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North Korea Trips

  • Details of the Grand Monument, Pyongyang
  • Kim Il Sung Monument / Terry Grigg
  • Mass Games
  • National dress
  • Smiling youth of North Korea
  • Monument for the Korean Workers Party, Pyongyang / Vic Johnson
  • Pyongyang - view from the Juche Tower/ Vic Johnson

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Inspired by the militarism and high-blown grandiosity of Stalin and Mao, North Korea, a land almost completely consumed by jagged mountain peaks, fervently waves the flag for one of the most isolated regimes on earth, making it one of the most fascinating places to visit Bordering its closest political ally, Communist China to the north, North Korea is a single party totalitarian regime, united under the Korean Workers’ Party.

With restrictions on travel and press freedom, relatively little is known about North Korean society. The state, meanwhile, controls all media and cultural output ensuring that the Juche philosophy, the principle introduced by North Koreas’ founding father, Kim Il-Sung, remains the over-riding factor in shaping the political future. Today, his grandson, Kim Jong-un, who has been ruling North Korea since 2011, appears to be as unwilling as his predecessors to liberalise the regime. The bizarre and all-pervasive cult of personality surrounding the Kim family in effect renders North Korea an absolute monarchy or hereditary dictatorship.

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Formerly part of the Japanese Empire, the Korean Peninsula was divided between the Soviet Union and the United States in the aftermath of the Second World War, setting the stage for the first major clash of the Cold War. Backed by its ideological allies, North Korea invaded the south in 1950, sparking the bloody three year Korean War, which claimed more than 2 million lives; a ceasefire and stalemate was declared in 1953. Today, North Korea remains one of the most militarised places in the world, boasting an active army of 1.2 million, not to mention a small arsenal of nuclear warheads. Now and then, the regime likes to flex its muscles by testing its long-range strike capabilities with provocative ‘satellite launches’.

Travellers can only visit North Korea as part of an organised tour. All foreigners should expect to be accompanied by a state-approved guide when in public places. Military check-points are also common all over the country and you will require permits to pass them. Remember that it is a crime to criticise the government in North Korea and it may be wise to avoid political discussions altogether. For the willing traveller North Korea provides a truly unique experience.

From the grandiose monuments of Pyongyang to the stunning mountain scenery of Kumgang, North Korea is full of surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise being that, in-spite of all of the hardship they undoubtedly endure on a daily basis the North Koreans are an engaging, friendly and hospitable people who have tremendous pride in their country and are very welcoming to all who travel there.

Places of interest in North Korea

  • Details of the Grand Monument, Pyongyang

    Pyongyang is the infamous capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a city of soaring monuments and...