North Korea

Anybody been? I understand serving will not be allowed there, what about ex-serving?

Has anybody any experience of the "accompanied" tours that are available there? From what I've read it seems a nightmare to organise but it somehow intrigues me.
I have, I went through this company I found it to be an eye opener.

Fascinating trip, it usually last a week, the itinerary usually takes in Pyongyang main highlights and cultural centres, film studios, circus, Juche tower,the revolutionary Martyrs Cementery (great view over Pyongyang from the top of a hill), the big giant statue of Kim Il Sung where you will have to buy a bunch of flower and bow to it (I didn't like it but when in Rome etc) , the Kim Il Sung mausoleum where you will view his preserved body in a glass case, MyonghangSan mountain, Kaesong and Panmunjom where the north and south stand toe to toe, you can visit the Military Armistice Commission room where you can enter for a moment to the south albeit the door to the south will be guarded.

I did the same from the south as well during my visit to South Korea.

You need a Chinese double entry visa, DPRK tourist visa, a CV which will be basic, just about yourself and your current employment etc, they don't really look at it, its just a form of control, bring Euros they prefer them to Dollars and Chinese Yuan, you will always be accompanied by a Guide who will speak your language, there is always 2 Guides and 1 driver, tehy rotate the staff round to prevent any familiarity, one of them will be a Security agent, always assume you are under surveillance, think before you speak, DON'T take in any political material that is likely to offend or take photos of military stuff without permission of your Guide who will end up more in the sh1t than you (you will just get kicked out) DON'T in any circumstance insult the "Dear Leader" he is almost Godlike in that Country, just keep an open mind and take in everything with a bullsh1t filter, the Korean people are quite friendly and curious about you, just because they just happen to live under a totalitarian dictatorship doesn't mean they can't have a laugh themselves, they are not fools, they can see your apparent wealth through your clothes, cameras and money, they are also a proud people, they see you as an honoured guest and try to show the best of North Korea to you, behave like one and everything should be fine.

Even now I still pinch myself about it, that I did it and found it a fascinating experience, I learned a lot, it reminded me very much of East Germany and Soviet Russia.
Cheers Semper :D
Korean food is lovely, I loved it, you can have Dog Soup in kaesong for 5 Euros, I loved Korean food since my trip there, the South is similar but slightly commercialised, Taegondang beer is the Dog dangles, its made from equipment imported from a Closed down brewery in Burton-on-Trent England, they shipped the whole things over and reassembled it, it very much resembled Real Ale here, I dare say taste similar to Fursty ferret.

Let us know how it goes, if you do go, I don't think the Korean war will kick off again, spats like this it happens all the time,
Blimey. When I sawthe title of the thread I thought "no chance".

Thanks for the replies Semper - fascinating. I had no idea they allowed tourists. I don't think I'll go though - I just know that after a few Taegondang beers I'd say something that would land me in a whole world of poo.


Book Reviewer
I'd second what Semper says, adding that the Norks you do meet will be wary, but eager to assist.

The Arirang Mass Games really may be the greatest show on earth, and the Great Fatherland Liberation War Museum is fascinating, as is the USS Pueblo (the US spyship captured in 1968) which is now moored on the Daedong River in central Pyongyang.

The Norks understand symbolism: The Pueblo sits on the alleged site of the first ever Anglo-Korean expedition to penetrate Korea in 1866. That particular little commercial misadventure ended with the ship being trapped below the rapids, fireships setting it on fire, the Anglo-American-Malay crew being hacked to pieces in the shallows, and their body parts pickled and used for medicine. Plus ca change...though the Pueblo guide, Major Lee, is a charming little cracker.

One (possible) correction: The Taedonggang beer is the commercial lager (as a tourist, you will be drinking the export stuff, which is pretty damned decent). The Ushers Brewery (Kent, not Burton-on-Trent) which was dismantled and taken to Kim's Kingdom is used to make the B+ real ale served in the two big tourist hotels, the Koryo and the Yangakkdo.

If you are REALLY lucky, you might just find yourself sharing the indoor swimming pool at the Koryo with the Dear Leader himself, who - or so it is rumoured - used to sample the facilities from time to time.

As for serving personnel: A friend of mine in the TA went, and did not have to swat his way through any ninjas to exfiltrate, so...
If you have the chance to go I recommend it. It’s a bizarre experience but really worth it. I don’t know when Semper was there, but when I visited it in 2004 the guides didn’t rotate and stayed with us for over two weeks and it allowed us to get to know them a bit better. They do get debriefed though every evening (so they told us).

Your tour company should sort out the visa and it’s probably a group visa. At the airport we had to hand in our mobiles, passports and laptops although some of the people in the group kept theirs in their pockets and weren’t searched. There’s probably no coverage anyway so pretty pointless to bring one I think. We went back to China by train and all our previously hand in stuff was returned to us before we embarked. I remember arriving at the first Chinese train station and feeling a bit relieved. In a strange way it felt as if we’d reached the free world again.

Most of the things you get to see is what everybody else gets to see (bar a few things maybe). Sofar every documentary about North Korea depicts pretty much what our group got to see. As mentioned before don’t bring anything into the country which may be politically sensitive. The guides will be more at risk for sanctions than you will be.

If you’ll visit Keasong and the border in the south keep your ears open for “the wall”. Allegedly the Americans have build a wall between the North and South to keep both entities separated from each other. All I could see though was a thick fog, yet the officials demanded I looked through the binoculars to see the wall for myself. No wall. They saw my disbelief, hurried me inside the building and made me watch a 30 minute film about “the wall”. There was a lot of propaganda and war fighting in that film but no mention of a wall. Still unconvinced I asked for some real evidence. At the end they showed me an artist impression of “the wall”. :D

Also apparently in the 1970s (I think it was in the 70s) a North Korean soldier crossed the border armed with an axe and killed a couple of people on the southern side of the border. The Northerners still keep this axe in a museum. It’s stuffed in a box somewhere, but when you asked for it they’ll happily show you it.

Another thing that sticks with me is the introduction of every building, highway, etc. they show you. It always follows the same pattern. 1) When it was build, 2) by which Workers party’s division, 3) how long (or short) it took them to build it and 4) when the Dear Leader paid a visit to said building/highway/stadium.

Oh and if they haven’t told you at the end of your trip then ask for the story about Kim Il Sung and his little red boots………….

If you want to visit it, give it a try :)
sorry yes it was Ushers Brewery Kent :oops: good stuff tho.

I went in 2008, the guide weren't changed for the trip, I should have explained more, they are changed at regular intervals but not during any trips, yes they do get debriefed as mentioned, At Panmunjom the Treaty House is situated not far, its where the Armistice was signed, the front had moved by the time the building was completed, it ended up being located in the North, everything is exactly as it was at the end of the Korean war.

If you get chance take the stopover option in Dandong, you will be put up in a good hotel as happened to me, if you are lucky its the room overlooking the Friendship bridge between China and NK, the Guide will take you on a boat ride along the river Yalu, you will see bit of North Korea from the Chinese side, the itinerary also includes a walk to the "one gap" the narrowest part between China and NK, DON'T Walk across !, stop halfway, the guide will tell you where and he will take a photo of you :) you will also see the No1 gate of the Wall of China, bit of a climb but worth it, for the view over North Korea.

Brought some NK Leader badges that NKs dumped as soon as they escaped across, they had to wear by law in NK, you couldn't buy them in NK either.

The stopover worth the extra I paid for it, recommended. :thumleft:

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