Kijong-dong, North Korea,
If you are one of the people who is curious about North Korea, its culture, government, and stunts, there are a series of precautions you should take before making the trip to visit. Be aware that you are traveling in a communist state, so expect to be watched and monitored under 24-hour surveillance, including in your hotel room.
Independent traveling throughout the country is strictly prohibited. The punishment for disobeying this law is punishable by torture and brutal death, without exceptions. Even your minder (the guide assigned to keep track of you) is at risk of being sent to labor camps, losing their social status called songbun (which is a pillar of North Korean survival) and sentenced to death.
There are many great historical sites, unique architecture, and beautiful mountainscapes to see, but always ask permission before taking photographs. Each photograph you take will be inspected during and at the end of your trip. Do not steal or take any “souvenirs.” Americans especially can be detained and executed without reason or appeal, and the U.N. can offer no amnesty or protection. Recently, United States citizens are banned from traveling to the Dark Country.
If you disrespect the rules, your guide will be punished by brutal torture, starvation, and executed along with his/her entire family. You are not allowed to leave your hotel without an escort or travel by public transportation. You will not even be able to mingle with the locals unless they are presented to you by your guide.
Upon entry to the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea, your cell phone and passport will be confiscated and will be returned to you only after your departure. When you arrive, even before you are brought to your hotel, you will be taken to a statue of Kim Jong-un where you are expected to bow. If you do not, you risk immediate deportation, or even worse, execution. Overall, make sure to obey your guide’s instructions and to follow the rules, and your trip will be successful, wonderful, and nightmarish.
Also, you may be asked to honor North Korea’s dictators in other ways, like dancing, presenting flowers and bowing. You should do this without question. When visiting, make sure to travel with a reputable company that will help keep you safe, such as a person who can demonstrate self-control, always say honorable words, obey the rules, and stay in line.
North Korea is a non-religious state and those who feel the need to share their religion by preaching, leaving a Bible or other religious texts in public (such as a hotel room) will face the same punishment.
Simply, just don’t do it. There is an old saying many teenagers may be aware of, “As long as you live under my roof, you will obey my rules,” and North Korea is no different. By entering North Korea, you agree to be stripped of your opinions, religious beliefs, and political views. According to North Korean defector, Lee Hyeon-seo, “You are stripped of your identity, you give yourself to North Korea.”
Korean-American missionary, Kenneth Bae, is one of the few Americans to be released alive, but not without being detained and tortured for a year and a half for preaching lessons from the Christian Bible in a public place. American tourist Jeffrey Fowle, during his ten-day trip to North Korea, was arrested for leaving a Bible in the bathroom of a club for foreign sailors.
Although North Korea has a reputation worldwide as an unfriendly and inhospitable country unwelcoming to tourists, when visiting, one will conclude that the people are extremely friendly and open to tourists. Although they have been separated from the world for a long time, this has not stopped them from being curious about outsiders, and visitors should embrace this and enjoy the peoples’ friendliness as long as your guide permits.
Overall, North Korea is one of the deadliest countries in the world, so unless you are prepared to follow the rules and keep your criticism to yourself, then do not go. Keep your hands, opinions, political beliefs, religious beliefs, and sexuality to yourself. Seeing the lengths that the government will go to emulate prosperity like the false city of Kijong-dong, is not even the tip of the iceberg.
All of North Korea is considered hostile territory, but some cities are safer than others. Tourists will not have access to these cities since they are small villages located far from the capital of Pyongyang. These villages are nestled among peaks of North Korea's tallest mountain ranges, or along the Tumen River which borders China. Those with high "songbun" are allowed to live in Pyongyang. To be part of such elite nationalists, a citizen of North Korea must have had generations of their family pledge dedication to their country and their dictator. North Korea is a nation that supports the "crimes of our father" belief system, so those who have had parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, or any other relatives who have done anything to disrespect the country or the leader, the entire family is punished (tortured, sent to slave camps, or both) and stripped of their songbun. Songbung is what determines how much food and other privileges the government gives them.
Kijong-dong is the infamous "false city," that rests at the edge of the North and South Korea border. The speed and height in which it was built was, like everything else in N. Korea, for show. The city remains vastly empty, and a N. Korean flag waves at the hight of a flag pole. The city was meant to impress the S. Korean people and to lure them into joining the N. Korean regime. When S. Korea built a flag pole in their border city, N. Korea built an even taller flag pole. What makes Kijong-dong just as dangerous as its shoddy construction, is how some are gullible, and fall for the N. Korean ruse. The brightly colored painted buildings against a beautiful mountain backdrop and eerie music that plays throughout the city actually do inspire certain gullible people to defect to N. Korea, where they are forced into labor camps and abused by society, as all foreigners are of the lowest songbun, and considered by most to be criminals.
North Korea is one of the most mysterious countries on the planet, and for this reason, it appeals to many tourists as an exotic and deadly destination.
While you may be looking forward to one of the most wonderful, strange, and sometimes downright frightening vacations, you must always do precisely what your guide tells you without question.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read today's article in my series, "Deadliest Places on Earth."
It's the mystery of not knowing that usually piques my interest, and when it comes to North Korea, not even its people know much about it. They aren't allowed to travel much, and many only socialize on a surface level, or so I've read.
She suffered tremendously, like so many defectors do, yet there is a part of her that misses her childhood, and her home, and how the crisp, cold air smelled of charcoal as she played in the frosty streets with her childhood friends. She mentioned in her book, "The Girl with Seven Names," how she wished she could go back, but only for a visit, but knows it is impossible.
I wonder if one of Camp 14's only survivor, ever, Shin Dong-hyuk could say the same. Hyeon-seo Lee, by comparison, had a privileged life in North Korea.
Shin Dong-hyuk, however, was born in the lowest songbun, in a prison camp, where he was exposed to murder and torture his entire life. In his book, "Escape from Camp 14" I can't remember reading about a single moment of happiness. It seemed every moment in his life was torture. In his book, he explains how part of him felt responsible for his father's execution, but his hatred will never let him forgive for what his father did.
I wonder if he ever feels the urge to visit as Hyeon-seo Lee does?
Do you think it's healthy to re-vist the past?
I think it's good to acknowledge the past and recognize it for what it inspired or destroyed. Not to live for it. Life was meant to be lived forward. Moving on is difficult, but we must do it. If we don't, the alternative is grim. Live forward, not backward. Going forward, when we look at life in North Korea twenty or thirty years ago, it was completely shut down. Nowadays, some people have access to cell phones and Internet. Not just generic government-censored internet, but illegal websites like Pornhub.
In fact, Pornhub just released a study showing several thousand people in North Korea have logged on to Pornhub.com. I don't care if you are for, or against, pornography, because this isn't about that. This is about North Koreans having access to things they've never had before. I believe leader after leader, North Korea will not be able to suppress its people forever. Decades may pass, but sooner, or later, society will move forward. In the words of Jeff Goldblum of "Jurassic Park," "Life will always find a way."
I hope the people of North Korea will find their way.
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For the link of the Pornhub article, published in 2017, here is the link below:
Thanks again, fellow ghoulies! Haunted Travels to you, and have a happy Halloween!