My Visit to North Korea, my observations as a bias Western ignorant tourist and what the world can learn from NK
I wanted to do a daily trip report but I felt that there wasn’t enough happening, as we were only seeing the roads for hours and some statues. I decided to write up my thoughts and add pictures in groups, I don’t feel the interest is enough to spend many days of adding all the info to the pictures and getting everything in order.
Before I start my thoughts I want to mention that there will be a lot of ignorance in my opinions because we all show some level of ignorance offering opinions without a deep unbiased study of what we are judging, but I came to observe with as little bias as I could and be as neutral as I can, but you could argue I have a western bias and as a business owner, a bias in capitalism. I know very little about the leadership, history, war, I am more interested in psychology and seeing alternative lifestyles and what we can learn from it, or maybe it will help me appreciate my own situation more, because we all need to practise gratitude daily, and sometimes we forget the freedom that we have in the west. (even though I live in Thailand and in many ways we are freer here than the west, but less free to express ourselves against leadership)
I also want to mention that the guides I spoke to had limited English and they didn’t always understand me. I would never attack any country, I believe all nations are as good and bad as each other. We are just better or worst in different areas, bad men can only exist by good men staying quiet, so I don’t always pass the blame onto people in full. We are all humans, we have the same wiring for survival, we are habit forming for survival, being bad is bad for survival, sharing and caring is a good foundation for survival and longevity.
I could sensationalise my trip report to attract the masses, I have seen so many people write clickbait titles about North Korea, twisting things and saying what they want about being spied on, I understand the need for attention, but by putting people off coming here you are actually supporting a system in place opposed to going against it, the more people that come to NK the faster they will become free. My report will disappoint many people looking for drama, but I am very sure it will attract many to go and see for themselves.
First I wanted to dispel any things I heard about NK before I came.
People say it’s not safe, it seems very safe here, probably due to harsh punishments, but the problem is, if something bad happens, you cannot run to the media and get attention or justice, in fact, you cannot contact anyone here, you rely on the police/army/guides which I felt like I trusted.
There are two telephone systems, one for foreigners and one for locals, you cannot contact each other
We can only go where our itinerary says, they have to phone for permission to change things, we can only go to certain places, we cannot stop and go anywhere. This means only the places on the itinerary that is pre-approved. This makes it very tough to communicate with local people,, have access to them or even meet other westerns in different hotels. I think this is partly due to so many rules and regulations opposed to hiding/controlling us.
There is only good news here, and it seems to be weekly. The bad news is all international at the end of the local good news. The Pyongyang Times has only good news of achievements and bad news about the US and Japan at the end of it. This means that the world wide web will always have to be blocked providing they want to keep up this narrative, the intranet is heavily controlled to stop this system being breached. I must admit that despite owning our own news company, I do not watch any news, I don’t see the benefit in knowing the bad news, but the media does have a purpose, without the media there is no one to turn to when the police/law hasn’t solved a matter fairly. Also, society should be aware of what problems they face, on the other hand, if you don’t give out bad news, you won’t give out ideas and you can raise the expectations of everyone. Monkey see monkey do is a great analogy of what happens in real life, if we only see good things, maybe we will only do good things?
Arch Triumph, Pakyon Waterfall, Janam Hill
The army here in the neighbourhoods don’t have real bullets?
I asked why there were army guys at villages as we drove past because I was told almost no crime, I was told they were all training and didn’t have real bullets. Maybe I wasn’t understood, maybe she thought I meant something else or maybe they are lied to.
We had to eat separately from the guides and we can’t hang out with them, Koreans believe in only marrying their own blood, this may be to prevent relationships forming, not that they can continue to contact the outside world. People on the internet say the guides are here to spy on us and follow us around…. The guides are translators, organise everything for us, its not easy here with almost no transportation, so you need a driver and guides to help you, with no internet, little available online, almost no road signs and not knowing where to go, you need guides here to take you around, organise, translate and to help you when you need something, its not like many cities where you can just rock up, find a taxi, use google maps and find a 7eleven, exchanges and go to ATMs…. There are no ATMs here and no visa/MasterCard.
There is smart looking security in black at all statues, one guy in the day and two guys at night, they from the army and it was a running joke that they all looked angry and looking for problems, but I seen some Koreans make a mistake bowing at the end at….. and they didn’t make an issue. But these would be the guys you will get asking to see your phone if you take a photo too close and they think you haven’t included the entire statue in the photo. Security is not needed at these statues IMO, I was given the excuse because of the heat and risk of fire, but its to show power and possibly to stop any embarrassing photos.
The currency we used were, USD, Euro, RMB and local money. (Korean Won) We used all of them but tried to stick to local money, but you can only get that when you do the supermarket visit. I do have some local currency to give to friends as a gift, so just ask and I will drop some off at the bar. One note for each person is best.
The zoo had many types of dogs on display, this was very strange to see. The NK people eat dog as a delicacy, some people eat it twice a year at the start of winter which is said to keep them warm. You almost never see pet dogs and I have never seen a stray.
We cannot meet people that we wish, even foreigners unless they are in the same hotel, everything is designed to prevent communication.
34,000 statues in North Korea, that’s one to every 750 people
There are around 200 westerners living in North Korea
Only 5000 westerners per year visit North Korea
Allegedly, only 18 hairstyles for women and 10 for men are allowed in North Korea
Foreigners hanging out with locals is frowned upon
The government spends around 30% of the country’s budget on the military despite problems with healthcare.
Most of my photos went missing due to a dodgy sd card and a problem with my phone, all the photos are from my wife’s collection apart from the random ones in this gallery below.
How do North Korean’s find partners?
They said at university, at weddings as bride maids/groomsmen, work and matchmaking companies. There is no intranet dating websites, But there is no arranged marriage anymore, Koreans are also told to marry their own blood only, and found it very very odd that I had a Thai wife, they probably do not know that other nations interbreed.
You could use the word brainwashing but that tends to suggest only negative connotations, in the west, we are all “brainwashed” by businesses, by telling us how we should behave, what we should wear, what we should buy all the time, we are offered choices to express ourselves or to feel free. We are all brainwashed in some way or another.
In school here the children have hours of singing daily about how great their leadership is, how great their country is by looking at past history, we all have wins we can look back upon but I feel a countries success should be judged by the economy of today, the ethics, poverty, access to hospitals and how prisoners are re-educated. People from Britain are often proud of being so powerful and owning so much, but apart from having the balls and organisation to fight, a lot of bad things had to happen to take peoples land. Maybe the world has a lot to learn from NK, maybe we should all focus on our own countries rules and regulations and not be dictated by other countries. There are very harsh laws in some poorer countries because richer ones told them to make them, maybe we should all find the best way and learn from each other. If drugs weren’t reported in our media, then how would people know they exist?
In North Korea, every room we have been in has some images or video running with old videos, often Korean musicals which have feel-good themes about how proud people should be about there history, they are proud people for this reason, just like Thai people are. There are only NK, Chinese and Russian videos allowed here and they are carefully selected, I think its because they aren’t westernised and have many strict regulations to follow.
If you want to get a group of people under your control, you need to get them to follow a faith, religion or some common objective. You can use “Black people” or “Homosexuals” as an example, they have all banded together in the past to fight for the rights, the appointed leader of a religion or group, can then say every command they want providing it is for the cause. The best force to motivate your staff in a business is to use peer pressure, so if everyone is working hard for their country (therefore leaders who represent them) the flag is used as an anchor for all those feelings, most countries do this, especially Americans and armies use the same techniques to get people to do risky behaviour and tough jobs, when our face is in the dirt in the raid and we are getting bullets fired at us, We wouldn’t do it for money, but we are told its for the greater good of our country and our team, but are our countries really under threat? Or are we fighting for financial reasons? Are we also being lied to and manipulated to take risks and do bad things for our country? (you could argue that’s similar to North Korea but it’s our of context because they are working everywhere, not out on the battlefield. I have seen many people working robotic, for long boring hours, but it wouldn’t be for money, they are doing it for their country…. But does the country benefit from having a human traffic light? If you want to argue against people that represent the flag and you represent them, how can you argue against yourself and an entire country? to argue against the leadership is to take on the whole country.
I am not against any religion or faith, but people should be more honest about the intentions of a faith, the advantages and disadvantages of following them and offer alternative faiths, which suggesting that is laughable. Also, most people are born into a religion and are unaware of what they signed up to, but there is good and bad in every religion, some people need leadership, guidance and a moral blueprint to follow and to live with the hope of a promised afterlife. I also feel to worship someone truly, they need to be dead or people will be familiar with them and see their weaknesses if they are long gone, then the stories can be maintained with less eye witness opinions.
Everyone has an idol or leader, it might be a celebrity, football player, a father, a teacher, a martial arts teacher, someone you follow on youtube or a group of people you look up to, you might not see them as your leader, but you give them more credibility and tend to follow them with fewer questions. We need guidance, education from our elders for survival, we also want people to challenge us.
Freedom is a faith we are all controlled by in the west, we are sold a lie/dream that we are free but in reality we are not free, we are all told to fight for freedom and that’s the narrative we are used to controlling us, we are told to agree to things because it’s for our freedom, but we are not free for many reasons, but we are given more rights, but it’s for great reasons, mostly because the few ruins everything for the masses. We fight for our freedom which creates more stress for us, as we are given more choices that we think we need, but in reality, we are paralysed by choice, what if we didn’t have the choice to buy luxury cars/items, or bigger houses or fashion, would we need to push ourselves so hard, would we be less depressed because we don’t feel so inadequate? We waste so much money trying to get new identities, new clothes, cars, decorating the house, tattoos, we feel great for a short while then we feel empty inside and need more. Does freedom matter as much as we think it does? Should we really be run by the masses (the masses vote for leaders) that are barely educated in the right areas?
Us westerners are not really free because of the price barrier or visas, but we are free to earn more and apply for visas, but a lot of people are limited by their beliefs due to education letting them down and family not teaching them. Prices are driven up because of landowners/landlords, the entire economies are affected by a very few select of people, but I am biased because I am a business owner, you could argue that business owners/landlords are really destroying peoples freedom by setting the prices, but then it boils down to the masses choosing to buy from business owners in said locations, so business owners are forced to go in the higher rent places.
The problem with countries is that they are controlled by the masses and those masses are uneducated, (when I say uneducated, I mean about self-development, relationships, social responsibility, psychology, ethics, moral. Not about religion, history, science, maths because that doesn’t help running our country much) the masses allow leaderships/government to control them, but if the masses were all educated, then we could choose wisely the best people to run our country, but to educate the mass society it needs to be delivered by governments, so it could be made to suit their objectives. How do we educate people without prejudice, corruption of education? The answer is we use multiple books by various people and not curriculum written by governments when I want to learn about a subject like branding, I will read 5 books on it from 5 different experts, they are all from various countries with no bad intentions. The answer is to either find some very trustworthy unselfish people with good intentions to lead our countries or to appoint groups of people with the right education and ethics. However a lot of people have idols that they trust and would rather appoint as their leader which could mean celebrities in the future, I personally think a businessman who has travelled well, been highly self-educated, understands economics, investing and a deep understanding of humans should run our countries, the problem is the best salesmen/public speakers get all the power, the people that are willing to bend the truth more than others, the smartest and observant people I have studied are mostly introverts, who do not get a chance in this game, but its really about influence and not real leadership, because most people just want to be sold hope, they don’t want the cold harsh truth, which is more healthy.
Kumsusan Palace of the Sun
This place is a shrine to the dead president (who is currently still president) and the last chairman. Both of them are on display with attached rooms of all of their medals, certificates, there is no expense spared here and there is limited times when you can visit. (maybe so it looks busy or maybe to be more efficient) It’s at the heart of everyone and the most sensitive place with no one over 17 allowed to go. We are required to go in dressed up and to be very respectful. It was a very serious place and not somewhere I would like to visit again.
This was one of the few places I was slightly nervous, people crying, tensions were tight, I can imagine this is the sort of place where you could be the most insulting if you tried to take sneaky photos or acted disrespectfully, I paid close attention to do what the guides say and there was hundreds of North Koreas visiting to pay respect and many were crying loudly.
I do recommend people still go to visit because its certainly an experience. There are metal detectors, a full pat-down and an air curtain on the way in.
Smoke and Mirrors
Every country has the past history they can brag about, we can repeat that all day to prove greatness, but it’s hard to prove future success, so governments can sell hope and promises, but the current day is the truth of our success because its today that matters. Promises of more freedom to travel keeps hope alive, westerners are promises better employment rates, lower taxes, better hospitals and schools. Lack of progress is a disadvantage of trying to influence a whole nation to do as they are told by focusing on past events repeatedly daily, the advantage is easily persuading people to work hard for almost nothing, work proud with strong work ethics, providing hope is always around, challenges are set (no matter how small) and making people proud of their roles and them not wanting more, it helps by limiting their beliefs and hiding what they could get. Being stuck in the past means that people are often stuck in daily routines, which offers peace, safety and stability, but it prevents change and progress, in the west businesses are always trying to influence our daily routines, this makes us used to change, and causes continued change and progress as we all constantly adapt to what we are influenced by with advertising. When we share the same experiences, same emotions, same energy as those around us, we create emotional bonds, these are ok until we change and others around us stay the same, people in routines will tend to have the same friends for life, people constantly changing habits will make new friends more often and see old ones less often. This is a benefit of routine, the same friends offer more safety and stability.
You can get people doing almost anything and for free if they choose to do it and are doing it for a cause, westerners feel people are forced to do bad things in “regimes” but people are influenced to make choices to do bad/tiresome/mundane jobs. Classic examples are human traffic lights, people working inside electronic lifts, signal box people, guards at various places staring for hours on end without talking. Money cannot buy that dedication.
We seek new pleasures and try to run away from our feelings, we try to overindulge in pleasures because we feel this is where happiness is, if one pleasure isn’t available such as gambling or drugs, they may turn to another pleasure.. True happiness isn’t from pleasure, because we recalibrate and need more continuously, it takes self-reflection and stopping the games, we should live for ourselves and free from the chains. But what if we were limited by which pleasures we could have? No drugs around? Almost no money to buy drugs because our houses are provided for, we get food stamps etc. What if we have less selfish emotions and more selfless emotions. (thinking about the country and not ourselves)
I asked if we could see the courts and we couldn’t. I asked about prisons and they said they don’t have prisons, only re-education. The western media calls them forced labour camps, in the west we have huge expenses housing people in prisons, maybe making them work would reduce costs and help our economy, also I think keeping them more active, with a purpose will help people improve themselves. There is always a cry of human rights from good people about prisons, so they tend to get higher standards of living in the west, so we punish them by taking only their freedom away. Maybe hard labour would be better for our economy and be more of a deterrent for prisoners? Surely if people are warned what punishment they will get for what crime and that punishment is delivered, then its fair game? If you put your hand in fire, you will get burnt, so you don’t do it, if there are harsh punishments for stealing, then you don’t steal or you steal because you might not get caught, so people end up stealing several times, then when they get caught, they complain about the punishment they get… I think no matter what harsh punishment there is, it’s fair to deliver providing everyone knows the punishment beforehand.
Border “Concrete Wall”
At the border everything seemed childish, I’m not blaming it on North Korea, but its just humans in general, one example is the North Koreas made their flag pole bigger than South Koreans, then it became a race to get the highest until North Koreans had the highest flag pole, its actually an indication of pettiness and who is prepared to go to higher lengths of silliness, if that was me, I would put the other countries flag up, to show that I don’t have a problem and I want to resolve it.
I asked about hospitals and I am told there is plenty of them and they are very good, I have no idea if that’s the truth, but living in Thailand 12 years, I have noticed the government hospitals are ok, but the diagnostic equipment can be limited and dated, and it seems like the youngest, less experienced doctors work there, I have a feeling with no private hospitals here, the better doctors go abroad to seek better pay. We had a doctor at our hotel full time, there is no way they can pay him much. I asked why foreigners cant go to the hospitals here, we are warned that we would need to go back to Beijing if we have a problem, I was told by a local its because the doctors in the hospitals here do not speak English. So if we get ill we need to see a hospital in the embassy district that has English speaking doctors, they also said foreigners are scared of Korean doctors, so I am on the fence with this one, I have used hospitals in poor countries a few times, they can make some people anxious.
It seems everything was built in the 1980’s and 1990’s (maybe in the Asian boom) everything seems to be from the leadership or in memory of, or built by Korean people for the leadership, whereas most governments just build stuff with the countries money without any claims, I am not sure if the Korean people really see these as gifts or they know it’s just their money buying stuff. All the buildings are very very grand and well maintained to show power and strength, they are not built efficiently or relative to the economy here, it feels a bit sad so much money is used on such buildings but maybe it’s worth it to make a whole country proud and hardworking? In the west, our labour costs are too high, but here there is an abundance of army, volunteers, “prisoners” and many other people willing to help the country. All the buildings, statues, government buildings, museums are spotlessly clean, many sites look new, but the furniture, fittings and décor give away the age, but everything is so old, it’s like we are in an old movie all the time, old uniforms, buildings and hair cuts.
I was told vinyl/granite/marble was a huge export business here. Most imports seem to come from china, some Russia and I was surprised to see products from the USA, Japan, so I asked and they said it was because those products came from China. (probably made there but says from USA and Japan) I am not sure about South Korea. NK label themselves as Korea.
The education here is tightly controlled, in the library, if you have questions beyond the books, you can have a free consultation with a professor. The professors are sat in rooms waiting for people to ask them questions, I fee this is an inefficient use of their time. I also feel that without the internet, everyone’s education is too controlled and dated, we need to read opposing views to figure out challenges and decide for ourselves, for example, history accounts are written differently from different countries and witnesses. Also any subject you want to really master, you need to access the internet, while I am in NK, I have many questions, just from my wife about many things, not just NK, the guides keep asking us what more do we want to do, but we don’t have the internet, so I feel very dumb because normally I can answer everything with a quick search. The bulk of education here is history, the problem with just looking at the past is your attention is less on the future, if you spend all your nations time celebrating past “victories” instead of fixing the current issues, then they end up not improving the economy or the countries issues. All my successful friends are forward-thinking, we are talking about what we are doing, planning to do and where we want to be, this is a bad thing for a nation, but at the same time, it’s creating a great work ethos, which may counterbalance that.
It is possible for foreigners to come to the universities in North Korea to learn Korean language, it is said people prefer to learn in NK even if they are doing business in the South, because its apparently more traditional and less corrupt from western influence, but I think its more likely because its a lot cheaper. Education for NK citizens is free here.
Problems with less business
There is higher prices, slower service, fewer choices, but why are we always buying time in the west and not living for the moment? Do we need so many choices? We are often disabled by too many choices and that creates fussy people, I consider myself a traveller, so I will eat what I am given and sleep were we are required, I don’t always like it, but no matter where we stay or what we consume, we are always looking for more, or we are unhappy with our choices, but what if we had less choice? Maybe we would be more grateful and happier, but we wouldn’t feel as free or able to express ourselves! I always say expressing ourselves is the key to happiness, but at the same time, if you are taught that being a good, obedient, hard-working citizen is more than enough to be at the highest level of achievement, maybe people are relieved from feeling like that haven’t achieved enough.
Having less business here means less choice, efficiency, higher prices than there should be, simply many things not available and nothing seems to be convenient, we couldn’t buy paracetamol at the hotel and we couldn’t go out and buy some, so we had to see a doctor that came to our room with a nurse. Whereas in the west we have many stores close to us. However. Conveniently placed products and small-sized portions (they seem to be all wholesale sizes here) increases our chances and ability to impulse buy. We want convenience and choice, but what does it get us? Overindulgence? Planning our week ahead for food would give us more discipline and structure and that would go across in other areas of our life. Most of the fruit here is dried and most of the milk seems powdered.
Having a nation poor, with little business and most the GDP spent on military stuff for a show of power, the mass games/marching events with up to 100,000 participants is impressive to see and many people travel to see it. But it’s a sign of a country with economic troubles, keeping a nation busy with 10,000 hours per person in training has a heavy bill, even if people do get barely paid anything. For me it’s a display of an inefficient society, for others, it’s a proud display for the country, either way, the people have worked hard and should be commended for their efforts, it’s not like they have many choices.
There seem to be many sports departments in the government, it’s a great way to use peoples time up, make them happy and fulfilled, its certainly a path I would have liked to take, but it’s up until your too old, then there are masses of you without much else to do? I do think we could learn from this though, we could encourage our youth to participate in similar events, keeping the youth fit and active is always a great thing.
In the west we have advertising everywhere for brands, products, it’s a constant fight, so our world is cluttered with different messages fighting for our attention. People are bidding for real estate online and offline to get our attention, this also drives the prices up for companies, in NK, there is only car adverts and another one. But all the advertising is the leadership/country history.
The biggest problem with no outside access is a lack of education, we need the input of the world in our lives, most the YouTubers I follow are from America, not because they are better, but because there are more people there, so its more likely you have people that are not only thought leaders, great at what they do, but they have access to youtube and are happy to promote themselves heavily online. Having an intranet only is great if you want to control a countries narrative, sometimes in the West we have shot ourselves in the foot by having too many choices and shouting for freedom continuously, but freedom has a cost also, but we are not really free, we are still shackled by the influence of business. When people get access to the internet, educate themselves and realise they have various choices, they will fight for “freedom” but that’s a stressful and less peaceful place to be. When we start seeing other peoples benchmarks and knowing we are unable to try to achieve them, even if we never would, we feel depressed or hampered because I feel that humans need to be challenged and we always want more, having more is probably a survival mechanism, the more we have, the less chance we encounter problems. Opening up the internet would create very fast change, it’s too much of a sharp edge for any society, things need to move a little slower, china did the first step safely by blocking western social media sites etc, the Chinese use there own sites mostly, I am guessing this would be a safer first step for NK.
I was told this building is the entire intranet
In the West we always talk about freedom, but we are bounded by laws, customs, businesses influence, we have expensive lives because we are brainwashed that we need all these things to be happy, but most things that make us happy are actually free, but at least we can travel to where we want, however, a lot of people can’t afford to travel or don’t wish to either, I don’t mean someone going to Tenerife and sitting by a pool for 2 weeks, that’s not really travelling in my book and its something we can all do without if needed, I mean travel to live, work, to write, to experience different countries, to live with someone we love.
Nk people cannot travel in general, and if they are its mostly only china, and its only for education or business, the problem with travelling is people can easily leave or they have access to the world wide web, and the truth is available on the world wide web, that’s a problem when you are making everyone follow a faith or certain narrative. I believe every country is equal, it has good and bad in certain ways, yes NK has a lot of problems with poverty, but so does many other countries, you could argue that’s because of a lack of outside investment and because of the inequality of wealth, but you get the same in other countries that are poor, people don’t want to invest in risky businesses or countries, especially when they don’t understand it or believe the numbers that they are given.
If you teach a nation they should be proud of being from that country and that they should all work together towards a common goal, to be proud of the faith and the faith they are fighting for, you can easily use that responsibility to make everyone do good things, this will create a country of no litter, strong work ethics. They use flags at construction sites to make people work harder, everyone is in uniforms/suits, so they behave civilised and work harder to represent the uniform they are wearing better.
The most dangerous thing about NK I felt
There is a lot of emotion anchored to certain photos, statues and flags, you need to pay respect or avoid them completely. The other problem that makes me not feel safe is the lack of communication or media if something bad happens, we are relying solely on the laws and systems in place, but they are highly organised* with many regulations, strict laws, overstaffed and a department for every situation, so I am very sure that everything would be ok, they seem to work very well preparing everything and organising things flawlessly. My wife felt she was not safe here because of a very vivid dream she had 3 nights in and all the rubbish she had heard, knowing what I know not about how organised* they are and how good the leaders really are, I am happy that we are safe, our tour company has been very professional and caring, they really care about how our holiday is going.
*Maybe I wouldn’t feel they were so organised if I was a broke citizen living in the countryside? Maybe its because I was mostly in the capital city, but we did go out in the countryside for 3 days out of the 9 days. We only went to places on the itinerary which will make me bias as they are showing me the best things.
What’s the best thing about coming to NK?
I enjoy seeing the order, processes, organisation, there is no desperation for money because people want fewer things, tips are rejected half from embarrassment and it just seems they are not that motivated for it, we like to over tip leaving 8-10 USD often just to make people happy, so we normally leave it on the table and walk away quietly. When I go to many countries, especially poorer ones, we are constantly hassled by touts, beggars, taxi drivers and it gets tiring, I don’t get angry, I understand them, no one wants to live in poverty when everyone else around them is buying expensive products and showing off.
A lot of people are wearing army uniforms, even on their days off, people are proud of working for there country and its means less personal clothes required, this might make people feel uneasy seeing the “army” everywhere because where most of us come from, we only see the army in troubled places. However, psychologically people that are wearing some sort of uniform, conform and behave better, when we are talking to someone in their work clothes we trust them more because they are representing a brand and they have a job to lose if they act badly.
It is more peaceful in NK, less stress, (you could argue stress is a western disease) NK people are living in the moment, less/no traffic, parking everywhere we go, there is more attention on things around, rather than people distracted by their phones and seeking the next dopamine rush. I came here with lots of rubbish in my head but seeing how media, people twist things and gossip, I came very open-minded, I do feel that the past leadership was very good, there is almost nothing about the current, but I also read online that the younger generation is changing, so the old system may have to adapt as China did. However, maybe I have been influenced already from all the photos with children, all the grand gestures, the worship, statues and shrines… all the smiley faces and familiarity, personal branding at its best.
In 9 days, I met a Russian guy at Pyongyang hotel who was here working playing musical instruments, I saw one guy that was on a tour that looked and dressed like harry potter, three Spanish people on a guide, one driving a car and I spoke to a few westerners playing bowls at the hotel, they said they lived and worked here at an embassy. All the other tourists we seen in great numbers were Chinese and NK people.
Random Photos – I apologise I haven’t put them in order and named them all, but its a big job and I don’t feel people care much anyway.
How to get to NK?
We organised our tour through a tour company that organises our tour with a North Korean Tour Company, I guess you are paying for the translation, guarantee, and to have everything planned for you. They work together from start to finish. However, once you are here, you can no longer contact the original company, only the NK company your guides work for. For me I flew to Beijing with a double-entry visa, I could have used the 144-hour visa I think but it only works flying through Beijing I think. Then we met the tour company and had a rundown of stuff we should and shouldn’t do and had the opportunity to ask any questions, we were given our plane tickets to NK from the old terminal 2 in Beijing airport, the next day we got to T2 and after a 2 hour flight, we landed in NK and the guides found us at the baggage checking area, then we were driven by a small bus for 40 minutes to Pyongyang Capital city and went to Pyongyang hotel, which is meant to be the best hotel in the city.
How can we fix world issues?
We can fix world issues by educating the masses and we can only do this by travelling, mixing, talking, speaking, internet access and by reading/writing. People need a benchmark to know what they are missing out upon, then they will fight for their rights, otherwise, they will just settle for what they have got, which is ok if they are being treated fairly without torture, famine, rape, murder etc
What about a lawless society? but teaching everyone string work ethics and the same morals from a young age? The problem is humans want to bring up their own children in their own ways, but then in NK criminals families are punished if someone commits a crime, which makes a very good deterrent but it’s not good if you have some psychopath or a crazy person in your family. Should parents be accountable for the children they have brought up badly?
If we have more integrity and honesty in every country, we could run a country much more efficiently. We waste so much money on security, investigations and policing. In Japan maybe there are some lessons to be had there, even in china I seen a self-service shop with no visible staff. If we had more honesty and integrity higher up, we could trust our leaders/governments/police not to abuse the law, then we could punish people without needing as much evidence that is currently required, so many guilty people get off the hook on a loophole or insufficient evidence, our fight for freedom and equality makes policing very ineffective and expensive. I personally hate those YouTube videos where people are getting stopped by the police to be checked and they are arguing about there rights, they think they are heroes for our freedom, but really they are heroes for criminals. I always remember bad people only exist because good people do nothing.
Sports and business have a big role in world peace, business has little boundaries because money and demand will always be a heavy driving force. Sports especially, South Korea have already come to play in North Korea, I think sports usually starts mixing first before the rest follows, it’s a great sign for both countries to open up together again.
What threats are there to unstabilising the current system?
War, Open Internet and Education. When people start finding out that other countries aren’t as bad as they are told, that other people have more freedom and choices, they will start wanting more. I think they will follow the path of China where they let people access the world internet but block western social media and search engines, its a start towards big changes. Once they can all start travelling, the country will change rapidly.
Underground in Pyongyang
How to get people to give up their “freedom”?
Promising them safety and telling them how unsafe it is outside and offer proof of unsafe events in outside countries. Telling them they are free, liberated already, offer them proof of why they are free, showing them evidence of freedom. Once people get the mindset that they are free already (west also) how can they fight for freedom when they think they have it already? If you are told you are safe and you have everything already and see bad stuff outside, why would you risk it all for “freedom” and how freedom is defined is different to each people, I like the freedom of travel, some people want freedom of speech, or to practise a religion, or to carry a gun or to have gay marriages… but the freedom to choose our government and its leaders is the most important to everyone imo the definition of freedom is different to each person, maybe NK is free from the west?
Everyone is in the same boat makes it easy for us to cope with our situation, knowing that we are all ageing, getting closer to death and everyone we love will die is a very difficult thing to cope with, but we can deal with it because we know that everyone around us has the same fate. If we all have the same benchmark and its achievable to some degree, we should be able to cope with it, but when we see other peoples benchmarks (high standards of living, more freedom and more wealth) we are starting to feel depressed or trapped because we don’t have the tools or ability to raise our benchmark, it the west we are sold a dream that it’s a fair society and we can all be what we want to be, which is truthful in many ways, but it has a high cost, there is a lot of risk in personal growth, and a lot of stress and time needed.
How we can bring our children up better using the same techniques of influence?
We can put photos up of our family elders providing they have some story of greatness, display the medals/certs, make the idolise the elders(us) and tell our children they need to be good for our family name, to make the family proud and to continue greatness for the family.
A Westerners death and the conspiracies.
I know very little about this event regarding a foreign tourist dying, but I know someone that does, he said Otto cut out a picture of the leadership from a poster after getting drunk, the problem here is that the entire country sees this as an attack on them, their leadership and their country. It’s very difficult to keep someone safe, especially when they are locked up because there are always people that want to be seen as national heroes….. my guess is that is what happened, and the attack on him wasn’t planned by people higher up.
This man Otto happened to be American, that the North Koreans attack in the media every week for doing terrible things, which probably didn’t help the situation. I have seen the same attacks in Thailand, someone getting lynch mobbed when they insulted the king, all the anger in their lives has a chance to come out and they want to be a national hero. You could argue what if a Muslim (a lot of media attacks them in the USA) burnt an American flag and it was a high profile case, would he be left alone unscathed? I don’t like people behaving this way, but I understand it. A poster to us is just ink on a paper and an image, we have no true idea how deep a countries feelings are anchored on that poster.
Also, was this case used to turn American citizens against North Korean people? I think anyone from any country would have had physical violence in that situation. Was this used as an excuse to ban people going to NK? You could argue this is propaganda used for USA
What didn’t I like about the trip the most?
I was with my Thai wife and my son, there is 5 years difference between me and my wife, but people everywhere struggled to understand how Thai (Asian) /English could marry and assumed she was an adopted daughter or sister. North Koreans believe in sticking with only there own, they see no interracial couples anywhere, it’s totally new to them, so every place we went to, the same questions was asked to our guides, it got tiring after a while.
The other thing is the newspaper constantly attacks US, Japan and South Korea, one example I read in Pyongyang times is the US soldiers are raping women right now in South Korea, Japan robbing Africa…. (because one Japanese business is simply doing business there right now) I felt very uneasy many times, in the tourist shops we were very welcome, but many of the elders seemed to hate me, but I am not sure because they never said anything, as we walked around the war museum, there was a few hundred North Koreas behind us (they move orderly in unison in lines) and at the same time they were listening to all the nasty stories about US soldiers doing horrible things to children, (apparently) I had them all looking at me, I have no idea how much of it was true, (if any) but there are horror stories on both sides and a lot of bull crap. I felt guilty like I had been the one that had done it lol
The other thing was the books, there were so many propaganda books around. I am sure most of them are ingrained into the education system, although they won’t be as influential as video, they will be very powerful in establishing authority.
Would I come back to North Korea?
I would consider coming back to get away from every distraction, the internet and be uncontactable. I would be able to have my own time to focus on writing, thinking or planning. I got great value being away for 9 days from the internet, I rewrote NWG website, came up with some great ideas and had a lot of thinking. I also went through a few apps on my phone that had no attention from me since I downloaded them. However, after writing this article, it may not be a good idea to return. I haven’t named/blamed leaders of the country, I feel I have been as unbiased as possible, I also believe the leaders haven’t planned to manipulate, control and influence a whole country, I believe that they were all born into this system, and they are just following the process and system they were taught. I am still on the fence with the pros and cons of this system, I believe we should all seek happiness, the western world causes us depression, stress and anxiety, I think in North Korea there is less stress and a slower pace.
23 hour return train ride from Pyongyang to Beijing
We left in the morning and the guides took us to the train station, we upgraded our tickets to get a train direct to Beijing, when we got on the train we were told that we had the carriage to ourselves, I really didn’t want us to share with anyone else while we are sleeping, I was shocked when a Korean guy came in and joined us, he was in and out smoking and went on the top bunk to sleep for a little bit and I brought him some food, at the Korean border they lock the toilets for 2 hours and check everything, this guy had a few hidden suitcases and the curtain was pulled when the army came in, let just say that none of us got checked and they were very friendly, after a long wait, the train moved, little to our surprise when we got to the Chinese border we were asked to get off the train, we had everything laid out expecting to get off many hours later after an overnight sleep…. I frantically packed our stuff and we all got off the train to get dragged through immigration, this is where Punnipa and Anthony were pulled aside and kept for over an hour without explanation! It seems like the whole carriage was waiting for us and we had no tickets or any idea if the train would be there… eventually we got back to the train and other passengers pointed out our room, I didn’t like all that rushing, I like to plan ahead.. I think they messed up the stamps on Punnipas visa on the way in because 3 people handled her passport.