Visited Pyongyang, North Korea in April 2013 with Koryo Tours

Comments: 167 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

xGravemindx36 karma

How the fuck did you get in?

the_poop_yeti25 karma

Not OP but:

There are tour agencies offering tours in North Korea. In fact if memory serves me right they even have certain times they let the locals and foreigners mingle for a bit.

thethriftytrekker43 karma

Yes, but most likely, these locals weren't just "normal" locals

malatruskawka9 karma

you fly through china. VICE, on youtube, has a whole video about it :)

thethriftytrekker27 karma

It's actually very easy to get in. Sign up with a tour group, pay, and go.

VerisimilarPLS35 karma

Are there really as many pictures of the Kim family hanging around as people say?

thethriftytrekker62 karma

Yes, and Kim Jong-un was on TV basically whenever we saw one

Frajer28 karma

Did you see any interesting propaganda?

thethriftytrekker42 karma

I went at the height of the tensions in Spring 2013. There was a lot of fresh propaganda, so yes. Quite a bit of Anti-American stuff as well.

Flambolticus20 karma

Did the propaganda affect your visit at all (i.e the behavior of the people towards you)?

thethriftytrekker22 karma

No. Surprisingly, I think the people do a pretty good job at separating individuals from government (or at least those we talked with). Also, there was a lot more anti-Japanese talk than anti-American, even with the fact that US and NK relations were very tense in those two months.


Compared to South Koreans, how healthy did people there look? Did people on the street ever smile or did they look dour?

thethriftytrekker43 karma

The North Koreans we saw were all of the highest class, so people looked fine overall. The soldiers were noticeably smaller, though. People on the street would usually give us a sort of confused look, as if they were thinking "I don't know what I'm supposed to do". It wasn't a mean exchange, but they just usually seemed confused/frightened.

Mybuttcheeksburn23 karma

Did you A) see any goats and B) did you at any point look at a place and just be flabbergasted?

thethriftytrekker32 karma

Didn't see any goats. And walking into a 40 lane bowling alley really caught everyone off guard.

gannbrent21 karma

Are you Dennis Rodman?

thethriftytrekker72 karma

I went to school in Chicago. So yeah, basically.

allenahansen18 karma

Did you get any flack from the US State Department beforehand or afterwards? Were you debriefed, or is US tourism to North Korea now so commonplace that it doesn't merit a "visit" from the NSA?

Where did you go to get your visa?

Sounds like a fascinating journey. Thanks for sharing this tour outfit. I'm intrigued....

thethriftytrekker10 karma

Didn't hear anything before. Haven't returned to US yet since visiting, so don't know for 2nd part of question. However, because they don't stamp anything in the passport, I doubt I will have any trouble. Visa is handled through tour agency, only need to submit scan of your passport and 50 Euro fee

allenahansen-16 karma

What was your country of departure?

The security apparatchik of the USA tends to look unkindly on its citizens traveling unfettered to countries its Grand Poopahs deem unfriendly. But hey, they hate our freedoms, right?

kilroyishere896 karma

Koryo Tours is based in Beijing, so he would've flown from China to NK.

thethriftytrekker3 karma

This is correct. Flight departs from Beijing.

andicotsteel16 karma

Was electricity scarce? Did you notice vast areas that were blacked out?

thethriftytrekker26 karma

Compared to any other capital city, the city was completely dark at night. Also, during dinner our last night, power went out 3-4 times.

ElijahWallace_14 karma

How strict were the guidelines on on pictures and other things?

What kind of food do they even have there?

thethriftytrekker26 karma

Guidelines on pictures not strict at all. Was never asked to stop taking pictures and photos weren't checked at end of trip.

Food was mainly traditional Korean, such as Kimchi. Friday afternoon was a hotpot meal, and Friday night was a Korean BBQ.

vonIsar12 karma

Have any North Korean sex?

thethriftytrekker20 karma

Nope. A lot of guys on the trip discussed if that would even be possible. The general consensus was "no".

[deleted]11 karma

DId you eat noodles? If so, how was it? I'm a South Korean and I heard that noodles taste great in Pyongyang. I'm not sure what it's called in English but if I were to write the Korean name in English pronunciation it would be naengmyeon.

thethriftytrekker7 karma

We had cold noodles, which were very good. Haven't had them in South Korea, so unable to compare.

TheFrankFrankly11 karma

Do you have any weird stories or things that you saw that you can share with us?

thethriftytrekker36 karma

A North Korean in the bowling alley came up to a girl in our group and said, "I love George Bush, but I hate Barack Obama." Seriously wtf???

theodorehux35 karma


thethriftytrekker14 karma

Sorry, should have gone further into this one. His reasoning was because "George Bush said he would take out Suddan Hussein and he succeeded. He won. Barack Obama didn't"

It was all very strange

The_Eyesight11 karma

How scared were you throughout the entire trip?

thethriftytrekker17 karma

Was edgy in the days leading up to the trip, because media sensation was going crazy and suggesting nuclear war could break out any hour. However, after being there a couple hours, wasn't really on mind. However, on the morning before we flew out, things got a bit tense because they were evacuating foreign embassies. Overall, I don't think there was any real risk.

The_Eyesight8 karma

I'd honestly be scared as shit. You'd constantly be reminded that at any time you could disappear, and there's absolutely nothing that could be done.

thethriftytrekker17 karma

But when you arrive there, it quickly becomes obvious that won't happen.

icy95411 karma

How similar or dissimilar is North Korea to George Orwell's 1984?

thethriftytrekker11 karma

Hard to say, we only saw the best parts of the country. Many dismiss this as not seeing North Korea at all, but I think the fact that they have Pyongyang and tourist trips set up this way says a lot by itself.

Mar_Soph10 karma

Did you travel out of the city, into the smaller villages?

thethriftytrekker12 karma

We traveled to the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery on the outskirts of Pyongyang, so got to see some rural settings. Was interesting seeing how many drifters were just sitting in fields on the side of the road while driving.

ClockworkCabbage9 karma

What was the most sketchy thing you saw while partaking on your visit?

thethriftytrekker25 karma

Not so much sketchy, but it was a strange feeling watching grown men get emotional while watching Kim Jong-un on television in bowling alley lobby.

Mar_Soph8 karma

Did you have minders with you on your trip?

thethriftytrekker11 karma

Yes, 2 minders for our group of about 15 people. Ms. Pang & Mr. Lim...both very nice and personable.

r04drunn3r8 karma

What made you decide to go there?

thethriftytrekker23 karma

Was looking for a strange trip that put me out of my comfort zone. North Korea filled that role

antaryon8 karma

That link you posted doesn't prove anything.

thethriftytrekker9 karma

Posted the link to this AMA on there, but any advice on how to further prove?

Flambolticus10 karma

I think a plane ticket or something of that nature would be perfect.

thethriftytrekker10 karma

Posted a picture of my plane ticket on the page I linked to. Unfortunately, the airlines wouldn't accept "TheThriftyTrekker" as my name, so ticket doesn't read that way.

thethriftytrekker6 karma

No problem, will post on the North Korea section

WolfBro4207 karma

what was the most surprising thing you saw?

thethriftytrekker12 karma

That's a difficult question, I don't think I can pinpoint a single thing. There were so many weird things. One of them high on the list, though, would be watching a high ranking North Korean extremely wasted in the bar. His assistant, as well as girlfriend, were both taking care of him and making sure he didn't get too sloppy in front of our group, which was sitting a table over.

PurrtyUnicorn697 karma

How different does the North Korean accent sound compared to the South Korean accent?

andrewphf10 karma

To a westerner, it probably sounds the same.

thethriftytrekker22 karma

Yes, although they did tell us North Koreans use more formal Korean

LarsViener7 karma

Did you meet any citizens or get a feel for their experience as opposed to the military/government outlook? I would like to know the perspective of your average North Korean.

thethriftytrekker15 karma

It's too difficult to distinguish a real citizen from someone in the government, as most people in Pyongyang are supportive of the regime (or at least appear to be). The perspective is that people really do believe in Juche Theory. I was surprised that they did know more about how the outside world might be "ahead of them at the moment", but they were fine with that because they are "independent".

jekstarr5 karma

How much did it all cost? Were meals provided and included with the tour? hotel fees? Transportation?

thethriftytrekker8 karma

Tour cost was about 900 Euro for 3 days/2 nights. Everything is included and tour originated from Beijing

Opulencez4 karma

If you had the chance to, would you go back?

thethriftytrekker7 karma

Yes, although would like to visit other parts of the country.

Twigmen3 karma

was there really marijuana growing on the streets? and are the drug policies as loose as some have said?

thethriftytrekker6 karma

I didn't see that in Pyongyang, but could be true in other parts of the country. Can't confirm though.

stepong3 karma

As a halfie born in SK, why?! Of all the places to go....

thethriftytrekker6 karma

I wanted to see the inside perspective of how things are in NK. We hear so much Western propaganda that it's important to see the other side's view to balance it out. While I wasn't there nearly enough time to get a full view of things, it definitely changed my thoughts of NK.

PuntTheScunt2 karma

Overall how was the trip? Rate out of ten?

thethriftytrekker4 karma

10/10. It was better than I expected, and due to the time period I went and how much tension there was, it only added more adrenaline. Part of me thinks I should never return because it would be such a hard trip to top.

doxob2 karma

were there any form of advertising in DPRK? did you see any, and what was it?

thethriftytrekker3 karma

This is a great question, and I honestly can't remember. If there was advertising, I probably just mistook it for propaganda.

Rushblade2 karma

Is it true that all homes in Pyongyang have speakers that transmit government propaganda 24 hours a day, nonstop?

thethriftytrekker6 karma

I have heard there have speakers that must be kept on, but don't think they are spitting out propaganda nonstop. But can't confirm based on my visit, we didn't tour any homes. There were, however, propaganda vans and propaganda blared while on the subway.

NuclearStudent1 karma

How many bowling alleys did you see?

thethriftytrekker1 karma

Only one, but it was huge

steve18791 karma

Were there any franchise stores what so ever?

thethriftytrekker2 karma

No, and the shopping they showed us had no locals. Only for foreigners.

strandedhere1 karma

Did you have to get debriefed or interviewed by any US Federal agencies upon your return? Wondering how they feel about these types of visits.

thethriftytrekker1 karma

Haven't returned yet, but doubt it. NK didn't stamp passport so there's not really any record of the visit

jampola1 karma

I watched the youtube vid you did showing the trip down to the subway, I cannot imagine how much it would suck if the escalator died!

thethriftytrekker1 karma


Mayplay1 karma

Did your group had a translator? Or the NK staffs had no problem to speak english ?

thethriftytrekker2 karma

NK staff spoke very impressive English

[deleted]1 karma


thethriftytrekker3 karma

I've got pictures and trip reports on my blog, which also has a link to this AMA session.

jzsteezy1 karma


thethriftytrekker1 karma

Nope, heard that is more north by the Chinese border

bluefrostie1 karma

Were you able to talk about and share outside/Western culture, such as what's going on in the music and movie businesses, or the internet?

thethriftytrekker1 karma

Yeah, we could talk about anything that was neutral in political terms. I talked a lot about sports with my guide Mr. Lim.

draw4kicks1 karma

How did people react when they found out you're American or did you not get to communicate with normal North Koreans?

thethriftytrekker3 karma

People seemed to either be very excited to talk with an American or not show any emotion, but there wasn't any negative feedback.

TheTretheway1 karma

Were there actually any advantages to that life? Obviously you've mentioned not remembering whether there were adverts and that sort of thing, do you think that NK is actually better than the West in some respects?

thethriftytrekker3 karma

One thing I did notice was that they truly did think in a collective mindset, which was cool. However, IMO, so do many other Asian nations without as many negatives. My opinion is that in theory, Juche Ideology is good, but in reality, it has set the country up for failure. It has closed them off from the world. And as the world becomes smaller and more globalized, they are further left behind.

Roosterman591 karma

Was it fun?

thethriftytrekker3 karma

Yes, and very interesting. Definitely a trip that made you think. Left with more questions than when I arrived.

MattDamonIsGod1 karma

Were you at any point in the trip actually scared something bad might happen to you?

thethriftytrekker5 karma

Maybe a little bit in the morning of last day, as all foreigners in country were asked to evacuate. But that was only an hour or so, then we were in the air headed back to Beijing.

ItsBail1 karma

Have you watched the VICE Guide to N. Korea and others put out by Vice?

If so, can you compare? I think vice was sensationalizing a lot in the videos.

thethriftytrekker4 karma

I have not, because of what I heard about them doing the same thing.

Moody21 karma

How do you get into North Korea/Why did you go?

thethriftytrekker4 karma

You can go through multiple tour groups. I went with Koryo tours. I went because it was a different kind of trip, and wanted to see "The Hermit Kingdom" for myself. Also became very interested in the history of the Korean Peninsula and the fact that regimes such as this still survive today.

danick420 karma

We're you ever asked if you were an American?

thethriftytrekker3 karma

Not asked specifically, just where I was from. When I responded American, there was no sort of special response.

danick42-2 karma

Maybe the Koreans aren't so bad after all... Maybe it's just there commie dictator that's an ass clown. Thanks for the response!

thethriftytrekker7 karma

IMO, at the end of the day, people are people. Every place has both good and bad people.

[deleted]-3 karma


thethriftytrekker2 karma

Why do you ask?

jomkr-13 karma

Do you feel bad about giving one of the worst regimes on Earth hard currency and legitimacy?

thethriftytrekker17 karma

No, I feel good about giving more North Koreans a view of foreigners and know that the real money that supports the regime is not coming from tourism, but instead foreign policy and business deals.