Back to the DPRK!
My brothers over at The North Korea Blog and myself are are heading back to the DPRK next week for round two of some world-class totalitarian theatre. Empty highways, wet shooting ranges and disturbingly intimate conversations with locals are calling us back to the hermit kingdom.
Besides, this is the year that North Korea becomes a “strong and prosperous nation.” We couldn’t miss that, could we?
And how different it is this time around, just six months after our first trip.
Kim Jong Il is dead.
Kim Jong Un has assumed power……..continue reading this post at The North Korea Blog.
Taedong River View, Pyongyang, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
The highlight of the trip will be the 100th year birthday celebrations of the ‘Eternal’ President Kim Il-sung. This was no easy trip to make happen, over the winter we waited out the nationwide lockdown after the death of Kim Jong-il only to learn that it looked like there wouldn’t be rooms available to foreigners in Pyongyang during the Kim Il-sung birthday celebrations. Dignitaries from the provinces would be flooding the capital during this time, but the good people over at Koryo Tours were finally able to scrape together some hotel rooms for us – not sure about the quality of the rooms but at least we have something guaranteed and the trip is confirmed!
Since I’m going to a birthday party I decided to bring a gift, and after a bit of diplomatic letter writing, I have been approved to present a gift to representatives for Kim Il-sung at the International Friendship Exhibition. This is truly going to be a once in a lifetime trip!
Soldiers at a Pyongyang park.
We want this to be a truly epic trip, birthday parties, rocket launches, and diplomatic gifts were not going to be enough, so I wrote up and submitted a custom itinerary that included North Korean sites never previously visited by western tourists. Our tour will include the first ever visit to the Nampo Chollima Steel Works, Tae’an Heavy Machine Tool Complex, Tae’an Glass Factory sites, and the Nampo Taekwondo School. Another first ever visit will take us to Pujon, a town deep in the wild interior of the country where we will take mountain hikes and visit the infamous “slogan trees“.
Other exciting destinations we will visit (not on standard first time visitor tour program) include the Nampo West Sea Barrage, the Songdowon Schoolchildren’s Camp, Wonsan’s central square and piers, the Wonsan Agricultural University, the Tongbong Cooperative Farm, and the town of Hamhung and its beach scene.
Man at a Pyonagyang park.
I have also planned a trip up to the Chinese/North Korean border town of Dandong for a little exploration and investigation. Most foreigners visit Dandong as a trip extension on their stopover on departure from the DPRK by train, but Americans are required to fly both in and out, so my visit will be by train from Beijing after the North Korea trip is complete. In Dandong my friend Jordan (from The North Korea Blog) and I will attempt to rub shoulders with North Korean spies, and learn the lowdown from the smuggles, refugees, and Christian missionaries that haunt the border region. There is also some pretty wacky nightlife to check out, and there is no way I’m going to miss out on the opportunity to have rocks thrown at me as I attempt to take pictures of North Korean sailors and their boats on the river cruise.
Bubble gum in Pyongyang.
I hope all my dear readers will be excited for all the new and original material to come. I have recently bought new lenses and upgraded my camera kit from the Sony A55 to the new pro level Sony A77. I just hope I can get this new camera into the county, I will be devastated if it is held at customs, so please send me some positive vibes and wish me good luck!