• Military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea Military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea
  • Young Soldiers atop Paekdusan, North Korea Young Soldiers atop Paekdusan, North Korea
  • Kim Il-sung Square, Pyongyang, North Korea Kim Il-sung Square, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korea: Up Close and Personal

North Korea is only a young nation, but it's a weathered one. Its first borders were drawn at the end of World War II, when the area was divided into Soviet and American occupied zones. Ever since, the country has been in constant conflict with its southern neighbour and the West.

The State

Much of North Korea's intrigue stems from its mysteriousness and reclusiveness. In fact, the country's government follows an ideology called "Juche", which it describes as a sovereign self-reliance. In theory, there's nothing wrong with such independence, but outsiders tend to report poverty, inhumanity and desolation.

North Korea

There are two glaring ironies of the state. Firstly, the official name of North Korea includes the word "Democratic", even though it's an undisputed dictatorship. And secondly, its "current" president is Kim Il-sung, who actually died in 1994. He conveniently declared himself the "Eternal President" before parting ways.

The Experience

In one sense, a visit to North Korea is like a visit to the tombs of Egypt or the ruins of the Incas. It really is a rare chance to enter a modern-day time capsule; one in which people have largely subsisted on their own means without Western influence for half a century.

Foreigners can only tour the capital, Pyongyang, with an approved guide. It can take an eternity to gain admission, though this can be hastened by using approved providers. Once landed, it's imperative that you follow the guidelines. If you attempt to catch a taxi alone, the driver is unlikely to take you without express permission. And if you're caught trying to hoodwink officials, you'll be put on the next plane home.

But despite restrictions, it's possible to sneak a peak behind the opaque cloak of North Korea's rule. To make the most of a visit to Pyongyang, kindly ask your guide to travel by foot rather than taxi. This makes for a much deeper immersion in the local culture.

 

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Vital Stats

Duration 4-10 days (avg)
When to go Anytime
Highest Altitude 2,744 m
Paekdusan 9,003 ft
Required Training 0 months

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Travel Trivia

What is the official language of Cambodia?

Trivia: What is the official language of Cambodia?

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Countries

Greater Asia

Activities

  • Cultural Immersion