Friday, March 8, 2013

In the Category of Creepy but Interesting

There is going to be rail-only tour of North Korea this September by an organization called Juche Travel Services which is apparently run by a British citizen called David and is based out of the London area.

The rail tour starts in Beijing on September 20, crosses  the border of North Korea the morning of the 22nd and arrives in Pyongyang that evening. From there the tour visits Mount Myohyang, Hamhung, and Wonsan by charter train, the Chosun Explorer. Visits include temples, museums, and a fertilizer factory. While in Pyongyang, visitors ride on the Metro, thus proving that it is a real subway, even though it only has five stops.

This tour does NOT include the mass games which will be over by the time this tour begins.

Americans can visit North Korea, but not on this tour as they cannot take the Beijing-Pyongyang train. Current residents of South Korea are also prohibited, although it is OK if you have lived there in the past.

This is an opportunity to see parts of the country that very few foreigners get to see. It also is a little slower paced than some tours which visit a lot of places in short amount of time.

This tour costs 1,995 Euros. That price includes all transportation, entry fees, and hotels. It includes some meals, but not all.

Journalists are prohibited from taking any group tours. If you have a blog that has anything to do with Korea, you are considered to be a journalist. I could not go on a tour to North Korea and then write about it.

So I feel kind of ambivalent about these tours. On the one hand, it is good for people to learn more about North Korea as ignorance is dangerous. But if we are only learning from people who do not have enough context to understand what they are seeing, it makes it difficult to know what people actually saw. Also, do the people who have contact from these tours learn anything about the outside world. There is also the question of how much of the money that people pay for these trips goes to the government, and how much to the people providing the services.

For more information about traveling to North Korea in general here are some links:

Juche Travel Hints and Tips

Koryo Group Travel Advice

Reviews of other trips with Juche Travel

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