You are offered a chance to go on a 10-day tour of North Korea, all expenses paid. Like in most tours taken by foreigners in North Korea, the itinerary will be set by the North Korean tourism agency and you will be accompanied by North Korean tour guides the whole way. Assume that North Korea will know your correct nationality and will know of any significant connections you have to North or South Korea.* Assume that there is no problem getting away from your normal life for that amount of time.
Would you go?
Please state your nationality and if you have any East Asian ancestry or significant Korean connections, please specify.
- By connections I mean stuff like having lived there, having close Korean relatives, being a professor of Korean history, etc.
My answers: Leaning toward yes, but I’m not sure. What a rare opportunity it would be, but traveling in North Korea can be risky for Americans, and while they don’t seem to have thrown any ordinary American tourists in the gulag, I don’t exactly trust them not to start now. North Korean prisons are exceptionally bad and it would be much harder for the U.S. to get me out than it would if it were somewhere else. I’d be willing to follow their rules, but there’s a pretty good chance I’d do something “disrespectful” despite my best intentions. I’m not the best at hiding my feelings, and I could see myself making a snarky remark to the wrong person. Chances are I’d make it through okay, but that’s far from certain. I find North Korea fascinating, so I’d love to see it in person, but it might be just too upsetting. Visitors have reported that the NK guides try to keep visitors from seeing anything but the best the country has to offer, but even the best is pretty bad and not everything can be hidden. Reports also indicate that I’d spend the whole time uncomfortable and wishing for something palatable to eat. I guess the actual risks are low, but it just seems like a terrible idea. Still, I’d definitely want to see it for myself. Come to think of it, the most significant risk would be that nobody here in the U.S. would be willing to talk to me after the trip because I’d never shut up about it.
I’m a U.S. American living in the U.S. with no East Asian heritage or significant Korean connections.