Archive for January, 2013

North Korean Nuclear Program

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Mangyongdae Children's Palace North Korea

Top North Korean scientists split the atom – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Exciting New North Korean Fishing Trip

North Korean Art

A painting of North Korean fisherman, Pyongyang Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea.

The managing director and owner of Young Pioneer Tours and myself are teaming up to guide the first ever North Korean fishing trip!

The details are still being worked out but the highlights will include:

Fishing on the banks of the Taedong River
Fishing on a boat in the Taedong river
Fishing in the Sijung Lagoon
BBQ Seafood lunch on Wonsan beach
Fishing in East Sea from Jangdok Island
BBQ clams on the Wonsan pier
Visit Pyongyang’s New Dolphinarium
Afternoon of Golf

In addition to knocking back a few beers and fishing with North Korean old timers, we will be visiting the classic Pyongyang, Kaesong, and Wonsan sites, including a visit to the the Mausoleum for a viewing of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung.

Be part of something never done before, but we need interest to make it happen!

We are looking to make this a two part trip:

Option A: fishing trip to the Rason Special Economic Zone, May 8th – 11th -more info on this trip to come!

Option B: fishing trip to Pyongyang, Wonsan, and Kaesong – May 13th-22nd – Cost €1245 8 days in Korea + 2 on the train + 50 to fly out.

Leave a comment or email me at for more info!

Wonsan Boat North Korea

Fishing boat, Wonsan, North Korea.

Wonsan Docks North Korea

Boys fishing off the docks, Wonsan, North Korea.

Boys Fishing Wonsan, North Korea

Boys fishing off the docks , Wonsan, North Korea.

All photos by Joseph A Ferris III

North Korean Gift Giveaway Contest!

I calculate having traveled to 95 countries (I used higher standards on the count than the Century Club accepts its members by).

I expect to visit my 100th country at some point this year; I have no idea what country it will be, but whoever is the first to make the correct guess by leaving a comment on this post will win a North Korean stamp book and other prizes from the DPRK.

Good luck!

DPRK Kim Jong-il Stamp

Make a guess and win a book of stamps like the one above!

Young Pioneer Tours Exclusive

Exclusive news and ground breaking experiences brought to you by the company I now guide for, Young Pioneer Tours:

YPT’s Richie Fenner just returned from our first trip of the year to the DPRK, with our group being the first foreign tourists to visit the Mausoleum since it’s reopening featuring General Kim Jong Il! We can also now announce that even more interestingly, foreigners can now bring cellphones, including smart phones into the country!

Young Pioneer Tours teamed up with NK News to break these stories, read about the change in cell phone policy here, and Richie’s visit to see Kim Jong-il here.

You can also read more on these developments over at Young Pioneer Tour’s blog.

Cell Call Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Cell phones in North Korea, not just for traffic girls anymore!


Pyongyang Gun Range

Need someplace to get your gun range fix once President Obama takes away your firearms? Why not consider a trip to the Pyongyang gun range?

Guns, Girls, and Beer in North Korea

An afternoon spent at the Pyongyang gun range is my favorite activity in North Korea.  Here you can target practice using pistols and sport rifles, enjoy a few beers at the bar or over a game of pool, flirt with the cute North Korean rifle attendants, and even test your skills against live targets!

Pyongyang Gun Range Prize

For 5 € a shot you can take a crack at pheasants.  You get to bring home what you kill, but it’s highly suggested you give the bird to your bus driver as a tip.

Most companies running trips to North Korea don’t include a visit to the gun range on their itineraries – it’s included on all of my custom trips, as well as most scheduled trips with Young Pioneer Tours.

My related Pyongyang gun range posts:

Guns, Girls, and Beer – the Pyongyang Gun Range 2012

Bagging Your Own Breakfast – The Pyongyang Gun Range Pheasant Shoot

North Korea Shooting Range – Guns, Girls, and Beer!

I’m still looking for people to join up with my May 14th – May 23rd Mega Trip: Nampo, Sariwan, Haeju, Kaesong, Wonsan, Kumgang.

The more people who sign up the better deal I can give!

Unified Korea Costume Propaganda

Pyongyang 100th Year Kim Il Sung Birthday Celebrations

A band leader wears a uniform with a graphic showing a unified Korea; subtle propaganda intended for the eyes of those foreigners who had come to see the Kim Il-sung 100th birthday celebrations.

I took this picture on the morning of April 15th, 2012 the 100th year anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth.  On that morning all foreign tourists were bused to a park in the Pyongyang suburbs, far away from the military parades and Kim Jong-un’s public address to the North Korean people.

Marching band performances, folk game competitions, and interactions with school children were the activities the North Koreans used to keep us occupied during our sequestration away from that morning’s downtown main events.  The entertainment at park may have been a disappointment for some, but the holiday week of Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday was still an epic time to have experienced North Korea.

Women on Bicycles Banned Again

On the Streets of Kaesong, North Korea

Woman pushing a bike in Kaesong, a picture I took in 2011 during the brief time when it was legal for women to ride bikes.

Women on Bicycles Banned Again

By Kim Kwang Jin of Daily NK

It is said that the riding of bicycles by women has been prohibited once again, only months after a previous ban on the activity was rescinded.

A source from Hoiryeong in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK today, “The use of bicycles by women was officially allowed last year, but was prohibited again on the 10th. There have been local People’s Safety officers patrolling since the day after that.”

The source added, “They’ve not only stopped women using bicycles, but also banned them from riding on the backs of bicycles and placed a weight limit on the luggage that can be placed on them.”

The source continued, “Before the ban was lifted last year, if a woman was caught riding a bicycle she was fined just a bit of money, no more than 5,000 won. But now they are confiscating the bicycle instead, and this has been causing a bit of upset.”

As the source also noted, if the ban is widespread and lasts any length of time, it will have a deleterious effect on the functioning of North Korea’s markets. Bicycles have been a critical factor in helping to spread commerce as a means of survival over the last ten to fifteen years, with women at the forefront of the trend.

“Bicycles are essential in North Korea,” the source explained. “They have no cars, motorcycles or other means of transportation. Bicycles are very useful; women can not only go to and from the markets on them, they can also give their children lifts and carry as much as 50 or 60kg.”

“Women used to ride early in the morning to avoid getting caught,” the source recalled. “During the squid fishing season, women from fishing towns even use bicycles to carry the catch to inland regions.”

It is said that Kim Jong Il initially banned the use of bicycles in the 1990s after the daughter of a high-ranking official was killed in a traffic incident in Pyongyang. The North Korean state media subsequently justified it by saying that the image of a woman riding a bicycle runs contrary to socialist morals.

Nampo Tae’an Glass Factory

In the spring of 2012 I was able to visit the Nampo Tae’an Glass Factory, one of several Nampo area heavy industry sites briefly open to tourists at the time – currently only the Nampo Kangso Mineral Water Factory is advertised as available for visits, a site which is included on my Spring 2013 tours.

North Korean Glass Factory Nampo

More modern than I expected (the plant was built in partnership with the Chinese and opened by Hu Jintao in 2005), inside we were able to get a close up view of working furnaces and sheet glass cutting machinery, as well as a look into their computerized production monitoring control room.

I expected to see communism in action, mass mobilization of the workers and all sorts of other cliches, and while I witnessed that sort of thing out in the fields and on countryside road construction projects, I was surprised to find the Nampo Tae’an Glass Factory eerily quiet.  Massive propaganda paintings on the walls looked down over just a handful of quality control workers, but the plant was producing glass, and I left the site suitably impressed by the operation.

North Korean Glass Factory Nampo

Close up view into the glass furnace.

North Korean Glass Factory Nampo

They let us climb up on the machinery – so dangerous!

North Korean Glass Factory Nampo

Freshly cut sheet glass.

North Korean Glass Factory Nampo

Propaganda painting on the production room wall.

Nampo Glass Factory North Korea

Lady in the quality control booth.

North Korean Glass Factory Nampo

Nampo Tae’an Glass Factory local guide.

Rason Korean Language Tour

Grand People’s Study House

Students hit the books at the Pyongyang Grand Peoples Study House.

I’m out on the Pacific Ocean, 4 days Southeast of Hawaii, and just one month into a four month rotation on a scientific research ship conducting expeditions from San Diego to Japan.

Being on the ocean gives a person the gift of a lot of free time away from the normal distractions of life. With that time I have started to study the Korean language; for these cruises I brought with me the Pimsleur audio Korean course (great for the days when I’m walking the deck for a little exercise), as well as several textbooks and workbooks, and a ton a Korean language learning podcasts. Its going as well as one could expect, some things are starting to stick, all the honorific tenses are confusing, but the hangul characters are not too bad – kinda fun actually.

Of course nothing beats time working with a real teacher in a native environment, and that’s just what Young Pioneer Tours is offering this summer to those who join up with their first ever Rason Korean Language Tour.

Far off the beaten track (up until 2009 no western foreign tourist had ever visited), a trip to the Rason Special Economic Zone allows for special opportunities; Rason is the only place in the DPRK where foreigners are legally allowed to use North Korean currency and to mix freely with locals while shopping in the public markets – this is your opportunity to pick up all your own school supplies and practice your daily lessons as you buy fresh seafood for the nightly BBQ. Rason is also the only place where visitors (expect for Americans and Japanese) can get a North Korean visa stamped into their passport.

This tour has time scheduled for local sightseeing but the focus of this trip will be classroom time for the study of basic Korean with a North Korean instructor. You will also visit the local foreign language institute for conversational exchanges with older students, and have the chance to develop a lesson plan and teach an English class to elementary children!

Already proficient at the basic level? Alternative intermediate or advanced class time can be arranged.

Young Pioneer Tours will be running this tour in Aug 2013, unfortunately I’m going to be at my professional job at that time, but I’m certainly interested in doing this trip myself. I will be making my first trip up to Rason this spring; by my following vacation in the fall of 2013 I will be qualified to run this program on a custom basis if anyone is interested.

"For Study English" in North Korea

I peaked into a North Korean hotel kitchen and found this sign.

For the scheduled Aug language tour, as well as any of Young Pioneer Tours scheduled tours, a referral from me can get you 5% off!

North Korean Intranet

Google’s Eric Schmidt arrives in North Korea. This is the “internet” he’ll find there….

What he will actually find is a North Korean nation-wide intranet

North Korean Intranet

Computer room at the Nampo Chollima Steelworks.

Grand People’s Study House

Writer Neil Strauss is shown how the North Korean closed intranet works at the Grand People’s Study House.

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

Pueblo Being Moved to War Museum

The North Korean Economy Watch recently did some detective work to track down the missing USS Pueblo.

US Spy Ship Pueblo

USS Pueblo on the Taedong River April 2012 – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

As a Master Mariner Unlimited who has been on the Pueblo twice, my opinion is that this ship will never sail again under its own power. They may have knocked a little rust off the hull and given her a new paint job, but I’m with all my contacts in the North Korean tourism industry and believe she has been moved to the Homeland Liberation Museum.

The Homeland Liberation Museum is currently closed to tourists too. I’m bringing a big policy expert and war historian buff in on my May tour, his dream is to see the USS Pueblo – hopefully some “gifts” will get us in for a photo op even if the Pueblo and Homeland Liberation Museum are still closed.

The Pueblo and the Homeland Liberation Museum are due to be open for tours again in July.

Dancing and Singing Waitresses of the Pyongyang Lamb BBQ Restaurant

My look behind the scenes of the DPRK tourist experience wouldn’t be complete without introducing the famous singing and dancing waitresses of the Pyongyang lamb BBQ restaurant. The girls are also available for catering; long time readers might have seen them cooking and dancing at the Mt Taesong Amusement park in my Ultimate Frisbee tournament post.

Cute, flirty, and always ready for a little dancing, relaxing with these girls is always a highlight of any trip to Pyongyang (at least for the guys) – they serve up one of Pyongyang’s tastiest lunches too!

Pyongyang Singing Waitress
Pyongyang Dancing BBQ Girls
Pyongyang Dancing BBQ Girls
Pyongyang Dancing and Singing Waitresses
Pyongyang Dancing and Singing Waitresses
Pyongyang Dancing BBQ Girls
Pyongyang Dancing BBQ Girls
My Secret North Korean Girlfriend