Despite their sweeping efforts to keep their borders closed and their citizens insulated from the outside world, the government of North Korea has been drawing a lot of global attention to the country over the past few weeks. First, they loosened limitations on visitors’ access to the Internet, allowing one intrepid journalist to post a series of Instagram shots from within the North Korea for the first time ever. Then, as you are probably well aware by now, they allowed Vice and HBO to send Dennis Rodman and a number of the Harlem Globetrotters for a 2-day visit with Kim Jong-Un himself.
While the latter example is almost too strange to comprehend, it seems to us that this is all part of a larger plan to open the country up to the world in some small way – according to Rodman, all Kim Jong-Un really wants is to avoid war and have a pleasant telephone chat on the phone with Obama. Whether these marketing tactics are truly intended for peacekeeping reasons or more back a more nefarious goal, we have to admit they’ve got our attention.
If you’re as curious as us about what goes on beyond North Korea’s scary ass borders, you’ll be happy to know that there actually are ways to visit Pyongyang and its environs without being tossed in a labor camp like Lisa Ling’s unfortunate sister. Because honestly, if Dennis Rodman can do something, we can too.
Except marry Carmen Electra, of course. We hear she’s very picky with her lovers.
As we discovered at the New York Times Travel Show in January, there are several companies that run tours into the seemingly untouchable region of the world. The group we spoke with at the show, Uri Tours, also played an important role in facilitating Rodman’s trip, and that combined with our general research has led us to believe that these guys are the ones to use.
Uri Tours runs expeditions into several parts of North Korea from April to November, and the process is surprisingly fast – booking must be completed just three months in advance of your flight to Pyongyang, and visas are generally issued about a month after the application is submitted. What’s most surprising is that the trips are reasonably affordable, at least compared to what we imagined a trip into the most secretive country in the world would cost. The standard 5-day tour runs at $2,500 and includes all food, transfers and guides, and the indulgent-sounding 8-day culinary tour goes for $3,000.
With the help of a tour group like Uri Tours, your personal safety isn’t necessarily a major concern. However, there are other things to think about when considering a trip to North Korea. For instance, you might not be in any imminent danger so long as you follow the rules, but outside of what you are being shown is a vast landscape of human rights violations. Remember, North Korean propaganda is legendary, so you should take everything you see and hear with a sizable heap of salt.
It’s also interesting to think about where the money for your reasonably affordable trip is really going. We doubt that Uri Tours deals in any shady business with Kim Jong-Un or his cronies, but we imagine that the government has a strong control over local businesses and can therefore take as much money as they want from a restaurant and use it for whatever brainwashing project they have going on at the time. Again, just something to think about.
As much as we’d like to follow Dennis Rodman’s lead and take a sojourn into the DPRK, we’re not sure we’d be able to keep our mouths shut about the injustices we know have run rampant throughout the country’s sketchy past. And by that we mean we’d probably be shot for rolling our eyes at a poster of Kim Jong-Il riding a unicorn.
What do you think? Would you visit North Korea despite the country’s long history of human rights violations? Let us know in the comments!
Photos via Uri Tours Pinterest