American Detained in North Korea
Don’t worry, I am not the American guide arrested in North Korea, I am safe and sound and on my way to Hawaii – I have been receiving emails all morning long asking.
I have known about this incident since last week, but only today has the DPRK confirmed that Bae Jun-ho, an American citizen of Korean decent, has been charged with committing “hostile acts against the republic”. His website is down, but it is reported that Bae Jun-ho ran the small tour company, “Nation Tours”, which is widely rumored to engage in missionary/proselytizing activities, this is strictly illegal in the DPRK.
Kookmin Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper owned by an evangelical church, had said Bae had been arrested for carrying a computer hard disk which contained footage of North Korea executing defectors and dissidents.
There were other rumors out this week suggesting he was searched because members of his group took unauthorized and unflattering pictures at an orphanage.
No matter the details of this case, legit tour companies such as Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours envision no changes in their schedule or with their relation with KITC (Korea International Travel company), but prospective tourists to the DPRK should be well aware of, and be willing to accept the rules and laws governing a tourist visit.
There are certain taboos and forbidden activities for tourists to engage in while visiting North Korea:
Trying to educate your North Korean guide about the western understanding of Cold War history, especially in regards to North Korea, is bad form. It’s not going to get you in trouble but it could piss off the guides enough that the tour group’s access to sites suddenly becomes restricted. I have seen this happen to other tours! The same goes for breaking the photography rules set by the guides.
More serious taboos include: undercover journalism, missionary work, trafficking in Bibles and anti-North Korean books, and human rights activism.
A tourist visit is not suggested if you are unable to abide by the above guidelines.
For those who believe they must bring a laptop (I leave mine behind), I suggest you check your hard drives. Don’t bring in any anti-North Korean documentaries or anti-North Korean ebooks – and gentleman, please don’t bring in any pornography.
To lighten up this post let me present some Dandong region Chinese/North Korean border signs: