HOLIDAYS IN PYONGYANG – Where do I not sign?
North Korea has opened its doors to Russian tourists, issuing a license for the first travel agency in Moscow to promise clients “full immersion” in the nation’s culture and enjoyment “safer than an evening walk in London”.
NKOREAN.RU, a Russian company licensed by North Korea’s government, offers organized tours for groups of up to 10 people or individuals “to show the travelers the multi-faceted life of this most closed of countries”.
Guests to North Korea must necessarily be “checked” before their trip and will always be accompanied by a guide who will monitor the “adequate behavior of the tourist and guarantee his safety.” Pictures of strategic and military facilities are banned and long talks with locals “are not recommended”.
It’s arguably safer than an evening walk in London because in North Korea there are no cars to run you over. And if you do get run over by a car in North Korea you know it’s the government that wants you dead. Speaking of the government, North Korea might indeed be safer than London, except for its own citizens – the three generations of murderous Kims have accounted for some seven million lives; three during the war, three in the famine of the 1990s and an extra miscellaneous million in between – or if you are a young tourist who makes a fatal mistake of trying to nick a propaganda poster as a souvenir.
Coincidentally, on the flight from Australia to Europe I’ve read John Sweeney’s “North Korea Undercover”. Sweeney, a BBC journalist, but a good one, in 2013 pretended to be a London School of Economics professor to get onto a student trip to the world’s most nightmarish state. I heartily recommend this book to anyone considering going to North Korea. As he writes, ” North Korea feels like Kafka written in an alphabet no one can read.”
Let me leave you with a piece of trivia: Kim Il Sung’s birthday (Un’s grandpa and founder of this north Asian Stalinist nightmare) is said to have happened on 15 April 1912. This, coincidentally, is the date that ” Titanic” sank. Make of it what you will.