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

4 responses

  1. Love the photos!

    The article in question really annoyed me, and I think I’ll write my own response to it in a bit. Class A example of someone who hasn’t been to North Korea talking about what happens in North Korea. My camera wasn’t checked. I wandered down the street several times. I wasn’t told where to stand in photos.

    Did most of my money go to the government? Perhaps. I don’t know. But the government didn’t get my stories of Singapore, or hear about my adventures to other cities, or hear about what I learnt in university. The locals I met did.

    What did I see that I hadn’t seen before on the news? More than I can say.

    “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley


    August 26, 2013 at 6:27 am

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences – I too have been allowed to wonder a bit, sometimes all you have to do is ask. And my camera has never been checked leaving Pyongyang. They do check at the Northern land borders, but I never had a photo deleted out of the 12,000 taken.

    These are the numbers I go on when the money argument comes up:

    “Visiting North Korea raises many dilemmas for people from an ethical perspective. No one knows exactly where the money goes, so there are always fears that one’s hard earned dollars might in some way be subsidizing North Korea’s nuclear weapons or rocket programs. While this could be true, its important to keep perspective in mind.”

    “Last year North Korea’s GDP was (conservatively) estimated by the CIA to be approx $40 billion. When considering that about 4,000 Westerners go per year, the revenue generated by tourist visits comes to about $400,000 per year* – or 0.001% of the sum total of the DPRK GDP. These figures are so small that frankly it is absurd to think that touring North Korea will in any way impact what the North Korean government chooses to spend its money on. ”

    and of that $400,000 from western tourists, the majority goes to hotel upkeep, fuel for vans, and greater support of the tourist infrastructure – so at worst helping the economy

    August 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm

  3. “A visit to North Korea is pure selfishness…..”

    “Visiting North Korea gives travel bragging rights, and nothing more. What is a travel blogger or tourist going to reveal about the country that we don’t already know?”

    In my post Feedback Time – readers are telling me there is still much to reveal and teach

    August 26, 2013 at 2:11 pm

  4. Pingback: Tumen – North Hamgyong First Ever Group Tour! | American in North Korea

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