Is North Korea an enigma to you? It is to everyone, which is why it is dubbed the “Hermit Kingdom.
This country in East Asia, lying in the northern region of the Korean Peninsula, is officially known as officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The boundaries to the south is the Korean Demilitarized Zone, while on the north-west is China. Part of the Tumen River in the northeast forms the border with Russia.
The Japanese annexed Korea and later, it was split into the North and South by the Soviet Union and the United States, after Japan lost the battle by the end of WWII. North Korea maintained a socialist government, while the South under the Americans became the democratic Republic of Korea. Efforts to reunify the two zones failed; an armed conflict ensued in 1950. The conflict was resolved by the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953, sans a peace treaty. In 1991, both were accepted into the United Nations. North Korea adopted the “military-first” policy or Songun, making it the fourth largest militarized society of the world after China, the United States of America and India.
If a visit to North Korea is part of your travel wish list, you can travel to this part of Korea, after all its tourism is now taking off, but the easiest way to discover and explore is to join package tours. If you are interested to take a peek at this country, you must be doing a bit of research. The Lonely Planet – Tips and Articles Section offers you information in this post Hermit Kingdom Travel Primer: What to Know Before you Visit North Korea.
“The restrictions on what you can see and do are tight, but as the country very slowly continues to open up to the outside world, more and more people are making the journey to a land still living in the Cold War era.”
The post “answers the twelve most common questions people ask about travel to this secretive country.”
Here are some pof those questions and answers:
- Can you can only go on a group tour? The rule is that you must be escorted at all times outside your hotel by two state-employed tour guides …” The guides are conversant in English. While they are helpful, you are advised not to broach history or politics. When you join group travel tours, it is best to take the rules seriously so the guide doesn’t get in trouble.
- Is North Korea safe? It is “rule-abiding” tourists. If you’ll not do or say anything against the leaders or government, you’ll be fine.
- Do I have to do anything political that I might not want to? Offering flowers before the bronze statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung at Pyongyang’s Mansudae Grand Monument and listening to the North Korean history without challenging it constitute the “two most political” things every tourist must do. If you are willing to abide by these, you’ll have no problem.
- Can I take photographs? Can I bring my phone to North Korea? Yes on both questions. You are, however, advised not to take photos of the locals without permission. With regards the mobiles, there are no roaming and wireless networks. You need to buy a local SIM card to use the Internet.
- How can I book my trip? As Beijing is where nearly all tours of North Korea begin and end, as well as where most visas are issued, this is a good place to shop around among the various travel agencies.
If you are interested to see some of North Korea’s well-guarded cities, it is your chance with its train tour that is set to start October 2, 2015. This is what Soo Kim of the Telegraph – Travel Section shares in the news Train Tour to Reveal North Korea’s “Undiscovered Cities.” The train, “a pioneering train journey through North Korea aims to offer a rare glimpse of places beyond Pyongyang.”
Travelling in vintage 1970s train carriages with dining cars and beds, visitors on a pioneering rail journey through North Korea will travel to places “very rarely seen” by foreigners.
Passengers on the ‘Eastern Adventure by Rail’ trip, run by Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based operator that specialises in holidays to North Korea, will venture to “as yet undiscovered cities” including Sinpho and Kimchaek, while seeing remote beaches.
The inaugural train tour will take tourists to Mount Myohyang from Pyongyang. It will take you to the International Friendship Exhibition, where all the gifts presented to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are housed. There will also be a tram ride in North Korea’s third largest city, Chongjin, and an overnight charter train that will run through its coastal city, Wonsan, home to socialist buildings, which was “frozen in time” for a decade (1970 – 1980) and home to socialist buildings and public spaces.
The tour will also take you down to the small hotels where Kim Il Sung once stayed, the Old Railway Station, and “the waterfalls, lakes and “quiet local settlements”, while glimpsing the towns of Yangdok and Sinyang, on the trip back to Wonsan.
This rail tour, lasting for 11 days, will cost a tourist €2,890 per person.
This is a coveted tour being only the second time after the operator’s first trip last year following long years of requests.
North Korea is warming up to the world through its tourism. If you’ll take this opportunity to see the “Hermit Country,” it will surely unveil this side of Korea, so it will be an enigma no more.