Archive for August, 2013

Chinese National Day Tour

Chinese National Day Tour – September 30th – October 8th

My plans have changed; instead of a Rason trip I’m now being sent in to guide the finale of the Arirang Mass Games for Young Pioneer Tour’s Chinese National Day Tour.

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Still time to arrange a visa to see the final Arirang Mass Games: €1195 – 7 days in DPRK, Train/Flight In, Train Out (Flight out +€120) Dandong option €795

Pyongyang – Kaesong – Sariwon – Nampo

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Restricted Chongjin, North Korea

In the post 5 Reasons Not To Go To North Korea, the author claims (amongst many other things I strongly disagree with) that travel to the Northeast industrial city of Chongjin is impossible:

The Whole Restriction Thing

You know those tour buses that clutter up every major city in the world? The ones that pull up and regurgitate camera-snapping masses onto the streets of London, Paris, New York and Rome?

Give me one of those any day over a trip to Pyongyang.

You see, you only see what the government allow you to see. That is to say, you see the capital city and all the chintziest sights that the Kim dynasty deem suitable for foreign eyes, the sights that portray their tyrannic regime in the best light possible. Prosperous, modern, robust

Your cameras are checked. You can only take photographs where permitted. You can’t wander down a side street while the rest of your tour group is regaled with tales of double rainbows and icebergs heralding the birth of Kim Jong Il.

You won’t see Cheongjin, the industrial city on the coast that was thoroughly ransacked and ravaged during the famine, North Korea’s second largest. It’s not even on Google maps at present.

This isn’t accurate, Chongjin has been an approved tourist city for some time, the problem has been getting there. Until recently access was only possible by charter flight via Pyongyang, but in 2013 new routes in the Northeast were opened with Chongjin easily visited via either Rason or Namyang.

The Whole Not Seeing Anything New Thing

What exactly would a visitor to North Korea see that hasn’t been seen before?

Will they see the places I’ve listed above? Not unless the government relax their policies regarding where can and cannot be visited, and even under the rule of Kim Jong Un, who appears to be slightly less monstrous than his father, this appears unlikely at present.

Rather, a visitor to North Korea is only going to see what everyone else before them has seen. See the same statues, hear the same stories, walk across the giant streets with barely a car in sight – maybe even catch a military parade of some kind if they’re lucky.

There are so many new places and things to see in the DPRK it’s mind blowing.  Join Young Pioneer Tours on one of their Northeast Extreme trips, a cruise out of Rason, Dandong day trips to Sinuiju, or check out the newly opened sites in the town of Pyongsong – there is no excuse for not seeing something new on a trip to North Korea if you are adventures enough to get out of Pyongyang!

Amazing interactions with local kids in the “you won’t see Cheongjin” industrial city of the Northeast:

Chongjin, North Korea
Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Chongjin, North Korea

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III


Feedback Time!

What has this blog taught you about North Korea?

Insights?  Shattered misconceptions?  Please leave a comment – thanks!

Pyongyang Children

Children at the Pyongyang Zoo – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

 

 


Pyongyang Cell Phone Revolution

Pyongyang Cell Phone Revolution

Woman in revolutionary outfit on a cell phone at Mansu Hill, Pyongyang – Photo by Joseph A Ferris III


Is it Time to Defy Washington’s Logic on North Korea?

Wonsan, North Korea

Propaganda in Wonsan, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

Great analysis on the failed US “Strategic Patience” policy in regards to the North Korea problem by my friend, and  decorated Army Veteran, Michael Bassett.


Humvees, Pawn Shops, and 5 Star Bathrooms – North Korea’s Surreal Rason Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

No visit to Rason, North Korea would be complete (at least for those interested in business or entertainment) without a stop at the Hong Kong investor owned Emperor Hotel and Casino. The second casino in North Korea (the original being a small dodgy room in the Yanggakdo International Hotel basement), the Emperor Hotel and Casino is located on a lonely stretch of coast with farmers and oxen tilling fields right up to the empty parking lots.

The lobby is spotless, the restaurant promising (but empty), and the signs politely remind Chinese gamblers not to spit. Visitors can only gamble if they exchange a minimum of 500 dollars into chips – we didn’t, so we couldn’t visit the gaming floor. Neither did we visit the dodgy Chinese massage parlor, but as per our guide’s proud recommendation, we did use the county’s only 5 star bathroom.

The casino has a fleet of Humvee vehicles reportedly confiscated from Chinese mafia gamblers who lost millions of dollars and refused to pay their debt. They left the Humvees instead, which are now used to shuttle patrons down from the Chinese border – they must have been on a run, we searched for the Humvees but the casino motor pool was empty.

And if this wasn’t all surreal enough, there is even an associated pawn shop for unlucky gamblers located on the road leading to the casino!

More pics of the Emperor Hotel and Casino:

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Dodgy Chinese massage!

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III


Rason Business Interest Tour

Rason, North Korea

Development under the watchful eyes of a Kim mosaic in Rason, North Korea.

Join me for the September 22nd – September 27th Rason Business Interest Tour.

The 3 night, 4 day trip has us visiting many of the major joint-venture and foreign owned companies in the area as well as most importantly meeting people involved with the foreign affairs and investment departments in the area to explore opportunities in the region as well as the logistics of doing business here.

Whilst we will be visiting tourist attractions whilst here the trip will primarily be based around doing business, and as such we will only be accepting bookings from people looking to do business here.

This is an excellent opportunity to meet the people that matter, set up further appointments, and begin what can be a long process of doing business in the DPRK.

The trip starts and finishes in Beijing/Yanji, with us doing a Rason Business presentation at the wonderful LiuJing Hotel, Yanji on the evening prior to departure.

4 nights, 5 days • €695 (650 meet in Yanji) • (Beijing – Yanji – Rason – Yanji. (3 nights, 4 days in Rason, 1 night, 2 days in China)

This trip is capped at 6 people, three more spaces available, and time to sign up is limited.

Full itinerary can be found here.


Young Pioneer Tour’s 2014 DPRK Schedule – With Massive Discounts!

Northeast Extreme North Korea Trip

YPT is extremely pleased to announce our very eagerly anticipated 2014 DPRK mainland tour schedule. We have added a lot of very exciting new tours to our program, as well as keeping all of our very firm favorites.

2013 is officially the last year of Arirang, but seeing as the country has run some kind of “mass games” pretty much every year since 1946, we are extremely confident there will be a program for 2014, as with everything at YPT we will keep you posted.

MASSIVE DISCOUNTS – The most exciting thing about the list is that we are offering massive discounts of between 20-30% on all tours for 2014 booked in 2013, with 3 days from as little as 350 Euro, and 7 days for under 1000. Prices for our January/February tours will go up on November 1st, with everything from March onwards going up on January 1st.

Email me at joseph@youngpioneertours.com to get your early booking discount!


The Non Propaganda Kindergarten Environment

From past posts readers might be under the impression that North Korean kindergartens are overwhelmingly filled with political and military statues and art.  But there is a sweeter, more innocent side to DPRK kindergartens, aspects of which I would like to highlight in this photo post:

Chongjin Kindergarten North Korea

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Photos from Chongjin and Rason Kindergartens .


Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair

Last spring I had a chance to visit the 16th Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair held at the Three Revolutionary Ideas Exhibition. Entrance was 5 Euros and not everybody in my tour group wanted to visit. Those who didn’t enter got to mingle with locals and eat barbeque pork at an outside food court, but those of us who did visit were treated to an amazing look at North Korean technology and the country’s emerging marketplace.

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Luxury  Tissot watch booth.  Other luxury Swiss items can be found at a shop at the Yanggakdo Hotel.

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North Korean Samjiyon Tablet – are their tablets and new smart phones really made in North Korea?

North Korean Tablet

This photo is credited as being the first to confirm the existence of the larger size Samjiyon Tablet.

Pyongyang Spring Business Expo

Flat screen TVs showing the Moranbong Band.

Pyongyang Spring Business Expo

Panasonic in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang Spring Business Expo

Washers, dryers, and refrigerators.

Pyongyang Spring Business Expo

Young woman in revolutionary outfit using North Korean currency at the trade fair.

Want to learn more about business opportunities in the DPRK ?  Gareth Johnson, Young Pioneer Tours founder, and I will be heading up to the Rason Special Economic Zone for 3 days of business meetings on Sept 24th.  This is not a tourist trip, but for those with serious business interests there is still time to join up.  Please email me at:  joseph@youngpioneertours.com  – full itinerary and price to be published shortly.


Pyongyang Traffic Girl Autograph

Friend and fellow Young Pioneer Tours guide, Chris White, had an epic encounter with a Pyongyang Traffic Girl last week in the DPRK:

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Pics from Young Pioneer Tour’s Facebook page  – give the page a like and suggest to your friends for your chance to win our yearly free DPRK trip giveaway contest!


Rason Special Economic Zone Shoe Factory

The Rason shoe factory is one of the various light industry sites open to tourists in the North Korean Special Economic Zone. Unlike the bustling Rason textile factory, the shoe factory was only running at half capacity on my visit. Factory officials embarrassingly explained that output was down due to sanctions – although that seemed a dubious excuse after having witnessed the busy textile factory production floors. But then again, I’m not an expert on sanctions, and keeping North Korean high heels off the international market might truly be part of American strategy to force regime change.

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Rason Shoe Factory North Korea

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III


Kindergarten Tank Art

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Crayon drawing of a tank displayed at a Kindergarten in Rason, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


North Korean Middle School Badges

North Koreans are initiated into the wearing of badges and insignia at a young age. In the Rason SEZ I found kindergarten children wearing red star badges as a reward for exemplary performance.  Throughout the country regimented middle school children compete for rank; those who win responsibilities, receive and wear arm badges.

Young Pioneers at the Mangyongdae Native House North Korea

The highest ranking student in a class receives an arm badge displaying three bars and three stars, as the boy above is wearing.

These types of badges are not available for tourists at souvenir shops, but I did find them.  I purchased several using local North Korean currency at the public market in the Rason Special Economic Zone.

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Of the two middle school badges I purchased, the one on the right, two bars and one star, ranks higher than the the one on the left, three stars and one bar.  I wore the higher ranking badge on my arm in the DPRK and the locals were absolutely delighted.  Women giggled, men posed for pictures with me, and I was repeatedly asked why I only held a mid level rank.

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Notice the lower ranking badge in the above picture; after leaving my camera battery charger at the Nampo Hot Spring Hotel and having to return for it, Miss Yu, the North Korean guide, demoted me!


Red Star for Exceptional Kindergarten Performance

Children from a kindergarten in Rason, North Korea  proudly wear red star awards for exceptional daily performance.

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Rason Kindergarten North Korea

Rason Kindergarten North Korea

Rason Kindergarten North Korea

Rason Kindergarten North Korea

Rason Kindergarten North Korea

Rason Kindergarten North Korea

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III