Unseen North Korea

Posted by Crooked Compass

When you think of North Korea, this isn't exactly what comes to mind is it?
When you think of North Korea, this isn't exactly what comes to mind is it?

You may be thinking that North Korea is lesser known and is unseen. Well, yes, that is true, but there is an even lesser known side to this fascinating country which makes it, well, even more fascinating!

Pyongyang - This could be any developed nation in the world. Incredible.
Pyongyang - This could be any developed city in the world. Incredible.

Did you know that North Korea receives around 4-5k travellers each year and that 70% of travellers to North Korea are male? Pretty incredible right!

Those who are keen to head to North Korea are often well travelled seeking that whats new and whats different (our favourite type of travellers), country collectors or those simply looking for bragging rights. So what is travel like in North Korea?

DMZ, Kaesong
DMZ, Kaesong

Put in simple terms, when you travel to North Korea, you do see the real North Korea. Just not all of the real North Korea.

Did you know that your guide is responsible for your actions? And by that we don't mean making sure that you turn up on time to depart each day. Please do not go to North Korea if you want that photo doing a handstand in front of the Great Leader and Kim Jong-il's bronze statue. Your guide will lose their job over such disrespect and beyond this, their family will lose face in the community. This is serious stuff.

Mansudae Grand Monument - always take photos of the entire monument to avoid causing offence
Mansudae Grand Monument - you must only take photos of the entire monument to avoid causing offence

The locals of North Korea have the same aspirations as us. The average person may not know who Beyonce is, but they want what we want - a secure and rewarding job, to have fun, be well educated and a wife who is prettier than their mates wife.

What we see through the media about North Korea is not the everyday reality. The locals are not military marching their way to work as the media would have us believe. A military march only takes place once a year. The media paint a perception using broad strokes and there is a lot missing in their narrative.

Young children seek shelter from the rain in Sinchon Village
Young children seek shelter from the rain in Sinchon Village

The people of North Korea are very warm, hospitable but are still unsure about foreigners. Although there are many opinions surrounding tourism in North Korea, we believe that allowing travellers to explore North Korea, it is providing further education to the locals - even if the contact with the locals whilst on a tour offers limited connections. It all helps and starts to provide the the foundations of cultural exchange and better education for both travellers and the locals alike. We are curious just like them. Let's break down those barriers.

Breaking down cultural barriers is a two way street.
Breaking down cultural barriers is a two way street.

Tourism in North Korea operates differently to other countries. The money bought into the country does not support the government. It supports the locals, the guides and those directly involved with welcoming travellers into their country.

Did you know that Pyongyang has 13 hotels and that some of them house bowling alleys, revolving restaurants and even microbreweries? Do not expect wifi, HBO or minibars though. Internet can only be accessed using a local sim on 3G and tethering or hot spotting is not possible as unsecured connections are illegal.

How about crisp 'Kim Jong-Ale' - North Korea has a surprising microbrewery culture
How about crisp 'Kim Jong-Ale' - North Korea has a surprising microbrewery culture

You will of course face the regular challenges of travel to a region that is still developing, especially in winter, such as power cuts, limited hot water, no internet and definitely expect architecturally quirky buildings.

Masikryong Ski Resort, North Korea
Masikryong Ski Resort, North Korea

Venturing out of the city and into the regional reaches of North Korea, accommodation is basic but very reasonably priced. Did you know that North Korea has ski resorts and stunning coast line?

Kumgangsan North Korea
Kumgangsan, North Korea

Did you know you can hike in the mountains, swim in waterfalls and experience a homestay in North Korea in a little fishing village?

Rimyongsu Falls, Paekdu
Rimyongsu Falls, Paekdu

Did you know that North Korea also has cherry blossom season - although most of their blossoms are almond blossoms - same, same but different. You can even teach English to students in North Korea or work in the rice paddies in the north.

North Korean rice paddies
North Korean rice paddies

What about volcanoes? Did you know that Mt Paekdusan is a volcano sitting on the border of North Korea and China and has stunning volcanic lakes?

Paekdusan Lake, sitting on the border of North Korea and China.
Paekdusan Lake, sitting on the border of North Korea and China.

Crooked Compass is proud to offer such incredible destinations that are often misunderstood or misinterpreted. Our mission is to educate travellers further by sharing experiences that you may not know exist.