A Korean American in the DPRK

May 18th, 2012
34

As a Korean-American, I had my reservations about going on a tour to North Korea.  From stories that were told to me as a child to stories that were told to me by the media, they were never these positive messages telling me this was a country I should go visit.  From as early as

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About the Author

Albert D. Kim



Join the discussion

  • Fred Bauder

    Sicily is nice too… Wonderful, warm people; magnificent scenery; and great food.

  • Fred Bauder

    Sicily is nice too… Wonderful, warm people; magnificent scenery; and great food.

  • Harry

    I think his point is more about being a Korean American. Therefore Sicily would not be as interesting.

  • Harry

    I think his point is more about being a Korean American. Therefore Sicily would not be as interesting.

  • Twotimes

    Did your guides allow you to share the fine cuisine with the millions of starving North Koreans or even offer to give scraps to the those in the special camps?  Glad your tourism dollars contributed to the repression of the NK citizens.  Too bad you are not African American and you are born 200 years too late.  Bet if you were  you would be excited to take a passage on a slaver going back to Ghana so you could say hey my guides were not that bad, ship was good, fill the holds!!!!

    • http://www.nknews.org NK News

      I recommend you listen to this podcast on tourism in North Korea – the presenter asks a couple of guides from different companies about this exact issue. You might be surprised by the answers. Well worth a listen.

      http://keia.podbean.com/2011/11/23/tourism-in-north-korea-a-special-feature/

      • Twotimes

        It was well worth a listen.  No mention of the concentration camps on the tour.  Heck even Sobibor has a museum to visit now.  Wonder if Camp 19 will add a carousel this year. 

        • http://www.nknews.org NK News

          Well you can’t have listened to it all, its about 35 mins long.

          There are questions about where the money goes – is it supporting the regime, or being used for legitimate purposes.

    • X

      this is a reprehensible comment–so clueless and self-righteous.  if you are so concerned about the hunger of north koreans, you should take a critical look at obama’s policy of linking food aid to military concessions.  no country in the world is food self-sufficient, and north korea–if you had done your homework instead of believing all the propaganda that gets churned out by the media–made an official appeal for food aid about a year and a half ago.  since then, four official food assessment surveys have been conducted–by the USNGOs, the UN (WFP, Unicef, FAO), the EU (ECHO), and the US gov’t.  the findings of three of those surveys were released and corroborated that  food insecurity in north korea was moving from chronic to acute.  the results from only the US gov’t survey have not been released, and in a letter to obama last year, the NGO human rights watch weighed in and stated that the US had no leg to stand on in critiquing north korea’s human rights situation if it defaulted on giving food aid when there was clear evidence that north koreans are hungry.  takeaway point: the very north korean government that you vilify so mindlessly actually asked for food aid, and the US gov’t, in the face of knowledge that obama’s policy of strategic patience means enormous suffering, has done nothing.

  • Twotimes

    Did your guides allow you to share the fine cuisine with the millions of starving North Koreans or even offer to give scraps to the those in the special camps?  Glad your tourism dollars contributed to the repression of the NK citizens.  Too bad you are not African American and you are born 200 years too late.  Bet if you were  you would be excited to take a passage on a slaver going back to Ghana so you could say hey my guides were not that bad, ship was good, fill the holds!!!!

    • http://www.nknews.org NK News

      I recommend you listen to this podcast on tourism in North Korea – the presenter asks a couple of guides from different companies about this exact issue. You might be surprised by the answers. Well worth a listen.

      http://keia.podbean.com/2011/11/23/tourism-in-north-korea-a-special-feature/

      • Twotimes

        It was well worth a listen.  No mention of the concentration camps on the tour.  Heck even Sobibor has a museum to visit now.  Wonder if Camp 19 will add a carousel this year. 

        • http://www.nknews.org NK News

          Well you can’t have listened to it all, its about 35 mins long.

          There are questions about where the money goes – is it supporting the regime, or being used for legitimate purposes.

    • X

      this is a reprehensible comment–so clueless and self-righteous.  if you are so concerned about the hunger of north koreans, you should take a critical look at obama’s policy of linking food aid to military concessions.  no country in the world is food self-sufficient, and north korea–if you had done your homework instead of believing all the propaganda that gets churned out by the media–made an official appeal for food aid about a year and a half ago.  since then, four official food assessment surveys have been conducted–by the USNGOs, the UN (WFP, Unicef, FAO), the EU (ECHO), and the US gov’t.  the findings of three of those surveys were released and corroborated that  food insecurity in north korea was moving from chronic to acute.  the results from only the US gov’t survey have not been released, and in a letter to obama last year, the NGO human rights watch weighed in and stated that the US had no leg to stand on in critiquing north korea’s human rights situation if it defaulted on giving food aid when there was clear evidence that north koreans are hungry.  takeaway point: the very north korean government that you vilify so mindlessly actually asked for food aid, and the US gov’t, in the face of knowledge that obama’s policy of strategic patience means enormous suffering, has done nothing.

    • CJR

      As if there are no starving people in the U.S. (the largest homeless population on Earth). Or that the U.S. has the largest prison population on Earth. Or that Kim Kardashian gets to eat caviar 24/7 while we get McDonald’s. If we’re not one of those starving homeless, that is…

  • Hank

    Another gullible, useful/useless idiot gushing about how wonderful North Korea was to visit…   Gee, I wonder why no side trip to Yodok or Camp 14??…   The writer should know that the money he wasted to go to North Korea will only keep the regime in power longer…  

    • James_C

      So when you go on holiday to U.S., France or Germany, are prison camps high on your itinerary?

      • Hank

        Your comment is one that makes no sense at all.  US, France, or Germany – these countries cannot be compared to North Korea.  Think before you post things that reveal how idiotic you are…

        • James_C

          The point is that your comment is irrelevant. When do you ever go to visit prisons when in a foreign country? Thats my point. 

          Yes, there are plenty of people in prison in DPRK – but why would a tourist ever goto them? your comment was inappropriate. can you imagine a guided tour in any country bringing you to a prison camp?

          • Hank

            Keep ‘em coming, your ignorance and stupidity is truly astounding…

  • Hank

    Another gullible, useful/useless idiot gushing about how wonderful North Korea was to visit…   Gee, I wonder why no side trip to Yodok or Camp 14??…   The writer should know that the money he wasted to go to North Korea will only keep the regime in power longer…  

    • James_C

      So when you go on holiday to U.S., France or Germany, are prison camps high on your itinerary?

      • Hank

        Your comment is one that makes no sense at all.  US, France, or Germany – these countries cannot be compared to North Korea.  Think before you post things that reveal how idiotic you are…

        • James_C

          The point is that your comment is irrelevant. When do you ever go to visit prisons when in a foreign country? Thats my point. 

          Yes, there are plenty of people in prison in DPRK – but why would a tourist ever goto them? your comment was inappropriate. can you imagine a guided tour in any country bringing you to a prison camp?

          • Hank

            Keep ‘em coming, your ignorance and stupidity is truly astounding…

          • Arirang

            Your both trolling each other without realizing it lol

  • Matt

    I’m curious whether the people said anything about how they envisioned unification. In my experience in S. Korea, most people if asked whether they support reunification, they say straightforwardly yes. When you get in to how it would work, what they’re willing to do to make it happen, etc., that’s when it becomes clear that they’re actually much much more concerned about their job prospects, new home, children’s education or whatever else than they are serious about reunification. The question I think would be more interesting for a North Korean would be whether they prefer a unified Korea without a Kim in charge, or a divided Korea where the Dear Leader remains the head. Did the author get any sense of how that might complicate the issue?

  • Matt

    I’m curious whether the people said anything about how they envisioned unification. In my experience in S. Korea, most people if asked whether they support reunification, they say straightforwardly yes. When you get in to how it would work, what they’re willing to do to make it happen, etc., that’s when it becomes clear that they’re actually much much more concerned about their job prospects, new home, children’s education or whatever else than they are serious about reunification. The question I think would be more interesting for a North Korean would be whether they prefer a unified Korea without a Kim in charge, or a divided Korea where the Dear Leader remains the head. Did the author get any sense of how that might complicate the issue?

  • newageman

    Thanks Albert for your story!
     
    I really appreciate the lovely picture of Mt. Baekdu.
     
    When more Americans visit NK, we may be able to
    end the lingering Korean War finally.
     

  • newageman

    Thanks Albert for your story!
     
    I really appreciate the lovely picture of Mt. Baekdu.
     
    When more Americans visit NK, we may be able to
    end the lingering Korean War finally.
     

  • Pingback: A Korean-American friend’s article about visiting North Korea » Joshua Spodek

  • http://www.facebook.com/TTebow15 Confucius Confucius

    The North Koreans are indeed hostile, as you should know from their recent sinking of the Cheonan and pirating of Chinese fishing vessels.

    You previously thought tourism to North Korea was illegal? Ever heard of Koryo Tours? Welcome to the Internet, Albert!

    Mount Baekdu, your sacred mountain, is accessible from China’s Jilin province. South Korean tourists go there all the time. If that was your top destination, then your trip to North Korea was unnecessary.

  • Peter

    I totally agree with you ,seeing is believing. I was there long back 1987 during the days of Kim Il Sung and what you are saying is exactly what I experienced. I think the media is really being unfair to the North Koreans by painting then evil.
    I am planning to visit mt Bekdu soon

  • Stacy L

    There are two sides to every repressive regime: the People and the Government. People here who are commenting about supporting the regime with their tourist dollars seem to think that every country is perfect. We are looking at North Korea through the eyes of civil freedom. Our beliefs about what is right or wrong were bred in a country with amazing rights as citizens to speak out against our Governments. What about the North Korean People? All that they know is filtered to them through rose-colored glasses. Sure, they can see some TV from China, but other than that, they are raised from childhood to believe that Juche is right. Many North Koreans would forego food if it meant someone in the military was fed.

    Actually traveling to a country to see for yourself what exists takes courage. Even moreso to overcome a lifetime of being told to hate a country. The only way that we can see the People are to go in person. Kudos for overcoming that.