On Thursday I attended a lovely dinner as a thank you for my volunteering to interview candidates who wish to teach English in Japan. One of the other guests regaled us with stories of his trip to North Korea last year. He was the only American on his tour as this was right when Otto Warmbier died. Prior to the trip, all tourists were given a chance to get a full refund and cancel, but this young man figured as long as he followed the rules, he’d be safe.
Here are some facts I learned:
- You must always, even in private conversation call Kim Jong-Un, the “Supreme Leader.” His father, Kim Jong-Il, whom he succeeded, must be referred to as the “Dear Leader.” The Supreme Leader’s grandfather is referred to as the “Eternal Leader.”
- Upon arriving at the airport, travelers go through a thorough security check of your bags.
- Foreign travelers must use either US dollars, Euros or Chinese RMB. It’s illegal for them to have the local currency.
- If you have a newspaper with a photo of the Supreme Leader on it, you can not fold the paper.
- When you take a photo of a painting of poster of the Supreme Leader, you must take his full body. You can not leave out an elbow, ear, etc. It has to be 100% of what’s pictured.
- The tour covered the countryside and there all the farm animals, mainly goats, but a few cows , were emaciated.
- The best food he had the whole time was scrambled eggs and tomatoes. Most food was tasteless.
- In the capital city, Pyongyang, the group stayed in a 5 star hotel, that surprisingly he said was the most luxurious hotel he’s ever stayed in. For the Japan Exchange Teaching Programme, upon arrival in Tokyo, teachers stay in a 5 star hotel so it’s not as though this man’s never stayed in a good hotel.