Planning a trip to North Korea? Your girlfriend will cry, your friends will ridicule you, your family will look up Bill Clinton’s number so they can spring you out of jail, and just about everyone else will think you are joking. I have been to over 80 countries but getting my family to accept the idea that I was truly going to the DPRK was a tough sell. By sharing the Koryo Tours website with my family I was finally able to convince my Dad to help arrange the money transfer to China to pay for the trip, and while everyone else had gross misconceptions of what the North Korean travel experience would be, everything turned out to go more or less as I expected – in general it was more of a blast than I ever thought it would be! The one wild card that neither my travel buddy Jordon Harbinger or myself were sure about was what our North Korean guides would be like. A few documentaries out there (while entertaining the Vice Guide to North Korea is bullshit) portray the North Korean guides as iron fisted minders, strait from the secret police academy, and ready to deport you on your first infraction of the rules. The truth is a little less severe – you wont get deported until your 3rd rule infraction!
Our guides truly were wonderful people. In North Korea, working as a guide for foreign tourists is an enviable job – good food, travel, foreign gifts, and regular access to hard currency, but with all this comes the risk of managing groups of unpredictable foreigners. As a foreign tourist you really cant get into too much trouble, but the trouble you make can get your guides into a lot of trouble. When they tell you not to take photos – don’t take photos. When you break the rules you put your guides at risk. There is a bit of trust to be developed at the start of the tour, be a good tourist, do what you are asked, and show a little respect (you are not expected to believe but just to be respectful to their official viewpoint) and by the end of the week everyone will be having a great time!
She doesn’t look that scary – our guide and minder in DPRK, North Korea, Ms. Yu.
Ms. Yu and myself hamming it up for the camera.
Our guide and minder in DPRK, North Korea, Ms. Yu wearing my bunny hat.
Miss Yu with sun umbrella.