Getting to know North Korea

Travel Destinations — By on January 8, 2010 at 7:12 am

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel to North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated and closed-off countries? If you’d like a glimpse into North Korean life, you should read the story that Dean Owen wrote for the LA Times about his recent experiences traveling in that country.

Visiting North Korea is like peering in the window of a store that closed long ago but where old merchandise mysteriously remains. I walk through the aisles feeling privileged, fascinated and curious, a little nervous, but not scared.

It is unlike any other place in the world. Communications and information technology most of the rest of the world takes for granted — the Internet, cellphones, GPS systems — are unavailable to civilians. North Korean-sanctioned news about Western nations often is characterized by violence and aggressive government actions.

Business brought me here in June, making me one of a very few Americans who have seen close-up the world’s most restricted nation. U.S. citizens are allowed to visit, but as tourists, they are limited to traveling between August and October, during the Arirang Festival, also known as the “mass games.” …

A massive portrait of the elder Kim, “the Great Leader,” greets arriving visitors from the roof of the Sunan International Airport. Once my luggage is scanned, visa inspected and cellphone impounded, I meet my assigned escorts, settle into a Toyota SUV and drive 15 miles into the capital city. The few vehicles on the road are owned either by the government or the military. Most people walk in groups of five or 10; others ride bicycles…

Streets are swept several times a day. One morning we drive by Kim Il Sung Square, one of many monuments honoring the nation’s founder. The plaza, more than 800,000 square feet, is nearly 10 times the size of San Francisco’s Union Square. But there are no panhandlers or even pigeon droppings. In contrast, we witness more than 200 people on their hands and knees scrubbing the plaza’s concrete floor — a sight I will never forget.

If this excerpt interests you, then by all means read the full article. The writer paints a portrait of North Korea as a fascinating and unusual place.

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1 Comment

  1. Travel Blogs says:

    Interesting post, tnx again!

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