as €800.

Things To See in North Korea

Every tour is led by a government minder who determines what you can and cannot see. Expect to be escorted by one or more minders from the time you leave your hotel. They examine any photos that they believe do not represent North Korea or its government in a positive way and ask photographers to remove them, in addition to ensuring that visitors do not wander outside of approved tourist zones. It’s usually a good idea to pay attention to and agree with what your minder is saying. When you ask uncomfortable sociopolitical questions, you’ll get vague, evasive answers at best, and hours of questioning at worst.

If you’re unsure about shooting photos anywhere, it’s usually a good idea to ask your guide, but tolerances tend to vary a lot. You may be able to find a laidback guide who will let you shoot photos from a bus or inside a city. On the other hand, you could obtain one that tightly controls where you take photos, prohibiting anything shot from a tour bus or of specific locations in general, such as Pyongyang’s downtown streets. There is just no way to know until you go on a tour. If you believe a picture would be humiliating to the DPRK as a whole, either ask or don’t take it at all.

Military members are likewise usually banned from being photographed. Again, if you’re unsure, consult your handbook. However, in certain cases, such as at Mansudae (the memorial site for the sculptures of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il) or a local funfair, it is difficult to shoot some locations without adding a few military soldiers. Although you will be informed where taking photos is absolutely banned (like as in some parts of the DMZ), and the guards/soldiers there would react negatively to being photographed in general, reactions appear to range from being ignored to interest. The inside of the Friendship Exhibition, which exhibits presents from across the globe to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and the Kumsusan Memorial Palace are two more places where photography is banned. The guards will likely examine your camera for unflattering pictures if you depart the country via train (to Beijing).

Visits to different war memorials, monuments to the Great Leader and the Workers Party of Korea, and many museums make up the bulk of sightseeing (mostly war-related, like the statues and monuments). In North Korea, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a popular tourist attraction.

While you’re in North Korea, the popular opinion is that the Americans are to blame for initiating the Korean War; disagreeing with this perspective is likely to create difficulties for both you and your guide, especially because the two Koreas are still technically at war, with merely a cease-fire in effect. The DMZ is highly guarded and studded with minefields and other booby-traps, despite its deceptive moniker. You must not leave your group or take photos of military sites under any circumstances. The “peace settlement” Panmunjom, on the other hand, is open to photography and features the world’s third highest flagpole.

Whilst on these guided tours, especially to the state museums and monuments, you will undoubtedly endure an ongoing barrage of propaganda, consisting largely of anecdotes about things that Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il did for their country. To the untrained eye, several of these statements may seem strange and even funny; nevertheless, keeping a straight face is usually recommended. It’s safer to pretend to accept what they say seriously, even if it contradicts everything you’ve ever learned in history class or defies even the most fundamental human logic.

Sights

So, now that you’ve heard all of this useful information, where should you go? Pyongyang is home to many of the major sites you’ll see. There’s much to see even if you don’t there in time for the Arirang Mass Games. There’s Kim Il-sung Square, which hosts the city’s notoriously spectacular military parades. Even without the parades, it’s a beautiful plaza, and the Grand People’s Study House is located there. Over 30 million volumes are housed in this massive library and learning center, which uses a sophisticated system of conveyor belts to bring you the one you need. Two museums are also located in the plaza, the most notable of which is the Korean National Art Gallery. The Triumphal Arch is the nation’s capital’s other major monument. It is the world’s biggest arch of its type, somewhat larger than its Parisian cousin. The huge bronze sculptures of the Great Leader and Kim Jong-il will also be prominently displayed. Respectfully join the community in their earnest efforts to honor the monuments, which are an important part of the national leaders’ dedication cult. Try the lovely Pyongyang zoo for a greater possibility of informal interactions with locals. Visit the Great Leader’s birthplace at Mangyongdae and, of course, the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, which houses both of the previous Kim’s embalmed corpses.

No tour to North Korea is complete without a thorough examination of the tense and highly guarded Panmunjeom border standoff, also known as the Joint Security Area. The town of Kaesong is not far away, featuring a beautiful ancient town and King Kongmin’s UNESCO-listed tomb. Visit Kumgangsan, or the Diamond Mountains, for breathtaking natural wonders, including magnificent panoramas, waterfalls, lakes, and old Buddhist monasteries.

Things To Do in North Korea

As previously said, there is virtually little to do outside of the boundaries of your assigned minder(s), with the majority of recreational activities taking place inside the tourist resorts. Bowling and karaoke are two of the most recent additions to the city’s astonishing array of leisure options. The karaoke videos are often backed with dramatic historical footage from the Korean War or troops from the People’s Army who are goose-stepping.

Three amusement parks exist in North Korea, two of which have been abandoned owing to a lack of interest and power. Unfortunately, the Kaeson Youth Fair has now closed, taking with it the notorious “Roller Coaster of Death.” The shooting galleries with backgrounds of snarling American and Japanese troops are still visible, but your guide is unlikely to let you go into any abandoned sections. The only surviving amusement park in North Korea has several attractions that are really very contemporary and non-lethal, at least by North Korean standards, and is about as worth a visit as anything else you’ll see there.

In comparison to the capitals of other countries (save maybe Reykjavik in Iceland), Pyongyang’s nightlife is surprisingly peaceful and non-violent; citizens are not a danger in general. However, depending on what you say or do, the plain-clothes secret police may or may not constitute a danger. Expect an assault of 80s classics from the West (some clearly illegal copies, judging by the quality), interrupted by the strange caterwauling of Korean folk songs, and at the very least attempt to appear excited about the entire situation.

There are no newspapers or periodicals published outside of North Korea (since media from outside the country is generally banned for ordinary North Koreans). Foreign transmissions are banned, and the only radio and television stations permitted are those broadcasting official propaganda, but many foreign news sources (like as BBC World News and NHK World) are accessible in tourist hotels. Fortunately, alcohol is inexpensive and readily available, but it is not recommended to get inebriated and cause a disturbance. Furthermore, authorities penalize both drugs trafficking and use harshly; traffickers may expect to face the death sentence if found.

Finally, keep in mind that power outages may occur unexpectedly and in the midst of any activity. While this may be beneficial if the jukebox is getting to you, it is not ideal if you are in the midst of an amusement park ride, especially because these blackouts may continue for hours at a time.

North Korea’s sole ski resort, Masikryong, opened in the winter of 2013. A visit to the resort, which is located near the western city of Wonsan, may be incorporated as part of a larger DPRK trip.

Food & Drinks in North Korea

Food in North Korea

Despite acute food shortages in North Korea, which have resulted in the deaths of millions of people, you will not have any difficulties in obtaining food. Your guide will place all of your meal orders for you, and you will only dine in places that accept hard money. Vegetarians and those with dietary allergies or aversions to popular items like shellfish or eggs may need to make special arrangements ahead of time. Inquire with your guide about a visit to a “genuine” local eatery. Although your cuisine will be superior than that consumed by 95% of the population, it will not necessarily be excellent. Shortages, coupled with the traditional usage of Korean culinary methods, result in a restricted range of food, which may be exhausting on trips lasting more than a few days.

In Pyongyang, there are a few western cuisine choices today, and these places may generally be visited if booked in advance with the guides. They will almost always need extra payment (unless you have previously negotiated this with your tour operator), since the expenses are not included in the Korean Travel Company’s per diem price. There are two Italian restaurants (one near the Korean circus and one near the USS Pueblo) and two burger restaurants (one on Kwangbok Street near the Korean circus where the pizza is excellent and they have imported a pizza oven and all the ingredients so the quality is extremely good) (the more accessible is in the Youth Hotel). Both are cheap and provide some variety to an otherwise bland dining setting – particularly on lengthy trips! Visit the Vienna coffee shop on the riverside of Kim Jong Il Square for a decent cup of coffee that tastes like it came from Europe.

Drinks in North Korea

Insam-ju, Korean vodka flavored with ginseng roots, is a local specialty.

Taedonggang beer, which is produced locally, is excellent. The brewery was bought from Ushers in the United Kingdom and relocated to Pyongyang, and some of the sojus are also very good. A 650mL bottle of beer costs €0.50 on the local market. Imported beers, such as Heineken, are likewise reasonably priced. However, do not get inebriated and create a ruckus. You and your guide will face severe consequences if you don’t follow the rules and show respect.

Because tap water isn’t always adequately treated, it’s best to consume bottled water instead.

Money & Shopping in North Korea

Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) were phased out in 2002, along with all the other colored currencies. There is now just the North Korean won, which is officially valued at about 130 per US dollar or 1315 per euro (Dec 2015). Although black market prices may easily be 20 times the official rate (particularly in far northern Korea near the Chinese border), importing or exporting Korean won is absolutely prohibited. In contrast, if you smuggle any won out of the nation, they are virtually useless outside of the country, but they make interesting keepsakes.

In fact, foreigners are urged to utilize euros, Chinese renminbi, US dollars, or Japanese yen as alternatives. It is feasible to get local currency, however it is difficult to utilize since many businesses need international currency. Currency handling is often odd, with a shortage of change and a slew of rule-of-thumb conversions resulting in very unusual transactions. As a result, be sure to carry a lot of tiny change. Your only expenditures will be bottled water, souvenirs, snacks, beverages at the bars, hotel laundry, and tips for your guides, since you will have already paid for your accommodation, transportation, and meals in advance.

In any event, the only stores you’ll probably be able to visit are the state-run souvenir shops near your hotel and at different tourist sites. You won’t be able to visit a genuine local store that serves the locals, but you may get fortunate if you ask your guide if he or she trusts you sufficiently.

Souvenirs

NOTE:
If you want to go to South Korea directly or indirectly after visiting North Korea, you should be aware that the South has severe regulations against the import and possession of North Korean propaganda, including the National Security Act. You should avoid bringing anything into South Korea that might be interpreted as North Korean propaganda, such as stamps or postcards with pictures of North Korean officials. Biographies and literature on North Korea are also prohibited.

At tourist attractions, there are many souvenir stores that exclusively accept hard money. Propaganda literature and films, postcards, and postal stamps are all interesting mementos. You may buy freshly completed paintings with your name and the artist’s name at the bottom of certain tourist attractions (such as King Kongmin’s tomb).

You may purchase postcards and mail them to anybody in the world except South Korea, which does not seem to accept them.

In Kaesong, several outstanding silk or linen paintings were offered straight from the artist. It is not allowed to haggle for lower rates, although the prices are very cheap.

Prices in North Korea

The majority of your expenses will be paid in advance as part of your trip. Most attractions include a store where you may purchase bottled water, souvenirs, and refreshments. These are cost-effective. Large bottles of local beer cost USD2 at Pyongyang hotel bars in August 2007. If you aren’t planning on gambling at Yanggakdo Hotel’s casino, €200 for one week should be plenty to cover your water, bar beverages, souvenirs, and guide tips.

Traditions & Customs in North Korea

It’s worth noting that the DPRK leadership, particularly its leaders Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un, are held in high regard in North Korean culture, at least officially. While visitors should not anticipate slavish devotion, particularly because the DPRK’s Juche ideology is intended only at the Korean people and does not apply to outsiders, criticizing them in any manner is extremely disrespectful and unlawful, and will land you and (much more so) your guides in hot water. It is not worth endangering their lives by unintentionally offending their leaders.

When speaking with your guides, it is preferable to refer to North Korea as the DPRK. The official name of the nation is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which reflects their view that the south (not capitalized) is occupied territory. In the same manner, you’ll see this mentioned in their material (i.e. as “south Korea”).

The DPRK maintains stringent photography restrictions, despite the fact that there are numerous excellent photo possibilities across the nation, especially in Pyongyang. This, again, is mainly dependent on the guides given to you and how comfortable they are in trusting that you would not disgrace them. While it used to be true that you couldn’t “look at” or “take photographs of” individuals in the DPRK, you may be shocked to learn that you can now photograph a wedding couple or a grandma walking her grandchild and waving back at you. Also, do not photograph anything that might be of strategic significance (for example, locations with soldiers or police officers in front of them) or anything that you have been explicitly instructed not to photograph. If you’re ever in doubt, as previously said, always consult your advisors.

Bringing presents for the males, both guides and the driver, such as cigarettes or Scotch, and chocolate or skin care for the female guides, is a lovely gesture. Please be courteous of your guides, particularly because North Korean guides have been known to accompany visitors whom they trust to locations and activities in North Korea that they would not otherwise visit. This may also apply to how comfortable they are with you taking pictures of them. Remember that they may be just as interested in you as you are in them.

When visiting national landmarks in the DPRK, most, if not all, tour groups are required to kneel respectfully and leave flowers in front of sculptures of Kim Il Sung on one or two times. Do not attempt to enter North Korea if you are not prepared to do so. Just remember to treat pictures of the two leaders with respect at all times. This includes photographing them in a courteous manner. When photographing sculptures, particularly Mansudae, be careful to get the whole statue. Formal attire is also required while visiting significant sites such as Mansudae or the Kumsusang Memorial Palace.

Any problem you create as a tourist will very certainly be blamed on your tour guide’s failure to keep you under control, and he or she will be the one to pay the price. Furthermore, future visitors will have less flexibility and will be restricted in terms of where they can go and what they may shoot.

Apart from your tour guide, you are unlikely to encounter anybody else who knows English throughout your vacation; learning a few Korean words and phrases is a good internationalist gesture.

Despite their severe political differences, North and South Koreans have a similar culture; the many suggestions in the South Korea page under respect (such as pouring beverages with two hands) will also be useful here.

Culture Of North Korea

Despite a significant Chinese influence in the past, Korean culture has developed its own distinct identity. It was attacked during Japan’s reign from 1910 to 1945, when the country imposed a program of cultural absorption. Koreans were pushed to study and speak Japanese, adopt the Japanese family name system, and practice Shinto faith, while writing and speaking Korean was banned in schools, companies, and public places.

Following the division of the peninsula in 1945, two different cultures emerged from the shared Korean background. North Koreans are seldom exposed to outside influences. The revolutionary struggle and the leadership’s genius are two major topics in art. Traditional culture’s “reactionary” components have been eliminated, and cultural forms with a “folk” spirit have been restored.

The government protects and preserves Korean culture. Over 190 historical places and items of national importance are listed as North Korean National Treasures, while 1,800 lesser-valued relics are listed as Cultural Assets. Kaesong’s Historic Sites and Monuments, as well as the Goguryeo Tombs Complex, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Art

The aesthetics of Socialist Realism are prevalent in the visual arts. To develop an emotional allegiance to the regime, North Korean art blends the influence of Soviet and Japanese aesthetic expression. All North Korean painters are obliged to join the Artists’ Union, and the finest among them are granted official permission to depict the leaders. “Number One works” include portraits and sculptures of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un.

Mansudae Art Studio has dominated most areas of art since its inception in 1959. It employs approximately 1,000 artists in what is perhaps the world’s largest art factory, producing paintings, murals, posters, and statues. The studio has marketed its art and sells it to collectors in a number of countries, including China, where it is quite popular. Mansudae Overseas Projects is a subsidiary of Mansudae Art Studio that specializes in large-scale monument building for overseas clients. The African Renaissance Monument in Senegal and the Heroes’ Acre in Namibia are two of the projects.

Music

Throughout much of the twentieth century, the government promoted upbeat folk music and revolutionary song. Massive orchestral works, such as the “Five Great Revolutionary Operas” based on traditional Korean ch’angguk, are used to communicate ideological themes. By using traditional instruments in the orchestra and eliminating recitative passages, revolutionary operas vary from their Western counterparts. Sea of Blood is the most frequently performed of the Five Great Operas, having been performed over 1,500 times since its debut in 1971, and its 2010 tour in China was a huge success. The State Symphony Orchestra and student orchestras play Western classical music by Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and other composers.

The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble and Wangjaesan Light Music Band introduced pop music in the 1980s. Following the Inter-Korean Summit, improved ties with South Korea resulted in a decrease in blatant ideological statements in pop songs, although themes like comradeship, nostalgia, and the building of a strong nation persisted. The all-girl Moranbong Band is now the country’s most popular band. North Koreans have also been exposed to K-pop, which is widely distributed via underground marketplaces.

Literature

In contrast to the old Soviet Union, there is no literary underground and no recognized dissident authors. Because publishing houses are regarded an essential instrument for propaganda and agitation, they are all controlled by the government or the WPK. The Workers’ Party of Korea Publishing House is the most reputable of the group, publishing all of Kim Il-writings, sung’s as well as ideological teaching materials and party policy papers. North Korean versions of Indian, German, Chinese, and Russian fairy tales, Tales from Shakespeare, and certain works by Bertolt Brecht and Erich Kästner are examples of restricted international literature.

Kim Il-personal sung’s works are referred to as “classical masterpieces,” while those produced under his direction are referred to as “models of Juche literature.” The Fate of a Self-Defense Corps Man, The Song of Korea, and Immortal History, a series of historical books portraying Koreans’ suffering during Japanese rule, are among them. Between the 1980s and the early 2000s, more than four million literary pieces were produced, although nearly all of them fall within a small number of political genres, such as “army-first revolutionary fiction.”

Because it deviates from the conventional norms of comprehensive descriptions and metaphors of the leader, science fiction is regarded as a minor genre. The tales’ exotic locations provide writers greater leeway in depicting cyberwarfare, brutality, sexual abuse, and criminality, all of which are missing from other genres. Through portrayals of robots, space travel, and immortality, science fiction works exalt technology and promote the Juche notion of anthropocentric life.

Media

Government regulations on cinema are similar to those that apply to other arts – motion pictures are used to achieve “social education” goals. Some of the most significant films are based on historical events (An Jung-geun shoots It Hirobumi) or folk stories (An Jung-geun shoots It Hirobumi) (Hong Gildong). The majority of films contain predictable propagandist plot lines, making cinema an unattractive form of entertainment. Viewers will only watch films starring their favorite actors. Although the 1997 Titanic is often presented to university students as an example of Western culture, Western productions are only accessible during private showings to high-ranking Party members. In border regions, smuggled DVDs and television or radio transmissions provide access to foreign media goods.

North Korea’s media is subject to some of the most severe government censorship in the world. According to a Reporters Without Borders assessment, freedom of the press ranked 177th out of 178 nations in 2013. According to Freedom House, all media outlets act as government mouthpieces, all journalists are members of the Communist Party, and listening to foreign broadcasts is punishable by death. The Korean Central News Agency is the primary news source. The capital publishes all 12 newspapers and 20 magazines, including Rodong Sinmun.

There are three state-owned television channels in the country. Two of them exclusively broadcast on weekends, while Korean Central Television broadcasts every evening. Uriminzokkiri and its related YouTube and Twitter accounts provide government-issued images, news, and video. In Pyongyang, the Associated Press established the first full-time Western all-format office in 2012.

As a consequence of North Korea’s isolation, there has been bias in foreign reportage on the country. Despite the absence of a reliable source, stories like Kim Jong-un having surgery to appear like his grandpa, killing his ex-girlfriend, or feeding his uncle to a pack of starving dogs have been disseminated by international media as fact. The Chosun Ilbo, a right-wing South Korean daily, is the source of many of the allegations. “Almost every report [about North Korea] is regarded as generally trustworthy, no matter how absurd or poorly sourced,” writes Max Fischer of The Washington Post. The problem is further complicated by North Korean institutions’ occasional intentional misinformation.

Cuisine

Korean food has changed throughout the ages as social and political conditions have changed. It has evolved from old agricultural and nomadic traditions in southern Manchuria and the Korean peninsula, and has been subjected to a complex interplay of the natural environment and many cultural tendencies. Korean staples include rice dishes and kimchi. They go with both side dishes (panch’an) and major meals like juk, pulgogi, or noodles in a typical dinner. The most well-known traditional Korean spirit is soju.

Okryugwan in Pyongyang, North Korea’s most renowned restaurant, is famed for its raengmyeon cold noodles. Gray mullet soup with boiling rice, beef rib soup, green bean pancake, sinsollo, and terrapin meals are among the other foods available. Okryugwan sends research teams to the countryside in order to gather information on Korean cuisine and offer new dishes. Branches of the Pyongyang restaurant chain may be found in several Asian cities, where waitresses perform music and dance.

Sports

North Koreans have an almost fanatical sports mindset, with daily practice in sports such as association football, basketball, table tennis, gymnastics, boxing, and others taking place in most schools. The DPR Korea League is well-known in the nation, and its games are often shown on television. Chollima, the national football squad, participated in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, losing all three matches against Brazil, Portugal, and Ivory Coast. Its 1966 participation was much more successful, with a 1–0 win against Italy and a 3–5 quarter-final defeat to Portugal. A national team also competes in international basketball tournaments on behalf of the country. After developing a relationship with Kim Jong-un, former NBA player Dennis Rodman traveled to North Korea in December 2013 to assist in the training of the national team.

North Korea competed in the Olympics for the first time in 1964. The summer games made its debut in 1972, with five medals, one of which was gold. North Korean athletes have won medals in every summer games since then, with the exception of the boycotted Los Angeles and Seoul Olympics. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, weightlifter Kim Un-guk broke the world record in the Men’s 62 kg division. As a reward for their accomplishments, the state provides luxurious residences to successful Olympians.

The Arirang Festival has been named the world’s largest choreographic event by Guinness World Records. 100,000 athletes execute rhythmic gymnastics and dances in the front, while another 40,000 construct a massive animated screen in the backdrop. The event pays tribute to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il and is an artistic depiction of the country’s history. The Festival is held in Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, the world’s biggest stadium with a capacity of 150,000 people. Another noteworthy sporting event is the Pyongyang Marathon. It is an IAAF Bronze Label Race open to amateur runners from all over the globe.

Stay Safe & Healthy in North Korea

WARNING:
You should never mention anything that might be seen as an offense to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-Il, Kim Jong-Un, or any member of their family, the North Korean government in general, the North Korean military, the Juche philosophy, the Songbun policy, the North Korean economy, or North Korean people. If at all possible, stay away from these subjects. You should always assume that anybody you interact with is a representative of the North Korean government, and you should react appropriately if sensitive subjects emerge. If you respond wrong, you and your guide may be in severe danger, but your guide would most likely suffer the brunt of it. North Korea is notorious for its draconian penalties, which may vary from long jail terms to a lifetime of terrible abuse and torture (for the guides), while you might be punished to prison, deported, and barred from returning to the country.

Stay Safe in North Korea

At least for visitors on a carefully supervised tour, crime is virtually non-existent. Pickpockets, on the other hand, are the last thing on your mind. The authorities are very sensitive, so be careful what you say and how you say it. Simply follow the guides’ lead and compliment each location on your trip. Remember the golden rule: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Furthermore, it is against the rules to roam about on your own. If you are leaving your hotel on your own, you must get authorization and/or have a guide accompany you. This depends depend on the hotel you are staying in. The Yanggakdo Hotel is located on an island in the center of Pyongyang’s Taedong River. As a result, you have a bit more freedom to roam about the neighborhood than if you were staying at the Koryo Hotel in the heart of town. Always be pleasant and kind to your guides and drivers, who will usually reward you by increasing their confidence in you and allowing you greater freedom.

Restraint, care, and common sense are required while shooting pictures. The guides will not be pleased if you seem to be searching for bad pictures of North Korea and will urge you to remove any images that are suspicious. You must not photograph anything military, including people, or anything that portrays the DPRK in a negative way.

As previously said, the kind of guides you are given and the relationship you have with them may have a significant impact on your photography freedom. In the best-case situation, you can frequently snap photos without feeling rushed or as if you’re attempting to hide them, resulting in some really distinctive images. If you are in a location where taking pictures is prohibited, you will be told, and it is better to just follow your guide’s instructions. Always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always Your guide may even want to put your camera to the test and snap a photo of you for your collection.

In the worst-case situation, you should be able to lift your camera at a fair pace, compose and shoot the photo, and then drop it at an acceptable speed. Don’t attempt to photograph anything you’ve been instructed not to, such as military people or certain locations. This may draw attention to yourself and the picture you’re attempting to capture, and you may be instructed to delete the photograph, whether justified or not.

When leaving the nation by rail, digital cameras are often examined. A easy solution is to leave a memory card with uncontroversial photos in the camera and file away any cards containing material that is politically questionable.

This information should never be revealed to visitors of Korean ancestry. North Koreans have a strong feeling of ethnic identity, which will unavoidably attract unwelcome attention. Furthermore, if you get into difficulty, having a foreign passport won’t help you much if the authorities think you’re a Korean.

Visitors have sometimes been targeted for political reasons; in 2013, the DPRK detained, briefly imprisoned, and expelled an 85-year-old American citizen for his military service during the Korean War.

In North Korea, drug trafficking and drugs use are both punished by death. Marijuana, on the other hand, is legal in North Korea and may frequently be seen growing wild beside the road.

It is highly advised that you do not bring any literature or participate in any religious activities. Kenneth Bae, an American Christian missionary, was detained in North Korea in 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for his religious efforts (however, he was released nine months later). Jeffrey Fowle, an American, was also detained for leaving a Bible in a North Korean nightclub and served six months in a North Korean prison.

Stay Healthy in North Korea

North Korean drinking water seems to be untreated, and there have been instances of foreigners being hospitalized in the DPRK after drinking the water; thus, bottled water is strongly advised.

Medical facilities are clean, although they are extremely old. If you get sick, it may be preferable to seek medical care in China. If your nation has an embassy or consulate in North Korea, contact them for help.

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