I'm a ship's Chief Mate and Master Mariner currently on satellite internet on a ship off Japan. Over the last 14 years I have had 5 months off a year with which I traveled the world. For the last two years I have been guiding custom/private trips to North Korea. I was just hired as a pro guide for Young Pioneer Tours for group trips to North Korea. I will be live blogging there on the new 3G network April and May 2013.

Proof - my personal North Korea blog: http://americaninnorthkorea.com

Article about me in Business Insider - http://www.businessinsider.com/the-human-side-to-north-korea-2013-3?op=1

My Flickr North Korea photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/josephferris76/

I'm mentioned as the guide for the North Korean fishing trip on YPT Facebook page, and mentioned in some of their photo albums: https://www.facebook.com/YoungPioneerTours

My Twitter: @JosephFerrisIII

Company email [email protected]

Comments: 140 • Responses: 68  • Date: 

josephferris7610 karma

OK I'm here

GaikokuJohn3 karma

How much is it for a trip to North Korea? And would me being American affect their embassy's decision to approve my visa or not?

josephferris763 karma

depends on how long, but a classic trip, lets say 6 nights with our company, goes for around 1,000 euro. This does not include your flight to Beijing, and there are extra costs in country too - fancy restaurants, fun fair rides...

The American Embassy has nothing to do with the trip, it is legal for Americans to travel there - I am American - and the North Koreans grant the tourist visa.

GaikokuJohn2 karma

Awesome. So would I have to contact the embassy in China to get to NK? Do you have a link that I can have to your website?

josephferris763 karma

No, you would do it all through my company (although you would need a China visa) - I'm not on AMA to sell tours, more to promote my 3G North Korean blogging project, but if interested in a tour please read up on my site


as through a referral via an email to me there can get a discount

GaikokuJohn1 karma

sweet! thank you! I'll buy you a beer if we ever cross paths

josephferris761 karma

always up for a beer :)

Fuckbiscuitz4 karma

Some of those women in the pictures are pretty cute, hooked up with any of them or won't they go for westerners?

josephferris766 karma

North Korean woman are very cute, natural, and even flirty in an old fashion innocent way, but no foreigner has hooked up with one. Such things go against their racial ideology and would get the girl, and three generations of her family, in a LOT of trouble.

biggerx4 karma

Do you enjoy aiding the enemy?

josephferris767 karma

I enjoy showing the world a different side to the North Korea PEOPLE not normally shown anywhere else. Hopefully my work makes people think and investigate more into the issues. I try not to preach my own opinions and try to stay as natural as possible when it comes to the regime.

More people seem to understand what I'm doing than those who dont.

richgillis104 karma

Have you seen The Vice Guide to North Korea? If so, how accurate is this documentary on how the North Korean people act? Also, what kind of strange behavior have you seen while in North Korea?

josephferris7613 karma

After seeing the Vice Guide I HAD to go to North Korea, what I found was different and I regard Vice Guide as good entertainment but highly edited and sensationalized - not a good representation of the normal tourist experience, or at least not with the top western companies with a good relationship there.

MickeyFinns2 karma

I wish more people knew this. People hold the Vice Guide in high esteem but it's trash. Did my first trip to NK last year (http://jamesftravel.wordpress.com) hoping to go back next year!

josephferris763 karma

Awesome - glad to have my opinion supported!

I was attacked pretty hard last month by people on a forum who believed they were experts because they had watched the Vice Guide - Yikes

I will hit you up on WordPress :)

josephferris769 karma

I had secret police shut us down while playing Frisbee with locals in the main square of the Town of Wonsan. The locals were going crazy for it and then they suddenly took off when authorities arrived.

HandsomeJew1 karma

Would you play frisbee in another part of the country?

josephferris766 karma

here is my photo album from my "Frisbee diplomacy"


iukenbo2 karma

Yay! Your frisbee is from the Philippines! It has "Perya Pilipinas sa Clark" inscribed on it.

-I'm from the Philippines, nice pics btw

josephferris762 karma

Thanks! yes I have had a few Filipinos point that out with pride to me before. Actually in between North Korea trips this spring I will be down in the Philippines to swim with the whale sharks - bucket list kind of thing :)

josephferris761 karma

Yes, I bring a Frisbee on every trip now, its a great ice breaker with the North Koreans.

laddism3 karma

hmmm how did you become a Chief Mate/Master Mariner? What country are you from? Always liked the idea of being a ship pilot.

josephferris763 karma

We lost satellite internet there for awhile, back online now

I'm American, I went to Maine Maritime Academy in their 4 year deck officer's program. Its a regimented, military like academy with it's own 500 foot training ship for 2 month summer cruises. Graduated with a 3rd Mates Unlimited license and worked my way up the ladder with sea time and the required week long exams.

Its a good job, when the weather is good, but it's been stormy and rough all month here off Japan and I'm ready to start my 2 and half month vacation next week. I'm off to the Philippines first to get my advanced open water SCUBA cert, then my first trip into North Korea March 30th.

laddism2 karma

Thanks! Sounds interesting, probably too late for me to go on to do what you did, 4 years is a long time! Good luck in NK!

josephferris762 karma

it felt like a long time when I started at the Maritime Academy 19 years old and out of highschool- now 4 years zips by

laddism1 karma

ah yeah but I'm nearly 30 and I just finished a MA degree in my industry, locked in I figure, its okay my job is okay - self employed. Gives me plenty of time for surfing, fishing etc. Recently started sailing too, but still always liked the idea of sailing the 7 seas as a job.

josephferris761 karma

to be honest, everything is being so regulated out here (like the rest of industry I guess) that all I seem to do is paperwork, all the romance is being squeezed out of a life at sea.

laddism1 karma

Surely having a girl in every port is romantic? haha!

josephferris761 karma

Ahh, only to be young again, unfortunately the duties of Chief Mate and partying up in port down mix well, but yes, you could say I had some fun times in my younger years when I was less dogged by responsibilities.

BetYouCanNotTellMe3 karma

What do you say to those in the prison camps given that you are helping to bring in hard dollars to those keeping them in those camps?

josephferris765 karma

this will be my standard answer to this type of question - you are free to your own views but there is a strong argument that interaction does more good as an agent of change than isolation. For more on the ethics of traveling to North Korea please read:


nimsaw2 karma

Considering the US and North Korea are not really on friendly terms, when a surge of nationalistic pride rises - be it some fiery speech by Kim Jong-il in the past or Kim Jong-un presently - do you at any point feel that your safety is under any sort of threat? Also how open are the North Korean authorities to tourists? You being an insider, considering you carry out tours in North Korea, may be very comfortable photographing the community, but does a rank outsider who is touring the country have that kind of access to say photographing the military or the locals, etc? And i really envy you for the 5 month vacation:)) Great Flickr album by the way. Will be looking forward to your dispatches from NK this summer:) Best wishes:)

josephferris762 karma

Tourists are not allowed to see the military parades and go to Kim Il-sung square when Kim Jong-un speaks, but other than that you get to witness everything else. You are asked to be polite to their (North Korean guide's) view points, but encouraged to ask questions, but dwelling on "gotcha" questions will make you very unpopular with the North Korean guides, and could result in the group losing access to sites - then you are very unpopular with your fellow tourists.

There is no test to take at the end of the tour, or belief system to buy into required. You are just asked to be respectful while there, and if you are, your tour will go very well, with great access, and you can walk away with the types of pictures I take.

I think documentaries out there give the impression that the North Korean tour guides are mean and difficult - its very far from the truth. They work hard to show you their country and they are very proud of their familiarity with western culture. Through the tip at the end of the trip they also have access to hard currency, so they do want to keep you happy, but they also have to look out for their own safety. Difficult groups, those that dont pay attention to rules about photography, or activists/trouble makers will just be told sites are closed and spend more time in their hotel than say my groups, who will be off getting amazing photos, hanging with locals, and having a trip of a lifetime.

SeismicDuck2 karma

How common are the tours to north korea? and to what extent do you get to see the people there? Concentration camps allowed?

josephferris763 karma

Concentration camps - no, thats the big taboo topic when traveling there. But you really do get to see ordinary people, especially when you travel outside Pyongyang, which is easy to set up.

I'm not sure the official numbers, but somewhere around 2,500-4000 western tourists are visiting each year. The spring time holiday season and summer mass games are the most popular times to go, but there are late fall and some winter tours, although in the dead of winter tourism is shut down.

Thompson_S_Sweetback2 karma

I'm surprised no one else has asked this yet, but, 5 MONTHS????

josephferris762 karma

5 months of vacation? Yes, I do 4 months at sea with 2-3 months off on vacation at a time. Of course when on the ship I have no rent and meals come with the job - good setup if you live out of a backpack like I do.

shiftyskies2 karma

The state usually regards the US as their sworn enemy etc. How do the locals react when you say you're American? Are they friendly?

josephferris765 karma

Yes they are very friendly and curious about American civilians. Believe it or not Americans normally go in there on their best behavior and are well regarded within the official DPRK tourist industry.

My favorite experience was touring the Homeland Liberation Museum (Korean War Museum) and asking the female guide from the site who would win if we had another war. Her eyes lit up and she enthusiastically told us DPRK forces would smash the Americans. We later rode the elevator out with her and she asked us "where from?", she was stuck in the elevator with 5 big Americans and her eyes bulges out when she learned - she pretty quickly recorded and with a big smile exclaimed "I love American civilians", we all laughed, including her, realizing how ridiculous it all was.

Another situation found developed as friends and myslef spent each morning playing Frisbee with the door men of our hotel, on the last day some big wig officials asked the door men, "what are you doing, dont you know these are American?", the door men replied, "f*** off, they are our friends" - this was told to us by someone who know Korean and overheard.

bobbychoi2 karma

Great pics. What kind of gear do you use?

josephferris762 karma

I have a Sony A77.

Tequila_Shogun1 karma

Your job sounds pretty awesome. I would love to have five months off in the year and see the world. Definitely keep your spirits up doing that.

josephferris761 karma

Well, I suppose I could never do an office job.

BanditXJ1 karma

Youre living a dream life, man.

My question is more about your background- Do you have any inside information on how someone who already has a BS can get back into a school like MMA? Im looking for a major career change and I want to get back on the water. Also, visiting N. Korea has been a big chase of mine for a while too, hope you love it!

josephferris763 karma

I graduated in 98, so I really dont know. Its just like any other university, and as long as you can pass a US Coast Guard physical you can get accepted through the normal application process.

Its a regimented lifestyle, but already having a degree and lifestyle you will largely be left alone on that front - just go through the motions.

Hope you get to North Korea someday, its an amazing place and changing fast!

RandomEwok1 karma

Food wise, what's the availability of food and is it any good in restaurants?

josephferris762 karma

On a budget tour you might only eat at the hotel, and honestly Food for tourists in North Korea is ample but boring if only eating at the hotels. There are hard currency restaurants in Pyongyang, with the food at them being fair to quite good. These cost extra and are not included in the price of the trip. On my custom trips I arrange to eat outside the hotel as often as I can - I can only handle so many greasy Chinese noodle meals!

Food pics from my trips!




frojoe1 karma

If NKorea were to engage in a long-time war (with actual combat) - how would this affect your job?

josephferris762 karma

Obviously that would end any guiding there, but I have my professional job on a ship as my real financial support. Guiding trips to North Korea is really only for beer money for me at this point.

SwampJieux1 karma

Are you a little nervous of blogging, considering journalists are often tried as spies?

josephferris761 karma

No, I try not to deal with politics on my blog. I'm also not sneaking across the borders or going in there with laptops full of controversial footage, or with a history of missionary/activism work. A look at my history shows promotion of cultural understanding and promotion of tourism.

MisterSister1 karma

I read an article once saying that smoking weed was really common in Korea, perhaps even more popular than tobacco.

Not the really potent dispensary type, but the pretty weak grows-by-the-side-of-the-road type.

Is this true? Did you come across locals smoking their ditch-weed joints?

josephferris762 karma

You know, I think that story blows the entire weed situation there way out of proportion. I never saw anyone smoking grass in Pyongyang or in any of the secondary cities I visited. I'm sure people do smoke it way out in the very poor provinces as a tobacco substitute, but anyone who thinks North Korea is the Amsterdam of Asia is mistaken.

MisterSister1 karma

I do remember the story mentioning that it was very weak weed, and generally used as a tobacco substitute.

They did however also give the impression that you could smell it just walking down city streets. Guess that part was just blatant exaggeration.

Thanks - seems like you've had some amazing experiences.

josephferris761 karma

Suppository it is cultivated in the far north for export, I'm going up there next month, and while the North Korean guides will pretend ignorance, if you keep your eyes open you can see fields of it. Unfortunately in the far North they are pretty serious about the photography restrictions and I doubt I want to risk getting controversial pics up there.

lovedust1 karma

I am about to go to college for a major in Marine Transportation. Do you have any advice for anyone planning to work in the shipping world?

josephferris761 karma

Marine Transportation - when I was in school that was a 3rd Mates license with a focus in maritime business? What Academy are you going to?

I would say make sure you find a job doing what you really like, not just to chase the money - but everyone has different priorities.

Study a little bit of everything every night - I did and never once crammed for an exam :)

Navigation work is not too hard, but its very precise, make good habits early on that.

Good luck!

G00BY_PLS1 karma

Did you attend Fort Schuyler?

josephferris762 karma

no, Maine Maritime Academy

G00BY_PLS1 karma

Crap... it was such a good thread too.

josephferris762 karma

LOL, sorry I'm from Maine, only 1.5 hours drive to the Academy.

Topicale1 karma

What languages are you fluent in? Korean? Others? And if not, how do you manage?

josephferris762 karma

At a time I was fluent in both Spanish and Vietnamese, but I have let my practice in both get rusty - its been 10 years since I spent a summer studying in Vietnam.

I have started to study Chinese and Korean. I find Chinese pretty easy, just need to commit to study it more, Korean is tough, such long words and so many honorific tenses, but I have only been playing with Korean but studying on my own out of a book, need to get some tutor or class time to see you hard it really is.

In North Korea you always have two North Korean guides assigned to your group. The guides there are trained as specialists, some speak fluent English and only work with Western groups, others with Chinese groups, or Russian groups and so on.

Through your guide you can communicate with locals, or just try your own bad Korean, the people there love when you make the effort. I have also had random locals and school kids conquer their shyness and approach me to practice English. One boy, walking with his father, told me "good morning", I corrected him with a "good evening", his father seemed so happy at this, perhaps you would have just had to been there, but it was one of my favorite little random interactions.

exceptionalmind1 karma

What is the chance of N K being severely aggressive in near future?

josephferris761 karma

I dont believe they will be "severely aggressive", our contacts and counterparts on the North Korean side of the tourism industry seem optimistic for positive change - as subtle as that can be communicated to us.

I am afraid of some cross border low level provocation as the North Koreans look at past lessons learned and try to strengthen their bargaining position, but I dont believe Nuke war is on the horizon.

As I said before, regime survival is the regimes number one goal, nuke, or all out conventional war is suicide for the regime. The leaders are not crazy as often depicted in the West, they are quite rational.

BaltoBash1 karma


Enjoyed meeting you a few years ago at the Mount Washington Tavern in Baltimore while you attending MITAGS. I knew I'd read about your travels sooner or later, a sort of living "Where's Waldo".

You are living many guys dream - keep it up my friend!!

Mark -

josephferris761 karma

Thats cool, thanks!

Faceplam1 karma

How was your day?

josephferris762 karma

we have had cold stormy weather and rough seas all week, today is the first nice day in a long time, quite thrilled as this is my last week of this work rotation and a little nice weather goes a long way out here when trying to stay sane after 4 months :)

satanicwaffles1 karma

What are the logistics involved in becoming a tour guide in North Korea, and how did you start running these tours?

josephferris761 karma

I started by just putting together private tours (which anyone can do) while working with one of the big North Korean tour companies.

Its a pretty tight knit community of those who work in North Korea and I hit it off well with the owner of Young Pioneer Tours after dong a trip to Iran with him. From there I was invited to do the tours as a pro guide on a part time basis. I'm also going to be guiding trips to Myanmar, Tibet, Siberia, and elsewhere.

Some of those other places I have been, for the others I will help out on tours first before guiding them on my own.

gangy861 karma

Do you have any information on the trips to Tibet and Siberia?

josephferris761 karma

I'm helping out on a month long Eurasian adventure trip in Nov 13. leaving Russia on the trans Siberia, Moscow, Belarus, Ukraine and Chernobyl, Transnistria, Moldova, Kosovo, and more.

My own little writeup on the trip:


I know less about Tibet, its been 10 years since I went there on my own, so I'm due for refresher trip myself , but here is my companies itinerary:


cerealbh1 karma

Do you always vacation in U.N. Sanctioned countries on the brink of war?

josephferris763 karma

No, not always, but I was in Iran and North Korea all in one year - so valid criticism. US customs and immigration just laughed at me when I passed through the States this year - for what ever thats worth.

alwayslearningx3 karma

so valid criticism

I don't think it is so much a criticism, and more like "you have fucking balls of steel."

josephferris762 karma

LOL :)

discovolunte1 karma

So are you at sea the rest of the time? And obligatory reddit question - approx how much do you make? And if you are working as a guide - is that not just another job?

josephferris763 karma

Yes I am at sea, around the world for about 7 months a year, but with port stops. I make less than 100,000 a year.

It is another job, but only doing it for a few months a year I hope to stay passionate about it, plus I love adventure travel.

josephferris763 karma

I work on an academic oceanographic research ship, I dont make the high wages of merchant mariners in the container or tanker fleet - science is fun, good wage, but not getting rich.

Finniono4 karma

What sort of wages do the container/tnaker fleet mariners earn?

Any websites with more info for folks who'd love to get into a career like this?

josephferris763 karma

I have been in the oceanographic research side of the industry for so long that I dont know details of tanker or container ship wages, but most of those ships are union, which is hard to get into. Right now the Gulf of Mexico oil industry maritime industry is the easiest to get into. Not sure what entry level make there, but people with mates licenses are make $500 a day or more. Of course its hard work, I like science because its laid back and fun.

check out the forum at http://gcaptain.com/

trabedmorningshow1 karma

This question seems sort of obvious - but what is your favorite place to visit while traveling? You must stop all over the world.

josephferris762 karma

I like work and travel in Asia and South America. Once thought I would live in Vietnam, love it so much I took a summer and studied Vietnamese with a tutor in a university in Hanoi.

HandsomeJew1 karma

How do you think North Korea will change now that there is this new limited 3g? How expensive is it? Is it available everywhere?

josephferris762 karma

I haven't been there since it was started up this month. I believe its going to to be about 600 USD for 2 months service at 4 GB for SIM card modem for laptop. There is a cheaper setup for smartphones, but still a very high signup fee but with data at 10 Euro per 50 MG.

I'm told high speed 3G in Pyongyang and along the "highway" to Kaesong. Other parts of the country may or may not have it. Its still the quiet season for tourists so I haven't herd what access is like in Wonson or Hamhung, or up in Rason.

HandsomeJew1 karma

What kind of internet access will be enabled? I can't imagine Google or Wikipedia being available.

josephferris761 karma

supposedly it is not censored in any way, Google and Wiki are available, of course 3G is only available to foreigners who can afford to use it. It's so expensive I dont see many tourists signing up for service on week long trips.

Tankercow1 karma

What is the most interesting thing/thing you most enjoy in North Korea?

josephferris761 karma

for me it's forming real friendships with my counterpart North Korean guides, interactions with locals, and just the crazy unexpected occurrences there - you never know when you will show up on some site and there are woman practicing marching.


or perhaps some random mass dance which your North Korean guides got tipped off on and set up taking you there even though its not on the schedule - and even encourage you to grab a girl and participate.


Everyone seems to enjoy the Pyongyang fun fair too, lots of interaction with locals there. Here I am on the arm wrestling machine with local random North Koreans cheering me on!


josephferris761 karma

I have also traveled to Iran in 2012. Like North Korea, Americans must have a guide at all times, but this really isn't a control issue, more the Iranians just want to be sure some accident happens resulting in a international incident, they are really quite paranoid of this.

After getting to know my guide she became relaxed with me, with with a wink and nod, would drop officially drop me off at my hotel with nothing to stop me from leaving to go explore the cities at night.

Iran, while I found worth seeing, is not as exciting for me. I found photography difficult there, and as I look Iranian (I'm a mix of French , Italian, Lebanese) all the local always approached me to ask directions, which was kinda boring as everyone else in the group was approached by curious students.

I fond Iranian food good at first, but monotonous, and was thoroughly sick of it by the end of the trip - so happy to feast in Armenia when I got there. Alcohol is forbidden, but "wine" can be found if you ask the right people. We had our going away dinner at the Tehran Armenian club, Alcohol is legally available there to the Armenian minority and we had quite the party.

josephferris761 karma

When I told my Iranian guide I would like to return for a ski trip, she was quite enthusiastic about hosting me - although she requested I email ahead and come late winter so she could a few months to learn how to ski :)

234steve1 karma

haha im at maine maritime right now. im a junior can't wait to graduate, what company do you work for?

josephferris761 karma

Cool man, where you guys going for your Jr. cruise?

Hey, I cant really say where I work - they dont want their name associated with my work in North Korea, but if you did a little research about the top US institutes that run global class oceanographic research vessels you will figure it out - and to help, I left Maine and went to work out of the west coast :)

234steve1 karma

going to tampa, puerto rico, baltimore, quebec city, and eastport. Should be all right. I'm guessing you don't make much money. Frost just retired last year along with loustaunau and now theres just one guy running the regiment.

josephferris761 karma

I made $77,000 in 2012 with 7 months of duty as a Chief Mate, I'm sure I could do better in the industry, but my job is pretty laid back and very interesting (last month I was making small boat landings on uninhabited islands - some with smoking volcanoes - in the Northern Marianas to pickup land based remote science equipment), and for the most part its like family out here with a sane crew and interesting scientists - I would never work anywhere else :)

I was back a few years ago, I buddy of mine from my ship went off to get his 3rd Engineers and I was visiting, damn, Frost remembered who I was - he was actually pretty cool

josephferris761 karma

Here is my custom itinerary for my trip arriving March 30th:

March 30: Sat. PM arrival, Arch of Triumph, Fountain Park and pay respects at Kim Il-sung/Kim Jong-il statues, dinner Yanggakdo Hotel.

March 31 Sun. Pyongyang tour: AM, Martyrs Cemetery, Kumsusan Mausoleum, Taedong River side walk and river boat BBQ lunch- no boat ride. PM, Kim Il-sung square, Viennese coffee shop and walk to book store. Juche Tower and Party Foundation Monument. City Bowling Lanes. Paradise shopping center and Micro Brew, pizza restaurant, Fun Fair.

April 1 Mon. AM subway ride, Souvenir shop at Arch of Triumph, embroidery institute, unicorn Lair? Drive to Nampo, Co-op farm, picnic box lunch? Taedonggan combined fruit farm and processing factory, Sea barrage, Water Bottling Plant, Taekwondo School (donation asked). Hot spring hotel - petrol clam bake – small charge.

April 2 Tue. AM - Mt Kuwol, Sinchon Tower, Atrocities museum, Sariwan folk village, lunch Sariwan – or return lunch Pyongyang – fast food burger restaurant, PM Pyongyang Gun Range, Mansanuade children's palace, cold noodles restaurant, Foreign Club for drinks – Koryo Hotel.

April 3 Wed. AM drive to Kaesong, Highway Unification Monument, DMZ, Concrete Observation wall, lunch, Kaesong Kim Il-sung Statue, old town walk, stamp store. Kaesong children's palace -Overnight folk village inn – 5 euro for dog soup with dinner.

April 4 Thur. early AM to Mt Myohyang, Ostrich Farm, Caves, Friendship Exhibition Halls, a walk in Hyangsan town. Overnight Mt Myohyang in budget hotel.

April 5 Fri. early AM to Pyongyang, Kim Il-sung University Museum, Jonsong Revolutionary Site, Lunch with the dancing BBQ girls, Railway Museum. New Folklore Village with soju drinks at historical restaurant. Taedonggang Brewery Bar, BBQ duck dinner going away party. Yanggakdo Hotel.

April 6 departures

RedeemingVices1 karma

Do you think your plans will change now that the armistice is effectively ended?

josephferris762 karma

Only if there is some kind of cross border provocation, I do not believe there will be nuke war.

Top priority for the regime is regime survival, all out war is suicide to the regime, I dont believe it will happen. The regime is not crazy as portrayed in the west, most of them were born into this situation and system, they are quite rational and survival and protecting their privileged wealth is what is important.

A lot of what is going on is to prop up Kim Jong-un in the eyes of his people, and to test new governments in China and ROK, and even Obama - not saying its a good thing, just how I see it.

mvolinski1 karma

There are concentration camps in NK? Can you attest to their existence or not? and I've also heard that millions of people are starving to death each year/ reports of cannibalism. is any of this true or just exaggerated reports?

josephferris761 karma

I have not seen such things with my eyes, I HAVE seen foraging.

Obviously there are well researched books on the subject, all of them which I have read, they mostly deal with the situation in the remote border regions and are not very applicable to the situation in Pyongyang. Those in Pyongyang are the trusted and privileged elite in the eyes of the government.

You do get to see a lot on a trip that is long enough to include cities outside Pyongyang, but there are things obviously screened such as what is mentioned above.

boyscoutt531 karma

sooo, are your plans to go to N. Korea changing because of the political climate?

josephferris761 karma

No - only if the Pyongyang airport shuts down or they stop issuing visas. This kind of thing happens all the time, situation normal.

jdog20501 karma

I was browsing through your flickr photos and noticed that Pyongyang has a microbrewery. What's the deal with that?

P.s. I own a beer company in Seoul, so I'm super interested!

josephferris762 karma

Yes that's the Paradise micro brew, located on the top floor of Pyongyang's hard currency supermarket. The beer is pretty tasty and relatively cheep - want to say around a Euro a pint. The big hotels in Pyongyang also have the micro brew on tap, but a bit more expensive.

jdog20501 karma

Awesome. It's a regular joke down here that North Korea somehow makes better beer than the south.

josephferris762 karma

The North Koreans do love to drink, and a thirsty group of foreigners using make for good relations and a fun trip.

josephferris762 karma

I'm told that visiting the DMZ from the South is very strict, but if you want to check it out from the North after a big lunch with plenty of beer - no problem!

jdog20501 karma

As do South Koreans; it's basically the main way to bond.

josephferris762 karma

One question many people ask is "are people allowed to drink in North Korea?" yes, yes they do :)

I spent a winter in ROK back 10 years ago, my ship was docked in Buson, really loved it there, excited to check out Seoul!

josephferris761 karma

What beer? I'm going to be in Seoul in June for a few days, would love to try it!

jdog20501 karma

I'd rather not say as this is my public reddit account. Just look up new microbreweries in Seoul and we're probably one of those :)

josephferris761 karma

cool :)

DBtiger0 karma

If a reporter asks you to take her out to some "deserted" islands with old, abandoned military bases, and rides off on your one jet-ski, are you prepared to fend off the ship as pirate/ mercenary helicopters come to blow it up?

josephferris761 karma

Journalists are not allowed in on a tourist visa and the things you are talking about are pretty ridiculous. Please spend some time on my blog to learn what traveling there is really like.

josephferris762 karma

actually what is the context of the question - North Korea or my ship? On my ship we take academic scientist out of research expeditions.

I am the ships security officer, we drill for pirate situations and we have actually stood our ground against a pirate boarding attempt in the waters off Yemen a few years back.

Dear_Occupant1 karma

Is the restriction only on current journalists or are you forbidden to enter the country if you've ever been one in the past? Will they research you name to see if you've ever written any articles?

josephferris761 karma

Its really for big name journalists. You need to put your current profession on your visa application and there is a chance a DPRK mission/embassy could call your place of work if you dont pass a Google check.

Bloggers for the most part are welcome to visit - not a problem, unless perhaps you are a well known activist.

gsasquatch0 karma

A lot of the reports I see in the US about North Korea portrays it as very poor, a broken country with an oppressive regime, and a miserable place. Your photos seem to indicate somewhat otherwise. Are the reports I see true or propaganda? Is there widespread food shortages, is everyone miserable all the time? How does it compare to Vietnam, Georgia or other places you've been?

josephferris762 karma

I found a country different than what was presented in the western media. I dont want to try to tell you what North Korea is - to me its a complex place that is somewhere in the middle of what the west makes of it, and what North Korea presents of itself in its propaganda - obviously it fascinates me.

I walked out of there on my first trip with photos that did not conform with the western stereotype - the way of life is different there, its like going back in time where values are wholesome and innocent (I'm taking the normal people - not the privileged regime).

I'm not doing trick photography, but I do like to focus on the people, I think my photos are well representative of the parts of the country that are open to visit - and perhaps shocking to those who are only familiar with North Korea through Vice Guide or Fox News.

josephferris760 karma

A pretty cool article about me just came out in Business Insider, I just added it to the proof


SpikeDurden-2 karma


josephferris764 karma

you are free to your own views but there is a strong argument that interaction does more good as an agent of change than isolation. For more on the ethics of traveling to North Korea please read: