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access to foreigners – the handful of foreign residents may still use the service, but access to tourists has been rescinded.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to live blog and interact through social media from inside North Korea, but as mentioned above this service has been rescinded.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:
A natural beauty greets passengers at the Pyongyang International Airport, North Korea.
Randy Schmidt, cameraman and editor for CBS News, recounts his recent exchange with a flight attendant on Air Koryo:
“Where are you from?” the North Korean flight attendant asks me.“I’m American, but I live in Japan.” “I hate America! I hate Japan! What would you like to drink today, sir?” she said.
I suppose the above could be true, but I tend to think the encounter was sensationalized at the very least. The North Koreans we encountered never let slip any blatant anti Americanism – although the stewardesses of Air Koryo did put on some of the best unintentional comedy of the trip.
After packing into the old Russian Il-62 jet liner, our outbound Beijing to Pyongyang flight was delayed and we sat on the tarmac for 2 hours. Between dealing with cramped passengers, and scrambling to wipe up dripping pools of condensation from the overhead, the stewardesses subjected us to our first introduction to the famous draconian rules and regulations of North Korea. As a group, we had been told “no photos” on the airplane, but of course we snuck photos. When the North Korean stewardesses finally ran out of patience they singled out a transgressor to make an example of, and with the entire passengers cabin attention, a stewardess made a traveler flip through his digital camera pictures, “delete that one, yes, and that one, yes, keep going, and delete that one, yes” – it was quite the show! We had been warned about the sensitivity to photography in North Korea, but this was the only time I witnessed such corrective actions – and we were still in Beijing!
The comedy continued when the trip’s eccentric (an older man from Mexico city) pulled a bottle of wine out of his carry on bag, and to the horror of the stewardesses, passed the bottle around the cabin, encouraging everyone to take a big swig. A stern faced North Korean stewardess intercepted the bottle and proclaimed:
“you cant pass a glass bottle around the cabin”
“¿Por Que No?”
“because it is unsafe, and…………because drinking is bad for your health!”
Air Koryo stewardesses wipe up condensation on the Russian made Ilyushin Il-62 jet liner during our 2 hour run way delay for take off out of Beijing.
Pyongyang International Airport in the afternoon sun, DPRK, North Korea.
More jets in the Air Koryo fleet.
Air Koryo jet and helicopters.
Pyongyang International Airport official.
Pyongyang International Airport official at the departure lounge.
Joseph A Ferris III with the group visa to North Korea.
Jordan Harbinger and Gabriel Mizarhi with the North Korean group visa.