I am a 20 year old law student from Europe. I am trying to spend my holidays traveling to countries an average person from the West would consider "weird" or put on an "axis of evil" ;) http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157631864259714/

PROOF: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8443593091/in/photostream

Comments: 2848 • Responses: 57  • Date: 

lekkerbek903 karma

Were you asked to bow and put a flower bucket at the feet of the bronze statue of the leaders?

jkb92944 karma


LeWildest235 karma

Did you do it? Who asked you to do it? What would have happened if you did not do it?

22vin359 karma

From what I learned from a documentary, the tour guide is responsible for your mistakes. I don't know if that is true, but if it is, at least for his/her sake you do it.

jkb92384 karma

You are right.

jkb92324 karma

I did do it, yes. My guides asked me to do it. I am not sure what would have happened if I hadn't done it. They wouldn't have put me in jail, but I think that they would have been very disappointed and it surely would have ruined our very good relationship.

kevin11040737 karma


jkb92893 karma


mberre659 karma

How close is DPRK to the book 1984?

jkb921174 karma

You know what's scary? How close it actually is: very close. When you are there, you get the feeling that you are in Oceania.

supah_548 karma

Were you replaced by a robot and are currently toiling at a work camp?

jkb92896 karma

Yes. Help me! No, of course not.

Which one is true?

staffinator528 karma

Were there any misconceptions of North Korea that after having visited the place turned out to be false?

jkb921202 karma

Yes. We tend to imagine that the North Koreans are like brainwashed robots with no joy in their lifes who do not know anything about the rest of the world. That is false. The North Koreans are very friendly people who love to make jokes, play pranks on each other, play games and laugh. They are very interested about what happens elsewhere in the world and they are also willing to discuss politics and analyse North Korean politics. However, they might analyse it correctly, but they come to the false conclusion, often because their "facts" are wrong. But this is not their fault.

spec1alk508 karma

Did officials look through your stuff or the photos you made before you left?

jkb92738 karma

They looked through the photos, yes. I had to delete a few.

aggemac347 karma

What sort of photos did they make you delete?

jkb92689 karma

Well, just 2 or 3 pictures. They showed poverty or hard work. However, I was able to "smuggle" out some other pictures they would have made me delete if they had seen them (such as this one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8127779054/in/set-72157631864259714)

sirejustin491 karma

How accurate would you say that this country's people are suffering? Did you feel a sense of compassion for them or did it seem they were proud to be Korean?

jkb921024 karma

This question is quite difficult. I think many North Koreans are suffering a lot. I witnessed people searching for food on empty fields. Nearly everyone I met was smaller than me (and I am NOT a tall person), because of malnutrition. On the other hand, I believe that the people in Pyongyang live considerably well. I did not see much poverty there. The people were well dressed, kids were playing, laughing and even rollerblading on the Kim-Il-sung-square (the one where the military parades normally take place). However, those who live in Pyongyang are the privileged ones. Nobody can say how bad the situation for the ordinary farmers and those who do not get the chance of living in the capital really is. I did feel a compassion for those who were clearly suffering. The North Koreans are indeed very proud to be Korean. Many of them believe their country to be a paradise that is surrounded by enemies and suppressed by the world. And at the same time they are told that the ordinary workers, farmers and intellectuals from other countries see North Korea as a role model. I think it's just natural that the North Koreans have developed such a strong patriotism. If you have never heard or seen anything different, then you tend to believe what you are told.

ChocolateRay422346 karma

How's the food?

jkb92434 karma

It's quite good.


As I understand it everyone who goes to DPRK goes through the same tightly regimented tour. Go to Pyongyang, pay tribute to the statue, visit the giant hotel, visit the American ship, go to the library to see people not doing anything, go to the DMZ, etc etc. Never allowed to be outside without your guide.

Did you do anything outside of these things?

jkb92373 karma

I did not go to the DMZ, because there was an incident there. However, I did do something outside of these things. I saw the Party Foundation Monument, got a chance to visit the Pyongyang Metro, visited the Metro museum (maybe the funniest museum Ive ever been to), played billiard in an empty and nearly abandoned rest stop, visited the cities Sariwon and Kaesong, visited the Film studios, witnessed the mass dancing of the youth on October 10th, saw a barrage, went up to the Juche Tower, went to a local park, amusement park, art gallery etc etc. I was also allowed to leave the hotel without my guides as long as I did not go to far. It always depends of what you make out of it.

yesnewyearseve199 karma

leave the hotel without my guides as long as I did not go to far

Really interesting. So, what did you do? How far is not too far? Were you lurking around the corner, or did you stroll some blocks away?

LeWildest23 karma

Do you mean there are boundaries? Like you cant go to potentially compromising places? If ever you did so, will you be treated as an spy?

NeoNerd48 karma

The main hotel for foreigners in Pyongyang is on an island in the river. So you can go anywhere you like on the island.

jkb9216 karma

That sums it up. Yes, I was allowed to go around on the island, but could not leave it.

ReadMyPosts183 karma

Thanks for doing this. I found your pictures very interesting.

What would you say was the least favorite thing that North Koreans liked to talk about?

jkb92383 karma


ClearChocobo157 karma

Interesting. Can you please elaborate? Did the North Koreans have (in your opinion) an accurate definition of the word/concept, or was it more of a knee-jerk reaction to this Western-centric term? I know a lot of US citizens that knee-jerk at the terms "communism" and "socialism" without even discussing what they really mean.

jkb92184 karma

Well, they dont know much about what the term means. Although hey know it's something most people would associate with certain freedoms, they do not know the details (freedom of press, speech, free elections etc). when I talked with them about freedom of speech, they understood the concept, but couldn't imagine using it to protest against the government. It's very difficult to explain.

ilovemodok173 karma

Can you break down the costs of the whole trip? Always wanted to visit.

Check out Burma if given the chance, it's a great "evil" country. I just got back from there a few months ago.

jkb92262 karma

I think just North Korea was about 1700 € (about 2300 US $). But you have to add the costs to get to Beijing. And I would recommend spending a few days there, because the contrast between Beijing and Pyongyang (the two capitals) is so great.

Thanks for the tip

ross1550171 karma

What would you say to people who criticize tourism to North Korea because it sponsors a brutal authoritarian regime?

jkb92438 karma

I think tourism is important. It helps the North Koreans to get to know other cultures and languages. The country would be even more isolated without tourists. And: tourism might support the regime, but the regime would probably survive without tourists, because there are not many tourists going to North Korea.

Chonjae148 karma

How were the women? Seems logical to me that 1) you'd be totally exotic and in demand, and 2) there would be hookers and the like all over tourists.

jkb92285 karma

1.) The women are like most women around the world. They wear make-up, high heels, modern as well as traditional dresses. Well, I might have been seen as exotic, but I was not in demand. Because the North Koreans are so nationalistic, it is basically unimaginable for a North Korean woman to have a love affair with a man who is not Korean. North Korean men who are loyal to the leader and the party are the best ;). However, when I told my guide that I was single, he really wanted to hook me up with a North Korean girl. ;) 2) Hookers = prostitutes?? Prostitution is not allowed. Or do you mean something else?

DrKoolaide133 karma

Most everyone has read the ridiculous textbook entries about Kim Jong Il inventing basketball and what not. What was the most hilarious piece of propaganda you saw over there?

jkb92500 karma

There are atually two things: The metro museum in Pyongyang. It was the funniest museum I've ever been to. Because it's not a museum about the metro but about the Kims visiting the Metro and how they basically built the metro and they show you the chairs on which they have sat when giving on spot guidance when the metro was built and so on. It's incredible. Every second sentence you hear is: On xx/xx/19xx our dear/great leader visited the construction site of the metro and gave some very important guidance he pointed out that xxxxxx. And so on. And then you have to look at huge photographs of Kim Jong Il wearing his sunglasses and looking at something while being surrounded by workers and you hear about on spot guidance and you say to yourself: I MUST NOT laugh, I MUST NOT laugh. It's hilarious. The second thing was a portrait of kim jong il riding a tiger while wearing an ancient uniform. He still had his huge glasses and this ridiculous haircut.

newbeginnings01128 karma

What are the chances of getting laid in North Korea as a tourist?

jkb92241 karma

probably 0-2 %

snakejake24121 karma


jkb92201 karma

They were exactly how I wished them to be. They were residents of Pyongyang, one was still a student and the other one was a family man (he had a little daughter). Because I went to North Korea individually (I did not go with a tourist group but on my own) we really got to know each other and I often invited them to a few beers and we sat down and talked about everything. They were very interested in my world and what my life is like. We had a great time and laughed a lot. Also, they let me take pictures of everything. And they were very well educated.

snakejake24105 karma


jkb92211 karma

First question: Well, I am from Germany and they knew that Germany was divided into two countries like the Korean peninsula. So, what interested them most was: How did the German reunification work? Why did the GDR collapse? And of course: what do the Germans think about North Korea? But also: How does an ordinary German citizen live? What is Europe like? And they wanted to know what I think who started the Korean war. I told them that we are taught that the North started it and they explained their point of view. Second question: I dont know.

RevengimusMaximus84 karma

What was their view on who started the war?

jkb92256 karma

They think the Americans started the war.

nothaDaynothaDolla45 karma


jkb9279 karma

I don't know how other tourists are treated there, but I think even an American can have the same experience as a tourist as long as he shows some repect to their values, traditions and beliefs. Listen to what they have to say, be interested, be friendly and accept that you can't change their beliefs. If you do that, you'll have a great time.

Anzat28 karma

When they asked you what Germans think of North Korea, were you honest? Or is it considered rude or illegal to tell them what's really going on?

jkb9251 karma

I told tham what most Germans think about North Korea. Of course, I tried to say it as diplomatic as possible. However I told them that most Germans consider north Korea to be evil, a country which does not grant basic human right to its citizens. My guides smiled and answered: Well, we are here to show you how much it differs from what you have been taught.

Raped_Hitler_in_1944113 karma

My dad was on the first plane to fly into Pyonyang (first foreign plane). He smuggled a couple of people out and one of their friends didn't want to go because he though the West was as it is depicted in N. Korea. He said things like: "Kim Il Sung can fly" and some other odd misconceptions (including yelling obscenities at my dads Canadian comrades) Did you see any of this kind of stuff? Also, does N. Korea still talk of the Korean War (Like how the US talks if WWII), my grandfather fought there and I am genuinely curious... One of the men my dad smuggled is now a barber and has been cutting my family's hair for 13 years. He is a funny man, he paired up with a Vietnamese guy my dad smuggled out of Nam; they run the most awesome barber shop in existence.

jkb9292 karma

Well, I have not seen or heard anyone yelling obscenities at me. Everyone was very friendly. However, there are indeed many odd misconceptions. I did not know the "Kim Il-Sung can fly" one, but what I found really odd is that they think that every single member of the Kim family is an universal genius. The Kims write thousands of books, are perfect in every aspect of life, very dedicating and caring. That's what they believe.

The Korean war is still a great issue. They talk about it a lot, because they not only consider it as a victorious war but also all their hatred towards the US is based on the belief that the US started the war and committed many war crimes during the war. The war has become a very important aspect of the propaganda.

eagerbeaver141413 karma

Were I to visit, would you anticipate that I, as an American, would feel less hospitality and perhaps more animosity than you did?

jkb9222 karma

No, I do not think so. They are generally very friendly to foreigners. If you behave and show some respect you'll be fine and have a great time!

kevin11040107 karma


jkb92180 karma

Yes, it is an incredible experience. It really opens your mind, and you will be surprised about how friendly the people actually are.

OraSerrata83 karma

PLEASE!!! People, quit going to North Korea.

I'm sorry, I know it's interesting, I'd love to see it too, but your money is supporting terror upon innocent people. If tourists were able to really expose something to the world by going, I'd be more supportive of this all, but instead they only see what the government wants them to see.


This is one of my favorite sites detailing the horrors that occur there. One thing I observed is that the closest camp was about 60 km from Pyongyang. 60 km from people who get daily beatings, murders, and live in Nazi work camp conditions. That's so close, hell, I'm sure some of us drive that distance to get to work and back every day.

I'm sure it's fun to go see exotic places that we aren't familiar with, but I'm sure the oppressed people of North Korea would beg and plead with you to not support the regime if they wouldn't be executed for doing so.

jkb9254 karma

where are you from?

OraSerrata5 karma

The US. I've read a lot about North Korea from many different people from different locations in the world. The stigma against North Korea is probably less wherever you live compared to the US, but it doesn't change the fact that we have real stories of refugees who have escaped from these camps, which have been located via satellite.

jkb9277 karma

Well, first of all: Thank you for you contribution to this AMA. I understand your arguments. Secondly, please do not compare North Korean working camps with the Nazi working camps. I know that the conditions in North Korean working camps are really, really horrible, but as a German I do not feel comfortable with the comparison. The nationalsocialist working camps and death camps were beyond evil. They were death factories, more horrible than anything the world had ever experienced. Millions and Millions died there. Thirdly: I think tourism is important. It helps the North Koreans to get to know other cultures and languages. The country would be even more isolated without tourists.

BHeart74 karma

So was it just a standard guided tour through pyongyang? Did you get to speak with people? If so, what was their reaction to you? Did they seem scared or worried they might say something wrong?

jkb92141 karma

It was a tour through Pyongyang, Sariwon and Kaesong. Nobody seemed scared or worried. However, many people seemed surprised and amused to see a Westerner.

eiccy5474 karma

You mentioned you would hang out and have a few beers with your guides at night. I'm curious, what is the night life like in North Korea?

jkb92124 karma

There isn't really one. There is one club (THE DIPLO) which is mainly for foreigners and priviledged North Koreans. However, the hotels do have surprisingly good and nice and comfy bars. Also, there are some restaurants.

VincentLo69 karma

What do North Koreans around your own age (late teens-early 20s) do for fun on their free time? What's it like going to another country and having be out of contact from the rest of the world?

jkb9293 karma

They do sports, they read much more than we do, they watch movies, they meet friends

Going there and being out of contact from the rest of the world sounds much worse than it actually is. You get to see some many interestin things, there are so many new impressions that you have so much to think about and do not really care about what's going on anywhere else. You get used to the isolation quite quickly.

al5xander66 karma

did they speak english?

jkb92120 karma

Most North Koreans learn English at school. I had two German speaking guides, though.

supah_56 karma

Was it miserable? and Did they ever turn the heat on? Did you witness state sanctioned that were blatantly insincere? (like crying over the death of KJI)

jkb92124 karma

It was not miserable. It was great. The people are really friendly if you accept them and what they believe in and if you show your respect to their leaders. I actually had a great time with my guides. Every evening we sat together in a bar having a few beers and getting drunk while discussing politics.
I did not witness anything like crying over the death of Kim Jong-Il

World_Chaos40 karma

Is the tour meant to show People the good side of the country, to try and distort people's views on them? I mean do they like turn you around when something out of place is going on in the other direction.

Also there is this show that they put on, Where there is around 20,000 students and each one is assigned a pixel. I was wondering if you got to see it, and do they show it to all tourists. Also, personally, I think might be one of the most amazing things I have seen on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fh8lMTulkg

jkb9255 karma

The tour meant to show you the good side of the country and it does. However, as soon as you leave the large town, you just have to look out of the car window to see the other side of the country.

Unfortunately, I missed the Arirang mass games. I was a few days too late. :(

sbrelvi38 karma

Were you ever harassed because of the color of your skin and where you come from?

jkb9272 karma


paintball681836 karma

Are the people brainwashed and really believe that Kim Jung-Un is sent from God? Also does everyone have cataracts there?

jkb9284 karma

I do not know if the North Koreans really believe what they are told by the propaganda. I did not hear anyone say something negative about the government though. That was either: - because they relly believe that the leader is god/sent from god/god-like - or because nobody dares to say anything different.

I am sorry. English is not my first language. I do not know the word "cataract". Could you rephrase that for me?

northy01432 karma

How much did it cost you, I'm a British citizen and I would love to go. I think we have diplomatic relations, and I could probably afford flights etc as long as it's not very expensive inside, and I didn't get stung for bribes.

jkb9249 karma

Just North Korea (including the flight to Pyongyang and the train from Pyongyang back to Beijing) was about 1700 €. Bribing not included, but don't worry about that. But you have to add the costs to get to Beijing (and from there back to Britain). And I would recommend spending a few days in Beijing, because the contrast between Beijing and Pyongyang (the two capitals) is so great.

alexx306429 karma

How expensive are the foods there?

Do they have pro-wrestling channel on cable?

jkb9264 karma

  1. I cannot tell you how expensive the foods there is, because it is already included in the whole sum you pay before you go.
  2. No, they do not. In the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang I was able to watch the only North Korean chanel KCNA and chinese chanel and BBC without sound.

kawangkoankid20 karma

Do the natives smile at all towards you?

jkb9223 karma

yes, they do indeed

kevin1104017 karma


jkb9232 karma

The whole personality cult is incredible. I've never experienced anything like that ever before. That is why I would consider it weird.

BHeart9 karma

First off, proof? Secondly, how? I mean, one does not simply fly to North Korea.

jkb9228 karma

sorry, I cannot proof this. But you can have a look at the pictures I took: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157631864259714/ However, I understand that they do not proof that I've been there.

It is actually not very hard to get into North Korea as a European citizen. I first contacted a Swedish travel agency specialized in journeys to North Korea. Then I sent my passport to the Chinese and then the North Korean embassy in my country. I got a Chinese and a North Korean visa after filling out the necessary forms. A few weeks later I went to Beijing and spent a few days there. Then I got on an AIR KORYO plane taking me to Pyongyang. As said: It's not difficult if you have a European passport and if your country has diplomatic relationships with North Korea.

BHeart7 karma

Did they not stamp your passport upon entering? That + timestamp would be sufficient proof in my opinion.

jkb9221 karma

they did. I'll try to take a picture later, ok?

toshi0446 karma


jkb9226 karma

Guys, I've uploaded the proof. Have a look in the description!!

kevin110406 karma

If given the chance, would you like to go there again?

jkb9213 karma

Yes, definitely.

jeffercize4 karma

Did they let you go where ever you want, like outside of the city and such?

jkb9210 karma

Yes. But only because I knew what I could ask for and what would be a no-go. So I didnt even bother to ask if I could see the poorer parts of the country or meet a dissident. Because that would have been useless.

sturdycocopuff4 karma

I've been considering to go to NK. Is it still worth it knowing that you know that you are not going to get a correct representation of the actual country and the actual circumstances but only one made by the state?

jkb924 karma

Yes, it is an incredible experince and definitely worth it.

panties9024 karma

I heard weed is legal and pretty popular. True?

jkb921 karma

I don't know. I haven't seen anyone smoking weed.

MrBlackbelt3 karma

I don't know I feel as though you went to North Korea you were just shown the "good side", after just hearing/seeing so much of the problems and "camps" they have. Also doesn't seem that people look very happy over there(hell I wouldn't be either as it seems people can't really seem to express themselves). Just my opinion. Thanks for the ama.

jkb9215 karma

You are right. I saw the "good side". However: If you visit a different country is the first thing you go and see the prison or the factories or the quarters where the poor people live? Because that would be an amazing and very unique and interesting approach to tourism. Or do you - like most tourists - go and visit the sights, take pictures of yourself in front of the famous spots and relax at the beach?

What I am trying to say is that it does not make much difference between not seeing the bad side of a ountry because you don't want to or because you are not allowed.

There is also happiness in North Korea. They are not robots ;)

Satansgoat3 karma

did you talk to people there? if so what did they have to say about the government? are they just stuck in their belief system or do they realize how bad the situation is?

jkb9210 karma

Yes, I had the chance to talk to people. What they said about the government was not very surprising: that they love the government, the government cares for them and so on. I do not know if they really believed what they said. I think many realise how bad the situation is, but they usually blame the USA and the embargo for everything that is bad.

Rarex1 karma

how aBOUT CUBA? ever consider it?

jkb924 karma

I've been there.

PlanetMarklar1 karma

What was communication like there? do you speak Korean or did you have a translator? I've heard the North Korean government looks down upon any English speaking in the country since its considered the "language of business in the West". Granted, being European, i suspect English is not your first language so i'm assuming its possible to get a translator for diffent languages (you didnt specify where you're from in Europe).

jkb925 karma

I am from Germany. I do not speak Korean. I had german speaking guides.

SulphuricJuice1 karma

Did your luggage get lost?!?!

Do you actually have anything to give from this? Are you some sort of dignitary or foreign affairs correspondent? A charity worker smuggled in like 1940's Germany to help the people?

Or did you just stop for a 6 hour period between flights??

jkb927 karma

No, my luggage did not get lost. I am not (yet) ;) a foreign affairs correspondent, I went there as a tourist.