I have a March 30th flight with Koryo Airlines to North Korea – the first of many!
A lot has happened since the last time I was in the DPRK (I went to Iran on my last vacation): nuclear and long range missile tests, new sanctions vigorously enforced by the Chinese, suspect internet hacker attacks to both North and South Korea, a visit by Dennis Rodman, cell phone access, and a brief experiment allowing 3G internet access to foreigners – the handful of foreign residents may still use the service, but access to tourists has been rescinded.
Other changes, less remarkable, but of interest to those traveling to North Korea: the US spy ship Pueblo has been moved to the Homeland Liberation War Museum (the ship and museum are currently closed until this summer), the Mausoleum has reopened with the body of Kim Jong-il on display, and new routes in the North have been opened to tourism – this April I’m set to be the first American tourist to cross the Tumen/Namyang border into the remote North of the country.
There have been big changes for me as well; I make my return to North Korea as a guide for Young Pioneer Tours. The recent raised tensions have unfortunately made our North Koren partners less than enthusiastic about my new position. KITC does not want to be seen working too closely with Americans at the moment – visas have been issued, and Americans can still tour, but when I’m in country I need to officially present myself as a lowly agent working through YPT, not for them. We hope this will change once tensions ease.
I had plans to take advantage of the new 3G access to live blog and interact through social media from inside North Korea, but as mentioned above this service has been rescinded. When I’m outside North North Korea people can still follow me via the various social media outlets I’m on:
Facebook Page – Instagram @josephferrisiii – Twitter @JosephFerrisIII
The grand lineup of my spring DPRK trips:
March 30th – April 6th: Private/custom Pyongyang, Nampo, Sariwan, Kaesong, and Mt. Myohyang.
April 22nd – April 29th: VIP private investors tour to the Rason Free Trade Zone and first time visits to newly opened sites in the far north – Tumen – Namyang – Hyeryong – Chongjin – Mt Chilbo – Rason – Yanji.
May 30-June 3 Rason cruise, Rajin Port, to the Mt Kumgang.
More Air Koryo photos posted below:
I started playing with my photos on Instagram – you can follow me @josephferrisiii
Below are some of my favorite pics:
US spy ship Pueblo guide.
View of Pyongyang and Juche Tower.
Walking home in rural North Korea.
Kim Il-sung Square Pyongyang.
Mass dance held in Pyongyang.
Pyongyang subway signal girl.
Smile and peace sign in Wonsan, North Korea.
That was fast, after one month of service the new Koryolink 3G network is reportedly no longer available to foreign tourists.
I want to thank everybody who enthusiastically contributed to my North Korean 3G blogging project. I successfully reached my goal, but with the new report just out from North Korea I have decided to refund everyone who donated.
Thank you for your support – maybe next time!
A nice write up about me in Business Insider:
Joseph Ferris doesn’t want to settle down.
Ferris earned himself a US Coast Guard 3rd Mate Unlimited license from Maine Maritime Academy, and took a job on a global class research ship.
There was just one problem: the job was seven months on with five months vacation.
“While on the ship, room and board goes with the job; I found keeping an apartment and all the trappings of a settled life is a waste of money,” Ferris told Business Insider.
So he took another job, as a tour guide … in North Korea.
I leave for my first spring trip out of a possible 5 visits to North Korea on March 30th; I will be live blogging there on the new Koryolink 3G network. Remember to not only follow me here on WordPress, but also live from North Korea on Twitter @JosephFerrisIII, Facebook, and Instagram (coming soon).
Lots of insightful opinions and analysis from top DPRK watchers and North Korea travel industry experts in James Griffith’s article on the ethics of traveling to North Korea:
North Korea, one of the world’s last remaining closed societies and perennial geopolitical troll, is on many world travellers’ bucket list. Few places are as unique or just downright weird as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The DPRK’s attraction as a tourist destination aside, is it ethical to visit a society completely under the control of a dictatorial regime?
My photos are used throughout the article – continue reading here.
The article shows that the majority of experts interviewed believe travel and interaction with North Korea serve as a positive instrument for change – glad I’m with the cool crowd on that one.
3/23/13 Update: 3G is no longer available. The fundraising below has been discontinued with money raised refunded.
Internet has just been authorized in North Korea, but unfortunately it is very expensive.
I am one of the leading North Korea bloggers and run the American in North Korea site. Through high quality photography and unique access I work to promote cultural understanding and an accurate portrayal of the North Korean tourist experience. I tend to stay away from politics.
I hope to blog from inside North Korea during the 5 trips I have planned this spring.
I will be going much further afield than just Pyongyang; In April I will be the first American tourist to cross the Tumen border post into Namyang – continuing on to Hyeryong – Chongjin – Mt Chilbo – Rason – Yanji. In May I will be guiding the first ever recreational fishing trip to North Korea.
With your help I can blog all of this in real time!
Reports have North Korean 3G priced at the following:
I am looking to raise 600 USD to help accomplish this. I initially started a Kickstarter project, but in the fine print discovered that this project is too opened ended to meet their standards.
Please help me share pictures like this in real time from inside North Korea.
Pledge $5 or more – A thank you message to your Facebook wall or your twitter posted from inside North Korea – as well as your name mentioned in a thank you post on my blog posted from inside North Korea. Estimated delivery: Apr 2013
Pledge $20 or more – A two page North Korean stamp book, as well as a thank you message to your Facebook wall or your Twitter posted from inside North Korea – as well as your name mentioned in a thank you post on my blog posted from inside North Korea. Estimated delivery: Jul 2013, ships within the US only.
Pledge $100 or more – A deluxe multi-page North Korean stamp book and a North Korean postcard sent from North Korea (DPRK does not allow post cards to Europe at the moment due to sanctions), as well as a thank you message to your Facebook wall or your Twitter posted from inside North Korea – as well as your name mentioned in a thank you post on my blog posted from inside North Korea. Estimated delivery: Jul 2013, ships within the US only.
Donations will be accepted until my goal is met, or until mid May when I have my final chance during this travel season to buy the North Korean stamp book pledge rewards.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info, how to set up a pledge, or just follow the Paypal donation button.
3/06/13 Update – New details on the Koryolink pricing structure; more expensive than I initially thought!
In the Spring of 2012 I made a return trip to Pyongyang’s Kaeson Youth Park fun fair ; chilly nighttime weather meant less crowds and interactions with locals than on my first visit, but the experience was enjoyable nonetheless.
I really only have new 2012 photos to add – I’m going to let my cometary from my 2011 visit tell the story.
Local North Koreans would wait hundreds in line for theses new modern rides. As visitors we paid in hard currency at a rate 35 x what the locals paid, at that price we got the privilege of jumping line and holding up the locals as we enjoyed as many repeat rides on the amusements as we wanted. We were told by our minders that the rides had all come from Italy – they were new and modern, and included old favorites such as bumper cars and the pirate ship swing ride, and new favorites like a lay down style roller coaster and the “Vominator”.
North Korean locals enjoy imported fun fair rides.
North Korean locals enjoy imported fun fair rides.
A nice view of the lay down roller coaster.
A quiet chilly spring night at the fun fair.
Old racing video game.
Coin op skeet shoot game.
North Korean boy and his mom in charge of an old video game.
North Korean boy in charge of an old video game.
Old racing video game.
Old racing video game.
The burrito stand attendant.
In the end our Kaeson Youth Park Fun Fair escort served our group up a bill of over one hundred Euros. As I had seen elsewhere in North Korea, when hard currency is involved a fist full of dollars will get the job done, and our escort gladly accepted what we had with a smile. We never got to visit any of the old and decrepit fun fairs during our visit to North Korea. Some of the old fairs, such as the Mangyongdae, have games that feature the classic old US anti imperialist propaganda. Times are a changing and the most bizarre thing I saw at the new Kaeson Youth Park Fun Fair were booths serving up Mexican burritos.
The Kaeson fun fair was responsible for the creation of this blog – more accurately the use of my fun fair pictures under the creative commons license in a sensationalized and entirely misinformed viral photo essay got me so upset that I decided to blog as accurate a portrayal of the North Korean tourist experience as honestly as I could. I am truly amazed at how far this journey has taken me!
- Inside North Korea: Vodka, child soldiers, and ultimate frisbee (deathandtaxesmag.com)
Exciting news from Young Pioneer Tours:
The DPRK has announced that they will be restarting cruises from Rajin Port, to the Mt Kumgang resort on 3 night, 4 day cruises starting from April. Singaporean cruise ship called the Royale Star has a capacity for around 800 paying passengers, offering monthly trips from April until October.
We have been given the confirmed dates for this cruise, and most excitingly that we will be able to sell foreign places (non-Chinese) on these trips. We are still waiting to have prices confirmed on this, but are hoping to have this done within 48 hours.
As a Master Mariner I have vowed never to take a cruise. Seven months a year on the ocean for my professional job is usually enough for me, but for a North Korea Rason cruise I will make an exception!
With this breaking news I’m already in touch with the office and developing a tour for May 30-June 3 (I guess Mongolia will have to wait until next year).
Get in touch with me if interested, plenty of time to customize the trip for a few days exploring the Rason region before sailing the North Korean waters with me, your very own maritime expert.
North Korea watchers will remember that this isn’t the first attempt North Korea made at launching a cruise route. Below are pictures of the Mangyongbong cruise ship. Back in 2011 YPT was the only Western tour company to take the cruise from Rason to Kumgang. Unfortunately it stopped operating after Western Journalists gave it too much stick.
Our lovely guide Shan with North Korean guides in front of the M/V Mangyongbong cruise ship.
M/V Mangyongbong gangway.
DPRK flag on the M/V Mangyongbong’s stack.