December 05, 2023

Is tourism in North Korea a good or bad idea? Eleven defectors share their thoughts

Defectors have mixed views about advantages, disadvantages to tourism in North Korea

While debate about the appropriateness of tourism in North Korea has swirled for many years, it has become increasingly prominent of late. Increasing tourist numbers have meant increasing attention on the subject, while a flurry of recent tourist arrests have underscored the diplomatic ramifications of the industry like never before.

Proponents of tourism typically argue that the people-to-people contact enabled by North Korea tourism helps improve local views of foreigners, which, following decades of isolation and propaganda about the decadence and vulgarity of Western capitalism, is a good thing. Some go even further and suggest that tourism has a potentially subversive effect – that interaction with foreigners shows North Korean citizens just how far behind they are from the developed world, subsequently influencing them to question their government's intentions more.