I posted this in - ahem - another place but would be interested in the thoughts of ARRSErs (especially as this is one of the few sub-forums that hasn't been overwhelmed by mongs): In a North Korea trip report posted In February, a TT user made the following comment when introducing his thread: "During the preparation for my trip, a few one-sided members that frequent the same forums as I, scolded me for visiting a repressive country where people starve, where there was a strong possibility that they would incarcerate me for life, among other things; you know the type. If you are such a kind of person, don't try this experience, as you're going to hate it. To enjoy North Korea you must have an open mind; must be non judgemental; must respect other peoples opinions, even if you disagree; must realize that we may consider our system the best and I would never live there even for a month - but that there are one or two aspects of their culture that can teach us some lessons. In summary, you must be the kind of "live and let live" person." I am not the most widely-travelled person in the world, still less the most well-informed about international relations, but I do know North-East Asia reasonably well and wouldn't consider my closed-minded or insensitive to cultural differences. My thoughts on the matter (and the above comments) are that, interesting as it would be to visit the DPRK, the harm you could potentially do outweighs the desire to have an unusual holiday. For a start, given the nature of visits to North Korea, a significant proportion of the money you pay will go directly to one of the most evil regimes on earth. Forget moral relativism, there comes a point when a line in the sand has to be drawn and any country that makes (for example) the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the People's Republic of China look like bastions of liberty surely represents the far side of that line. Related to the above is the fact that, in my opinion, "giving North Korea a chance" or adopting a "live and let live attitude" is to hold the Government of the DPRK to a lesser account than other regimes and, quite frankly, to say that the Korean people are somehow more culturally-suited to being starved, lied to and imprisoned en mass than we in the West are. I suppose that you could make an arguement that that is indeed the case, but I would suggest that the existence of the Republic of (South) Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau and the Republic of China (Taiwan) prove otherwise. Furthermore, there is the issue of making yourself a "useful idiot", to use Lenin's apt phrase. By visiting such a country, you run the risk of being used as an inadvertent propaganda tool; it's well doumented that the USSR and various other 'communist' states in Eastern Europe used tourists in such a way, at least in the most repressive phases of their existence. A person's very presence in such a state invites the regime to say: 'things can't be that bad, all these foreigners come here willingly and - look - even bow to the Great Leader'. curiosity is a prime motivator in deciding where to travel but I don't think that it should always be the definitive factor. I can think of few places and few periods of history as fascinating as the People's Republic of China during the height of the Maoist era but I'm not so sure that my curiosity would have trumped my doubts about the morality of going and seeing it for myself. As with China then, so with North Korea now. In fact, you could make the case that going to the DPRK is worse; the full horror of the Great Leap Forward is only now emerging thanks to the partial opening of the archives and the work of Chinese and foreign scholars. In an age of mass communication and in the absence of a 'communist bloc' to help shield abuse and mass starvation from the eyes of the world, most people who are even considering a visit to the DPRK will be as aware as most outsiders can be of just what sort of country they are visiting. I should perhaps point out that I am not saying that the world outside the Korean peninsular is perfect, or anything close to it; all of our countries have their problems and all are guilty to a greater or lesser extent of failing their citizens in various areas. But few Governments are as willing to let their citizens fill their stomachs with clay and tree bark as the regime in North Korea have been. Short of committing mass suicide, we can't do much to avoid living in an unfair world where some of us live decent lives and others suffer horribly. But I can't help thinking that it's one thing to do so in your own country, quite another to travel to another to dine in luxury while bare-footed children look for grains of rice in the gutter. That doesn't just apply to North Korea, of course, but almost everywhere else in the world at least allows aid agencies to help alleviate the suffering. Finally, there is the danger that returning tourists become small-time apologists for the DPRK, perhaps without even realising it (as in the above quote). With so few tourists visiting North Korea, it is entirely to be expected that those who have made the trip are treated as having some inside knowledge not possessed by the rest of us. Given the nature of tours to the DPRK, this is as ridiculous as someone who has been to Disneyland Paris claiming intimate familiarity with France. But we are travellers and we know how satisfying it can be to be treated as an expert on some far-away place; so much so that the temptation can be hard to avoid, even if we know deep down that we know very little. And in a place like North Korea, where you will be shielded from the harsh reality, the above is doubly true. I was a NATO soldier in Bosnia for a year and have visited that country many times since and yet am very, very far from being any sort of expert on the country. Does a one-week escorted tour make anyone an expert on North Korea (especially when the professionals of the CIA, MI5 etc find it so difficult to penetrate the facade)? I would be really interested in other people's opinions. I think this is something that each person has to make their own mind up about but, even so, I refuse to accept that not wanting to have a holdiay in someone else's misery makes me any more closed-minded than someone who has made the trip.