About Joseph

I work as a Chief Mate on U.S.-flagged oceanographic research ships . The voyages and expeditions I have worked brought me from the Yangtze River of China, to the icebergs off Cape Horn South America, Antarctica, and many other points around the world.

My passion is world travel and I have spent the last 13 years working and independently traveling through over 90 countries. I have no home and live out of a backpack (although a girl in Taiwan has me settling down for the first time in my life). I also love to read literature, study history, and make trouble where and when I can.

Traveling to North Korea has been a life changing experience but it’s far from being my only one. I have hiked at Mt. Everest, worked as a white water rafting guide, hung out with rebels and liberation armies in various war zones, been killed off in a Chinese kong fu film, studied Vietnamese at a university in Hanoi, and most recently I received the US Coast Guard’s highest license, Master Unlimited.

Rano Kau and ruined ceremonial village of Orongo

2010 science trip to Easter Island

My travels – work and play

visited 95 states (42.2%)
Create your own visited map of The World or Free android travel guide

Pictures of me in North Korea 2012:

With Local Girls in Wonsan City, North Korea

With girls in Wonsan City.


At a Pyongyang folk festival.

Reunion With a Friend

With my “secret North Korean girlfriend”.


Group photo in Pyongyang.


With Jordan Harbinger at the Pyongyang Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il statues


With a North Korean guide.


With a North Korean guide.

North Korean Guide "Crazy" Kim

With North Korean guide Mr “crazy” Kim.


At the USS Pueblo.

Hamhung Fertilizer Plant, North Korea

Revolutionary art at the Hamhung Fertilizer Plant.

Film Studio Pyongyang, North Korea

At a South Korean brothel at the Pyongyang Film Studio.


Photo with the director of the Korea International Travel Company.


With a North Korean guide.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

With my lunch at the Pyongyang gun range.

Pyongyang, North Korea Gun Range

With my lunch at the Pyongyang gun range.

Dandong North Korean State Restaurant Waitresses

Waitresses at the North Korean restaurant Dandong, China.

Pictures of me in North Korea 2011:

North Korean Picnic Girls

With the singing waitresses of Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korean Picnic Girls

Cute times with the singing waitresses and myself at the Youth Day Celebration , Pyongyang, DPRK, North Korea.

Dancing with the Singing Waitresses of Pyongyang, North Korea

With the singing waitresses of Pyongyang, North Korea.

Dancing with the Singing Waitresses of Pyongyang, North Korea

Dancing with the singing waitresses of Pyongyang, North Korea.

The boys at Reunification statue

Group photo at the Reunification Statue, Pyongyang.

Group Photo with Colorful Korean Natives outside the Kim Il Sung Mausoleum

Group photo with colorful Korean natives outside the Kim Il Sung Mausoleum.

Our crew outside the Kim Il Sung statue in Kaesong

Our crew outside the Kim Il Sung statue in Kaesong.

And down goes his opponent

Taking on the North Korean strong man – arm wrestling at the Pyongyang fun fair.

The Group at the DMZ

The group at the DMZ.


After one too many at the Pyongyang BBQ duck restaurant.

North Korean Visa

I was trip leader!Β  Here I am showing off our North Korea group visa.

Drunk in a North Korean Elevator

Just a little drunk after a night of North Korean karaoke.

With the Guide at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

She hates American soldiers but “love(s) American civilians!” – with the guide at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

North Korean Anchor

I’m a sailor, I dig anchors! Three Revolutionary Ideas Exhibition, Pyongyang, North Korea.

Hanging with Kim Jong-il

Hanging with Kim Jong-il.

View of Pyongyang from the Grand People's Study House

View of Pyongyang from the Grand People’s Study House.

With the Guide at the International Friendship Exhibition

With the guide at the International Friendship Exhibition.

Below the Kims at the DMZ

Below the Kims at the DMZ.

Tour of the US Spy Ship Pueblo

Tour of the US spy ship Pueblo

Tour of the US Spy Ship Pueblo

Tour of the US spy ship Pueblo

74 responses

  1. I’m glad to have found your blog and I’m looking forward to your photos and thoughts on visiting there!

    November 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    • Thanks!

      November 15, 2011 at 1:29 am

      • Brad

        Hi Joe, if you don’t mind me asking, How were you able to work in Korea? I would like to follow a similar path, how would I go about doing like you do?

        June 22, 2014 at 9:05 am

  2. n0bias

    Yes, your life sounds very adventurous and interesting. I am looking forward to your pictures and thoughts aswell.

    November 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm

  3. Thank you, I’m just glad people are interested

    November 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    • Brad

      Hey Joe, Do you live in North Korea, or are you just enjoy visiting North Korea?

      September 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      • Hi Brad, I work as a tour guide in the DPRK during vacation time from my real job, entering the country via China – I do about 6 trips a year now.

        September 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm

  4. TheBlackTwig

    This is exceptional. I will be definitely following you from now on. You have a different perspective about North Korea and I’m glad that you freely share it to the world. Thanks for sharing and keep ’em coming. πŸ™‚

    November 22, 2011 at 5:48 am

    • Salamat, and thanks for stopping by. I definitely plan to continue to keep posting something new and fresh each day.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:08 am

      • TheBlackTwig

        Wow! And you know a bit of Tagalog. “Walang anuman” – you’re welcome

        November 22, 2011 at 11:07 am

  5. Walay sapayan – actually I lived in Cebu for a summer and took some classes in Visayan and studied some martial arts.

    I checked out your blog too, nice work, I will be following it – happy travels!

    November 22, 2011 at 11:50 am

  6. your fierce cat

    good job …..

    November 27, 2011 at 4:27 am

  7. Pingback: North Korean Game – How to Get the Girl « An American in North Korea

  8. Sounds like you have had a lot of interesting wanderings..

    December 7, 2011 at 4:13 am

  9. Tobi

    Hello there,
    thanks for your blog.Very very interesting
    I just saw your North Korea photos on flickr and they are simply awesome!i love the portrait photos,especially the children ones.It seems like you had a more inside view than other tourists.

    Merry christams and good travelling(i love travelling,too!!!seriously addicted πŸ˜‰ ) for the future
    best wishes from germany

    December 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm

  10. Pingback: The First Podcast From Inside North Korea « An American in North Korea

  11. great blog Joe

    January 5, 2012 at 3:48 am

  12. Pingback: An American in North Korea | The North Korea Blog

  13. Mr Mole

    Great set of pictures.

    January 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm

  14. EL

    loved all the photos! Especially of you and the gals! : )

    January 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

    • Thanks – I read your bio, you have had an interesting life’s journey, so cool you are so well grounded and your love for the world trumps all the superficial distractions out there! Best of luck in everything.

      January 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm

  15. I envy you! I’ve never been in North Korea even though I’m from other side of Korea! Thank you for sharing all pictures and traveling stories as well. I should spend some more time here!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:51 am

    • Thank you, this blog has slowed down a bit now that my first trip was last summer, but I go back in April of this year so there should be plenty of new and fantastic pics coming – I upgraded to a pro camera for my new trip!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:36 am

  16. Hi Joseph, I found your blog through a few key words on Google and so far this is the best blog about North Korea I’ve ever encountered. I’m not having any biological or physical attach to the country, just the emotion! Pleas keep your blog rolling.

    April 10, 2012 at 7:33 am

  17. Marie

    Amazing pictures and stories..thank you for sharing!

    May 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm

  18. Eoin

    Great pictures and blog. It’s fascinating to get a glimpse of real NK citizens. I’m sure there is so much that you can’t see, but photos like these, where we see a few North Koreans smile, dance, and let their guard down for a few seconds, are very illuminating. Thanks for sharing.
    If I could offer one suggestion for improvement, it would be to have more photos of ordinary North Koreans doing everyday normal things. You’re a handsome looking chap, but I suspect most visitors to this blog don’t come to see photos of you at various NK landmarks πŸ™‚
    Thanks again.

    May 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    • Well this is the “About Joseph” post of the blog – I think I have over 150 posts showing as much as I can of ordinary North Koreans – it’s what I try to focus on. Of course you could go strait to my Flickr and see all the photos that I have not yet blogged about:

      Mangyongdae Children's Palace

      May 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

  19. Seilin

    Came here accidently but really nice photos πŸ˜€
    glad to see pictures of N. Korea.
    Those are really interesting πŸ™‚

    August 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

  20. Liz

    Hi Joseph, your pictures are amazing. Your blog is making me want to get a round-the-world ticket! Best of luck in your travels! Btw, you mentioned you lived in Cebu, I was there not too long ago. Maybe I even saw you in Ayala or SM. lol Anyway, salamat sa mga pictures!

    August 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm

  21. Gary

    Fascinating blog! I’ve read that Pyongyang is different from the rest of DPRK because it’s the home of the governmental, financial and military elite, so the people look happier and more affluent than people in the rest of the country. What’s your opinion on that?

    August 17, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    • You are certainly correct, Pyongyang is home to the governmental, financial, and military elite, and is a showcase city with all the facilities and luxuries for the politically reliable that have been rewarded by being allowed to live there. For the most part the people of Pyongyang seem to be content with the modest housing and food provided by the state. The money they make with their jobs is extra and usually saved to fund weddings and other special events. Luxuries such as TVs are gifted from the state. Rumor has it that foreigners are only shown some streets, but we were hauled all over the city. True, there are some industrial areas that the government does not want to show, but in general we saw everything.

      But we did visit other cities, cooperative farms, and the countryside. Surprisingly the cooperative farms make a lot of money and the people who live there do very well financially – I’m told better than resident of Pyongyang. The smaller cities seem to have a standard of living scaled down when compared to Pyongyang but the people seemed healthy and happy enough – one of the best experiences from my last trip was being let loose on the Wonsan docks and having free interaction with locals – there were a lot of smiles, laughs, photos, and mysterious punches into my belly from some rambunctious child.

      We traveled through mountains and the countryside and we did see foraging, but we never got into areas were starvation was at a critical level.

      August 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      • asdfasdf

        you idiot, those weren’t just any locals, they were all plants. they got shipped there before and shipped out after you left. it’s all a big sideshow. those women in your photos got beaten, tortured and killed btw when their minders saw your photos on this blog.

        October 1, 2012 at 5:20 am

      • Sir, you seriously are an idiot, but thanks for stopping by.

        October 1, 2012 at 5:25 am

      • Funny, because I have been there twice and have met the same people on the two trips, so if what you wrote was a joke, fine, if serious, sorry you have no idea.

        October 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm

  22. I’m glad I found this blog! Your travels sound fascinating; I’d be happy if I managed to visit just half of the places you’ve been. I’m hoping to go to North Korea after college, and was wondering if you have any travel recommendations regarding the agencies and tour groups that visit DPRK. Apologies if this answer can be found somewhere on your blog — I poked around but didn’t find it. Thanks, and I’ll be sure to check back for new posts!

    August 20, 2012 at 5:13 am

  23. Ray

    what a awesome adventure , i really admire your courage to explore the unexplored world need lots of strength and courage . Explore BURMA and Naga in Nagaland India , i bet you will have a great journey ,this part of the world need to expose to the world .

    August 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  24. Awesome reading, good luck with the rest of your travels.
    Would love to get DPRK on my flagcounter if possible?

    September 23, 2012 at 12:04 am

  25. Ken

    Great pictures! Every once in a while I find a great site online and yours did not disappoint! Wow!!! How interesting! I’ve travelled a good amount, but I’m an agoraphobic compared to you.

    October 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm

  26. Awesome blog ……. of North Korea…………
    hope to received a postcard for your next visit…….Just trying to get a postcard from North Korea…

    October 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm

  27. jose

    thanks for such amazing pictures. I am deeply intrested in taking a tour package trip tp North Korea sometime in MArch or April. What company did you travled with and where was the gun range- bar located ( soundslike fun)? Any how, can you please provide with the companie’s name and the lenght of the tour as well?


    November 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    • Hi Jose, could you please contact me at josephferris76@yahoo.com , I can definitely sort you out with a March or April trip with a visit to the gun range, all with 5% off via my referral.

      November 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm

  28. kassandraperlongo

    Very cool blog. πŸ™‚ What got your started with your fascination with North Korea btw?

    January 13, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    • Have always wanted to go since it has been off limits to Americans for so long. Now after a couple trips I’m starting to work in the tourist industry there – I love it, fascinating place and the people are lovely.

      January 14, 2013 at 12:06 am

  29. You have done it all LoL!

    January 18, 2013 at 7:40 am

  30. Chris

    Excellent. A real enjoyment to view and read Joe!

    January 20, 2013 at 8:22 am

  31. Irish sean

    Fair play to you I think what you do is very admirable and beneficial for many keep up the good work
    It’s good to see happy smiling faces in north Korea why does the media always only show sad depressed people from there???? Lovely people lets just hope and pray that no country decides to attack them

    March 1, 2013 at 7:19 am

  32. Bob Sweeney

    Joe, great blog and thanks for all the great pictures. It’s also really nice to see someone be respectful of the country and the people and not conflate that with any political opinions. Keep up the great work, I’ll hopefully be sending you some money for your blogging from with NK adventure as soon as I can.

    March 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    • Thank you so much Bob, its really appreciated! Really makes me happy when people understand what I’m trying to do here πŸ™‚
      Also, when you donate, make sure you send me your info!

      March 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm

  33. Pingback: Blogging from North Korea | The Waiting

  34. Julia

    Hello, can you comment on collectivized farming in North Korea? From my understanding of history it seems like socialism and collectivism work best in the cities and in industries that become monopolies under capitalism (i.e. American’s healthcare business) but often fail in agriculture. In the Soviet Union this was largely due to misunderstanding of rural culture (among many other problems). How does farming work over there?

    March 15, 2013 at 2:33 am

    • Good day Julia,

      To be honest I’m not an expert on the collective farming/cooperative farming system. I have visited two cooperative farms in North Korea, the Dongbong Co-Operative Farm and the Chonsamri cooperative farm. Of the two the Chonsamri cooperative farm, located between Nampo and Pyongyang was bit of a showcase site, while the Dongbong farm near Hamhung was more rural and authentic. From outside sources I understand that the major cooperative farms remain successful state/local ventures, they produce a surplus of food with the residents of the farms enjoying a standard of living and wealth accumulation and savings somewhat enviable to those living in the cities. The houses in the Dongbong were are set up to recapture green energy in primitive but efficient methods. Really wish I could tell you more. Below links to my photos to these farms:


      March 15, 2013 at 2:49 am

    • I’m going to the Chonsamri cooperative farm in just a few weeks, if you have some specific questions you would like me to ask I’m willing to try for you.

      March 15, 2013 at 2:53 am

  35. Sam

    I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog, Joe! If I could see a fraction of what you have seen- I would consider myself very lucky! I’m curious- who are the other people in your group? Your friends or other people just adventurous enough to go to North Korea? I was surprised to see so many americans there, given its reputation and warnings from the government about the dangers. Is it really not as difficult to tour North Korea and other risky countries as they make us think it is? I am asking because I’m going on a group tour of Israel and am considering heading to Egypt on my own, which is not the safest place right now. I want to be safe but I also want to experience the world! I actually came across your blog by trying to collect information on this topic. =] Hope to hear back soon!



    March 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    • Hi Sam, my private custom trips are normally Americans aged 25-40, who are adventure seekers, cultural ambassadors, and entrepreneurs – and all fun loving people, with the right attitude North Korea can be a lot of fun believe it or not. My companies group trips tend along the same demographics, although mixed Nationalities.

      Although tensions are raised, North Korea is one of the safest places to travel on a tourist visa. You are taken well care of by the North Korean guides, and petty crime is non existent – kinda the same as traveling to Iran, probably safer in those two countries than anywhere else.

      For me, risky countries are places like Bolivia, Costa Rica, South Africa, ect. Places with developed tourism but with crime problems – there tourists ARE a target – I have, or my friends have been mugged in these places. But a bad experience will not prevent me from traveling or exploring the world. I was just in Lebanon this year, “risky” but amazing. If you picked your destinations by government warnings you couldn’t go anywhere – I’m sitting on a beach in the Philippines right now, biggest danger to me will be a sun burn, fire coral on my dive today, or a hangover.

      I suggest getting out there, but be smart about it, you already understand political tensions could heat up in Egypt – just have secondary plans if they do right before you go, but if things are quiet, why not go? I’m thinking about Egypt myself this winter, a little diving in the Sinai.

      March 23, 2013 at 12:55 am

  36. Andrew Chung

    wow you are awesome!!! when it comes to North Korea, I will just have to live vicariously through you.

    March 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm

  37. Wow visa for that must be…hard is a way to put it.

    March 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm

  38. stanito

    You wnjoy this so much πŸ™‚ question, what is it like to fly Koryo Airlines?

    April 7, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    • no big deal now that I am used to it, but I guess you could say it is strange, especially the first time

      April 8, 2013 at 1:25 am

      • Richard

        “Strange” leaves a lot to the imagination. Can you be more specific? BTW, I enjoy reading your blog and viewing your Flickr photos.

        June 15, 2013 at 4:57 am

  39. Big fan of your Joseph! love the part “my North Korean gf”

    April 15, 2013 at 8:43 am

  40. Interesting to read about your experience in north korea. I felt kind of bizarre and “weird” for wanting to visit this country, but It would be realy exciting to do once in a life time. One thing is the fact that Pyongyang is a totalitarian state, another fact is how it is while personally experiencing the place. The tabloids are always experts at twisting the truth to get readers/attention.

    I read that mainland china have denied north korean flights landing at their airports.

    North korean people seem sweet and nice. It’s just a pity that generations of indoctrination has given them a twisted view about the “outside world”.

    Is it difficult to obtain a visa after mr Un took over his fathers throne and what is the fastest and most comfortable route into DPRK?

    April 25, 2013 at 5:45 pm

  41. kookieless

    Great Blog I remember being here awhile ago but didn’t you use to have a video about your trip(s) to the DPRK?

    May 2, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    • I really don’t do much work with videos, I did try to start a new youtube page in an effort for more video but never got around to it, two jobs and my still pics keep me busy enough.

      May 3, 2013 at 1:32 am

  42. Hyunah


    Thanks so much for sharing the awesome pictures! I can’t wait to see more pictures from your trip this time. I hope I will be able to visit DPRK soon!

    May 5, 2013 at 2:44 am

  43. Floris

    Hey Joseph, just stumbled upon your site, it’s really interesting to see your beautiful pictures from the DPRK. I will be going for 2 weeks there in August with Juche Travel Services next towards a China tour and I was specifically wondering which camera did you use to make these pictures, and also, how were you able to make some of these? I mean I know according to travel agencies that you may only take pictures of the soldiers at the DMZ, but here I see you making all these marvelous and personal photos with the locals, soldiers, children, guides and more. What are the tips you can give me, or is it just a simple way of asking? North Korea is a special nation after all. You can email me.

    Hopefully I will have a buddy in my group to make great pictures like you did!

    May 10, 2013 at 12:40 am

  44. Nice photo. πŸ˜‰

    June 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

  45. I’ve been to North Korea with Cap’n Ferris three times and can honestly say that he the man to go to DPRK with. He has a lot of good friendships in there that really enhance any tour he is leading. Most guides have to stick to a schedule but he can randomly get you into something spontaneous that pops up just by simply asking. A phone call and a short detour later and you’re witnessing something amazing that was totally unplanned. I highly recommend him. His tours are great and he goes out of his way to take care of everyone in his group. He’s totally reliable and responsible.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:02 pm

  46. Hi Joseph,

    i am Danang from Indonesia. i really curious about north korea and thinking to visit on August 2014. are u will be there at that time? how about the security there? is it safe for Indonesian like me? for Mass games is it only available on August?

    Thank you



    October 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    • Hi D, mass games normally run from end of July to mid Sept. This was the last year for the Arirang version, I have not herd yet of their plans for 2014, but will post as soon as I know. If work allows I will be guiding our Aug. Mt. Peaktu tour end of Aug. Im sure I will have another Aug. tour or two but its too early to know.

      October 28, 2013 at 2:58 am

  47. Hi Joseph, did you mean there will be another version of mass games rite? hopefully it will more spectacular. i think i will be there on late august tour with YPT. hopefully we can meet.



    January 18, 2014 at 10:18 am

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