I have no intention or desire to do such a thing (I’m quite fond of food, to say nothing of being allowed to surf the web and read real newspapers), but what if I did? I know Americans and most westerners can go on organized, escorted tours if they have enough money to do so.
But what if I, as a born-and-raised American, decided to move to Pyongyang and settle down? Would they let me? Would I lose my American citizenship? If after a few years I decided to leave and somehow got out of North Korea, would the US take me back?
Is this a question that’s simply too bizarre to have a real factual answer?
If you’re the one asserting that working there would be treason, it’s up to you to support your assertion with some evidence.
Is North Korea officially an enemy? The US does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations, and there are frequent criticisms of the country by American government officials, but does that make it an official enemy for the purposes of a treason charge? What is the official US policy on this?
Yep. They hate us alot, we are their worst enemy according to their propaganda. And we have sanctions against them.
During the Korean war some US soldiers defected to Korea. I assume they’d let you in nowadays, then they’d take all your money and either kill you or make you a slave though. North Korea is so hard up for money that they are running tours for S. Koreans to visit the country. The North Korea reality tours.
From the Mouth of Babes, the official DPRK website.
Can I emigrate to North Korea and live in North Korea?
It’s possible only in very special situations and having honor/merits. You must send a request letter stating your reasons, together with your complete CV, copy of your passport and certificates to email@example.com
Most of those are lies though so I’m not sure how true no. 3 is.
I bet a westerner could manage to defect to NK and would be exploited for propagandistic purposes. There’d be no shortage of work for such a person, either, in the insular NK film industry (like the aforementioned Jenkins, who had played many bad guy roles in their movies), as a translator, in their nascent tourism industry, or perhaps in as some sort of spook, double agent, or propagandist. They might use the defector to test the loyalty of their tourism employees and of the ordinary person on the street, who isn’t supposed to speak to foreigners at all.
But you’d be under constant surveillance for the rest of your life.
I don’t remember reports of Jenkins playing in any Northern movies; however, I do recall the reports of him working as an English teacher. His wife, a victim of North Korea’s kidnaping policy (IIRC), was working as a Japanese teacher.
He appeared in Unsung Heroes, a NK propaganda piece. I was stationed in Korea at the time, and I remember it being a big deal when intel identified him in the movie. That was actually the first I’d heard of Jenkins.
You’re right about his wife being kidnapped by NK agents, though. That was a fucking tragedy. For more first-hand information on this phenomenon, read The Tears Of My Soul.
These sorts of things are why I keep a close eye on North Korea when I can. It’s history is more tragic and interesting than any fiction I’ve ever read.
Thanks, Linty. About tragic life in North Korea, read The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag.
For anyone considering moving into North Korea: remember that EVERYONE in the country is a slave to the government. Your freedom of movement is severely restricted to begin with and with no notice, the security apparatus can chuck you into a nightmare which, just maybe, you’ll get out of many years later.
I imagine that would go double for Americans who are crazy enough to want to move there. The default NK attitude toward Americans and most–if not all-other westerners is that they are espionage agents. An American living in Pyongyang would be at constant risk, assuming NK would allow him or her in, which I kind of doubt.
There are scattered reports of Americans living in North Korea, either as unrepatriated POW’s from the Korean war or defectors after the war. Next to Jenkins, the most famous example is PFC Joseph White, who crossed the DMZ into North Korea in August 1982. His fate was predictably brief and sad; used as a pawn by the North Korean government, he eventually drowned during a swim–in January.
Other reports come from western tourists. One tourist reported how the tour bus driver got lost and had to make a three-point-turn on a side road next to a collective farm. The tourist spotted several westerners working in the fields. Another tourist was approached in a coffee shop by a westerner who identified himself as a defector who wished to return to the US (I kind of doubt this story, but I suppose it’s possible.). Still others report going to shops set aside for foreigners and seeing people with American accents shopping while dressed in NK garb.
Unfortunately, I read these several years ago and I don’t have cites, but one thing I can pretty much guarantee anyone is that life in NK as an expat American would truly suck, and the only solace would be that you wouldn’t live long enough to suffer through old age. IMHO, one would be better off going homeless in the US. If nothing else, you would still have at least the semblance of freedom.