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

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!

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

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.

6948973443_ea4ab89a0d_o (1)

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.

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

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!

9 responses

  1. realmarkfahey

    Hey Joseph thanks for your blog and photos etc. I took some photos of the North Korean boats while on the Dandong River cruise, I didn’t even know to watch out for flying rocks!

    North Korean ship and shoreline from Dandong based river cruise.

    I came out of the DPRK at Dandong a few weeks after you were in Pyongyang last year. I was to be one of your travelling companions next week, but pulled out when Koryo were concerned about room availability and ham instead now doing Beijing to Moscow via Ulan Bator. I will head back into North Korea early next year. Have a great trip.

    Cheers,
    Mark
    Sydney, Australia

    April 5, 2012 at 9:15 am

    • Thanks Mark, yeah it was stressful waiting to find out if this trip would go through or not. Ulan Bator was going to be my fallback if it all fell through since I had already had the flight to China and the China visa. Enjoy your trip and good luck on your next trip to the DPRK.

      April 5, 2012 at 9:23 am

  2. Resya Y

    Hi…nice stories and pictures you have,it’s makes me see North Korea from your perspective.are you in North Korea now?next week i will go there as an delegation from Indonesia.for 28th april spring friendship art festival 11-19 april 2012.i hope we can meet there…this is my first time to go there.so reading your blog is helping me to know,the really situation in Pyongyang….it’s a unique country…
    have you already visit Indonesia??

    April 5, 2012 at 9:26 am

  3. Resya, I visited Bali and Lombok about ten years ago, would love to go back to Indonesia and explore more of that wonderful country. I will be in North Korea from April 12th to the 21st. Keep your eyes open for me, would love to say hi, and thank you for your appreciation of the blog and for my observations of the DPRK.

    April 5, 2012 at 9:56 am

  4. wow,you’ve already visiting lombok and bali.you’ve should visiting java too.lots of beautiful place to see….
    actually I’m a singer,tomorrow at DRPK i will perform.i think it’s not difficult for us to meet.so,have a nice trip.and i hope we’ll meet in pyongyang….can’t wait to see lots of new pictures from this trip….

    April 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

  5. 잘다녀오십시오! I am SO jealous! I have been in a mini-hiatus because I have been scrambling for a new source of hard currency since my temp job just ended. But I have a pizza post in the works… And I’m dying to know what foods are going to be served for Kim Il Sung’s 100th. I need to know what to cook for my blog. A “love rocket” cake??

    April 5, 2012 at 11:05 am

    • Did you ever get your North Korean cook book? If not I can still keep an eye open for one there. Will also take notes and plenty of pics of the cuisine (if I get my camera in that is) – would love to collaborate on a joint blog post when I get back.

      April 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      • Yes, I actually just picked up my “Best Recipes of Pyongyang” at the post office today. Any other cookbooks or even menus would be awesome. Also, if you get a chance to go to the duck restaurant again, I would love to know what’s in the secret sauce. Why don’t you take a really cheap, simple back-up camera that you know they will accept, that way you don’t have to fret if they confiscate the fancy one (there I go, “thinking like a lawyer”). At first I was kind of kidding about the rocket cake, but now I think I might make one after all…

        April 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm

  6. Pingback: Not Knowing What Else to Do, Juche Vegan Bakes a North Korean Rocket Cake « juche vegan

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