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North Korea and the Misguided Holiday Myth

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Pyongyang

North Korea often intrigues or scares. Although closed, this country is also seeking money from tourism. But unfortunately it is often misunderstood.

Talking about a vacation to North Korea is not a pleasant topic for some people. The shadows of an authoritarian state and the laws that are implemented are a scourge that is enough to make people shudder.

Not a few stories of experiences from various travelers who vacation there. Ranging from no interaction allowed to being followed by government officials are stories that are often heard.

Reported from NK News, North Korea is quite saddened by this response. To be able to enjoy North Korea, travelers are asked to understand very well how their country works.

North Korea admits that there are no independent travel operators operating there. Travelers are not allowed to backpack or stay in hostels while exploring North Korea freely.

The only way to enjoy North Korea is through a government-owned travel operator, namely the Korean International Travel Company (KITC). Actually, North Korea’s tourism model cheated on the Soviet Union, which was a socialist country.

Historically, North Korean tourism began in 1953, when KITC was founded. In the past, almost all tourists were from socialist countries, developing countries or fraternal communist organizations.

Actually this is not a strange thing, because this tourism model was followed by several countries such as Tibet, Iran, Bhutan and Saudi Arabia in the past. From North Korea’s point of view, they want to present the best of their country and protect its culture.

Another myth is that tourists should only explore Pyongyang. In fact, North Korea allows tourists to see all corners of their country except for one of the nine provinces which are closed.

Tourists are allowed to visit the less developed parts of the country. Except for Kaesong and the inter-Korean border.

The tour guides are generally open to the fact that some areas are still developing. Their existence is recognized but still by maintaining the good name of North Korea.

Another rumor is that tourists are prohibited from communicating with local residents. He even said it was illegal.

That’s not the reason though. Like South Korea, which is conservative with a conversational culture, so is North Korea. Talking casually with strangers is considered rude there.

There are times when local residents converse with tourists. Usually they spontaneously say hello or just practice their English.

This usually happens on trains on the China and Pyongyang routes. Tourists can meet with diplomats, local government ministers to athletes.

“I was once in a train car with a group of policemen who attended a conference in Beijing. They not only shared lunch with me, but were also open to their work and their national differences,” said Gareth Johnson of Young Pioneer Tours who makes regular trips to North Korea.

According to Johnson, tourists visiting North Korea on a national holiday will see a significant difference. Tourists will see locals singing, dancing and drinking together on Moran Hill, Pyongyang Center.

Another story that is often packaged so scary is that the tour guide is spying on tourists. Again, this is a misunderstanding.

Did you know that to become a guide in North Korea they have to graduate from a specialist university? For example the Pyongyang University of Foreign Languages ​​or the University of Tourism in Pyongyang.

There is reason to be able to look at this objectively. Tour guides are state employees in socialist countries. So they are obliged to tell tourists the North Korean version of their history and culture, not the world version.

In fact, they are warm personalities. Tourists are allowed to chat and laugh with the tour guide.

“Just as you don’t make jokes about Allah in Pakistan, mock the King in Thiland, so you shouldn’t persecute North Korea’s political culture, whether you agree or not,” he said.

The spooky narratives in these documentaries make North Korea less attractive. In fact, North Korea really expects tourists who come again and again. They even say that the main highlight of the trip is not just the tourist attractions but also the guides and the friendships they make.

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