I'm General Manager of Koryo Tours, running tours to North Korea for 20 years. this is the 128th time I have been here and I'm doing an AMA for a couple of hours live from Pyongyang (a first for Reddit?) Also I did this AMA previously http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/18g7z1/i_have_been_to_north_korea_over_100_times_ama/ it was quite popular

My Proof: http://instagram.com/simonkoryo#

Comments: 831 • Responses: 109  • Date: 

jaggazz660 karma


KoryoTours277 karma

Thanks think I might have been banned from there already. and been the king of it too at some other time!


What is your exact location?

KoryoTours402 karma

room 39-06, Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang, sitting on the edge of the bed near the window (the armchair is very low and uncomfortable)


Just sent you a free pizza, be sure to open the door when it comes.

KoryoTours274 karma

will do! thanks for that!

farrels49 karma

My spidey senses are tingling.

KoryoTours111 karma

I'd love to wait up for that pizza but sadly it's getting on for 3AM (plus the two pizzerias in Pyongyang close at about 10PM) so I might have to have them leave it outside the door and have it for breakfast, thanks for the thought though!

Ciriacus282 karma

What kind of locations are you not allowed to visit while giving a tour?

KoryoTours283 karma

wow so sorry! I just noticed I completely ignored this one! and its a great question too! Basically there are many places you are not allowed to visit, the majority of places in fact. Slowly more is becoming possible though (we can send a brochure to anyone interested in knowing exactly what can be seen and done as a tourist - shameless plug I know!). Fundamentallythe deepest darkest places cannot be visited (for two reasons; not allowed, and often infrastructure precludes this as well) as well as most countryside area, most villages, and so on. Also local people's homes in most cases cannot be visited. I can't really list it completely but I guess many people get the idea here, it is more a case of what you can do rather than can't do. Sorry again for leaving this question so late!

radical01195 karma

What's the food like? is there food?

KoryoTours200 karma

yes there is food. For tourists the food is not the same as the average person, or even the average Pyongyang person, eats though. We are given a kind of toned down Korean food (less spicy, its believed for some reason that foreigners can't handle spice, guess no one here ever had a vindaloo!) and also some Chinese type dishes too. We take tourists to other places of interest as well like pizza and burger restaurants but we do try to introduce the more famous local dishes such as Pyongyang Cold Noodles

carpy2264 karma

Can you elaborate on the Cold Noodles?

KoryoTours110 karma

They are the national dish of DPRK and the Pyongyang ones are made with buckwheat. I would suggest googling for a recipe and pics but they are not to everyone's taste. I think they are terrific though (not just sucking up to Koreans in saying that, after all I still despise Kimchi). They are odd-looking and slimy but with a good helping of mustard are delicious. There is even a catchy pop song about them. Also they are traditionally eaten at weddings

FountainLoly137 karma

If i were to take a tour, what is a DO NOT FUCKING DARE DO in North Korea?

KoryoTours181 karma

They take anything related to their leaders very seriously. its advisable to avoid directly criticising them to any North Koreans. You'd gain nothing by it, you'd just annoy people here. We advise people to just bite their tongues on some things. No North Koreans I have ever met think that people coming here are doing so in support of their system though, so you don't have to go the opposite way and pretend anything that you don't really think

DatWhiteDevil129 karma

Who usually takes these tours? Celebrities or other rich clients? I can't imagine many South Koreans would want a tour of the North.

KoryoTours180 karma

Its not possible to visit as a tourist on a South Korean passport. The people we take in are mostly Americans, Brits, Germans, Australians, Canadians, Singaporeans, Dutch, French, etc Westerners in general I guess you could say. No giant celebrities that I can think of but some people well known in their fields

DatWhiteDevil76 karma

I doubt they would allow a U.S. service member stationed in South Korea on a tour either huh? ;)

KoryoTours134 karma

that's right. US citizens are no problem to get visas for but active service personnel is not possible. Also not permitted from the US side though to be fair so its not just one insurmountable barrier but two. People who have been in the military but are not at present though we have no problem getting visas for

DatWhiteDevil21 karma

Thanks for the answers, maybe when I seperate from the military I will make it back to Korea and hop on your tour.

KoryoTours35 karma

We'd be glad to have you along at any time!

DatWhiteDevil13 karma

I appreciate it! I'll be visiting the DMZ soon, I have yet to take a trip up there and I am approaching the end of my tour here so I need to get on that. From what I hear it's an intense place to visit, I can only imagine that traveling to the other side of the fence must be quite an experience. Thanks for doing this AMA!

KoryoTours16 karma

it is a bit different on the other side. Certainly worth seeing both sides of that line (long way around though!) thanks for the comments!

KoryoTours124 karma

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for tuning in to this AMA, it’s been great fun indeed and I’m really gratified and grateful to all of you for asking questions, making comments, and so on. So sorry to finish it here but it’s getting on for 3:30AM and I need to call it a night (don’t worry, I’m not being dragged away by police!) if you want to ask any other questions at all then please do feel free to email me on [email protected] also if you want to see any photos live from North Korea please follow my Instagram (linked at the top of this page). Thanks again everyone!

Oh PS: in case anyone was wondering about internet costs here this whole thing appears to have used up about 150mb and cost me around US$45 ouch!


CashKeyboard116 karma

Hello :) Can you post a Traceroute to reddit for example? I'm just really curious how exactly NK Internet access is set up.

KoryoTours36 karma

let me check what that actually is, sorry to be a bit techno-ignorant!

AntithesisD79 karma

Will you get in trouble for reporting live from North Korea?

KoryoTours116 karma

No, I use internet here without any problems. Its not reporting in the media sense and I'm here legally so no problems - thanks for the first question by the way!

AntithesisD29 karma

Very much my pleasure!

My questions are obviously biased a bit by the general belief that North Koreans do have a bit of a ... "strict" government control. Do you feel that your answers here on Reddit neccesarily must be toned down to abide by this strictness?

KoryoTours56 karma

er no, I'm not a representative of the government or anything like that. I'm not a North Korean. I'm not being watched or anything like that. I'll keep my answers to things I know about though but that's more a personal issue than anything else. I don't want to come across as an expert on politics or the more complicated situations here that people much smarter and better qualified than me have written so much about. I can recommend some books on certain topics though if need be but its not my field. hope that helps!

AntithesisD32 karma

It's actually quite refreshing to see someone from North Korea who isn't primarily here to talk about the political system or problems. (although there's bound to be more of those questions!)

KoryoTours24 karma

that's probably true! I try to answer what I can but some things are beyond my expertise so I'd have to leave those for someone else, thanks for reading and participating though, much appreciated indeed!

odsdaniel63 karma

are there any hot girls?

KoryoTours124 karma

Yes, you might have to admire from afar though!

TheBobHatter117 karma

You just lost me as a customer.

KoryoTours93 karma

That is a great shame and sorry to hear that. Still always right to give an honest answer right?

TheBobHatter104 karma

No Bro! You give me a half truth and then I'm stuck in Best Korea for a couple of weeks.

KoryoTours96 karma

ha! you make a good point. I will consider revising my honesty policy accordingly!

Sleezy_Mcleezy56 karma

What are some misconceptions that people may have of North Korea? And what do people do over there for fun?

KoryoTours102 karma

I'd say the most common misconception is that the people are in no way similar to everyone else in the world. Of course much of their education and upbringing is different but there are human similarities that can be embraced and used to make contacts and get along with people. As for fun the most common things seem to be having drinks, singing, dancing, and a bit of sports. also gossiping of course

Deathcommand31 karma

Do they gossip more than my south korean relatives?

Probably not.

KoryoTours116 karma

one day with any luck they can all meet and see directly who gossips the most!

Luffykins47 karma

What does the average North Korean think of the Koreans from the south?

KoryoTours92 karma

as far as the North Koreans I know and regularly interact with (mostly people in the tourism and film industries) they consider them part of the same big national family. Obviously there are significant political and social differences and its true to say that most North Koreans have very little accurate idea of what life is like in South Korea though. Their view is somewhat sentimental and idealistic really and is guided towards the national dream of reunification usually

MisterNatural7744 karma

What are the sexual morays like there? Is it very conservative or what we would call liberated? Do teens date? What about gay issues?

KoryoTours108 karma

That's an excellent question; its very conservative, so much so that it sometimes seems very sexless. Its rare to see PDA but this is changing in Pyongyang at least where you sometimes see young couples holding hands, still I think I've only seen a handful of people kiss (and not very passionately) in public. Sex isn't really discussed frankly in schools or in society but of course men like to joke about it and tell blue stories as they do anywhere. People do date though and although arranged marriages are common this means that parents and matchmakers make suggestions which are often rejected. It is more or less a social obligation to get married though, if an urban woman gets to 30 and isn't married then she is in great danger of being left behind. While everyone will claim they don't have sex before marriage I have known of a few couples who got married and had a child just a few months later so either gestation is faster here or........! There is no acknowledgement at all that there is such a thing as homosexuality, this is never mentioned in the media, there are no gay areas or bars or anything like that and people seem completely oblivious to its very existence and the mechanic of how it works too. of course we have gay tourists (quite a lot actually, almost always men) and the tour guides are aware of this, never been a problem though

MisterNatural77133 karma

Thanks. Very informative. You should be tour guide or something.

KoryoTours54 karma

well that is my main job!

Fishy128921 karma

Apparently sarcasm isn't as popular in NK :P

KoryoTours9 karma

you should have used the sarcasm font, its a serious crime to have neglected to do that

Moose_Hole43 karma

Do North Koreans watch M * A * S * H?

KoryoTours87 karma

No. Actually interesting story; I was once (maybe 8 years ago) asked by a North Korean guide what MAS*H (someone on the tour had DVDs of the series, not the film) was and I explained it was a comedy series set in the Korean War, they looked horrified and were pretty amazed (in a bad way) that anyone could make a comedy about that (I did point out that it is 'about' Vietnam) the Korean War is considered a bit more important here than it is in most other places after all and its anathema to make jokes about it

notjesus7541 karma

Hello from South Koreaㅋㅋㅋ

Would you live in North Korea if you had a chance?

KoryoTours67 karma

Hi! greetings from the other side! I don't know that I would. I live in Beijing and enjoy it very much, I'm perfectly happy there for now (on the days that the air is fit to breath!)

notjesus7518 karma

Thanks for the reply^

Beijing has some good North Korean Restaurants^ No soju though!

Have fun and good luck friend!

KoryoTours25 karma

thanks! it is possible to get North Korean soju in Beijing, usually they serve the South Korean stuff though. the tragedy is that no DPRK beer is available in the NK restaurants in Beijing. they don't usually pasteurise it so t doesn't travel well

nprovein13 karma


I have a bottle of Latvian Riga Black Balsam here in Shenzhen. Feel free to stop by for a drink.

KoryoTours16 karma

Done! a fine choice of drinks!

notjesus7511 karma

P.s. amazing AMA

Could you tell us your plans tomorrow? It may seem boring/mundane for you, but would be so interesting for us.

KoryoTours23 karma

tomorrow is a bit boring to anyone I think! I am going for a meeting with our partners to discuss options for tourists next year, I would expect that to last a couple of hours. Then I'm planning to go to a shop or two to pick up a couple of things. Then a couple of my colleagues who are down in Haeju (a port city in the southern part of the country) will be back in Pyongyang so I'll meet them and have a chat and a couple of drinks. Back to Beijing the next day. I'll next be back in Pyongyang on New Years' Eve

BraveSaintStuart36 karma

If I wanted to visit North Korea (ya know... for the unicorns) from America, what would I have to do?

KoryoTours55 karma

go to www.koryogroup.com for info on what we offer basically. the procedure is simple actually, you'd be surprised. Sadly I've never seen a unicorn though, sorry to disappoint!

Andromeda32135 karma

How do you feel about the fact that by running these tours puts money into the coffers of a corrupt government that sends people to labor camps?

I mean I get that there's the entire argument about how it teaches people about what North Korea is like just that much more- heck I'm fascinated by the place and may well sign up for one of your tours someday- but that still doesn't mean the first doesn't happen.

And considering your location I understand if you don't want to get into this question too much.

KoryoTours23 karma

Its fine to ask, no problem with that. its basically the same as another question I've just answered here though (and also starts with the same assumption that I would question as a bit too blanket), sorry to not type the whole thing out again!

johncipriano35 karma

Simon, I was on a tour with you a few weeks ago. You asked me to send you this photo of you:


KoryoTours5 karma

fantastic! believe it or not I have been meaning to ask anyone if they had a picture of me on top of the cherry-picker, all my colleagues who were there didn't believe it was me and thought it was some Russian dude. Could you possible send it to me by email. Nice shot indeed, thanks mate!

rasmus988932 karma

Have you ever been to Ryugyong Hotel?

KoryoTours50 karma

actually yes, and I've been to the top. I'm one of the only two visitors to have been to the top (the other is a colleague who was with me) some pics are on our blog at www.koryogroup.com/blog

spicywasabi30 karma

How are you able to access the internet in Pyongyang? I heard you have to deposit your cellphones and laptops before going in the country?

KoryoTours49 karma

That certainly used to be true. Its been possible to bring in computers for years. Cell phones just last year though. Sim cards are available to tourists as well but can't be sued to call any local people's cell phones

beccatokki29 karma

Have you ever lost someone on a tour? What's the most interesting thing you've seen while giving a tour to North Korea? What type of people go on the tours most often? (Like, nationality-wise.)

KoryoTours60 karma

Never list anyone yet (knock on wood!) and never had anyone arrested or detained, or kicked out or anything like that either. Aiming to continue that record as well. As for the most interesting thing there are a great many to choose from but personally I would say playing in the first Pyongyang cricket tournament (we organised it) and hitting a boundary from the first ball and then going 7 not out (I realise this may alienate some readers!)

KoryoTours41 karma

Lost I mean, not 'list' apologies for bad spelling in this and any other posts

sleepingpie28 karma

Do the north koreans know you are doing this? And also could you grab me a souvenir ? Like a tshirt? us mens Large. That would be awesome

KoryoTours40 karma

I don't think anyone knows, nobody here to tell (its the middle of the night). Sorry I don't think I'm able to grab souvenirs all round, luggage is too heavy already!

oxeygen28 karma

Hey Guys! I've been following you on instagram for a while, very, very interesting to give use some insight in what's going on in NK. Also it was kinda "shocking" to me that uncensored internet and mobile phones with mobile data are just available for tourists :) One day, one day I will join you to a trip to NK :)

KoryoTours29 karma

thanks for following! it is odd given that I live in China, that NK would have unrestricted internet but this is just for foreigners after all and they don't care about us all that much! In some ways I miss not being engulfed by an internet black-hole when visiting but its nice to be able to stay in touch with friends, family, and office while here

parkmeeae19 karma

Would it be safe for a Korean American to take one of your tours?

KoryoTours28 karma

Yes, we take a good number of Korean Americans along. No problem at all

jonathanhalley18 karma


KoryoTours31 karma

best to get in contact with one of the NGOs and other organisations that are involved in that kind of work

CaptTemplar17 karma

Has there ever been an instance where any of the tourists in your group have gotten in trouble or upset authorities?

KoryoTours21 karma

no, we haven't had anyone arrested, kicked out, etc etc

beasters9017 karma

what is the public transit like in Pyongyang? Are the trains or busses on time? Is it free to use?

KoryoTours26 karma

not free. It costs 5 won (local money, 5 won is basically nothing though, it might as well be free) electricity shortages are still a fact of life and these can cause delays on trams, streetcars, subway etc but I don't have any real facts about the reliability of the public transport system. If you look at my instagram (linked above as my proof) there are some pictures I took yesterday on some trams and trolleybuses if you're interested

beasters9012 karma

thank you for the ama!

KoryoTours20 karma

my pleasure! thanks for tuning in! its nerve-wracking actually!

wowmuchdoge13 karma

1) How can you have internet? I thought there was only some kind of intranet that the people could access from the libraries?

2) How are you affiliated to the North-Korean government? I guess you have to know some people inside to start up a travel business?

3) Are there many people that try to escape from North-Korea? I saw a documentary once where a familly tried to escape, got caught and got sentenced to death. Is that still the case there?

Thanks again!

KoryoTours21 karma

  1. I have a 3g sim card for my phone. this isn't something available to the average North Korean though. As you rightly point out there is an intranet used by students, scientists, etc in libraries, schools and universities
  2. Not affiliated in any way. We have a local partner which is a state owned company, we don't do any business with the government nor do we have connections there. this isn't necessary when doing this kind of business at all
  3. this is outside of my expertise to be honest. I'd just be quoting the news like anyone else, sorry!

GeekyGamer0112 karma

How strict is the item selection? Like what items can I take and what am I strictly prohibited from taking?

KoryoTours22 karma

you can take most things now, including cell phones (previously not allowed) but they frown on GPS devices (I mean specifically those devices, not cameras, computers etc that also have GPS), books and material from South Korea too. Also if your luggage is totally made up of bibles customs may ask why too (religious material is allowed if its for personal use)

Joshy_osh11 karma

What does the water taste like?

KoryoTours30 karma

I'm not a big water drinker to be honest but it tastes alright I guess. The country is about 90% mountains so they do have a lot of spring water sources.

rankiwi11 karma

Because of your special relationship to North Korea are you allowed to wander around without a guide? If so, how do North Koreans usually react?

KoryoTours22 karma

not really. I'm subject tot he same laws as any non-resident visitors. I have some certain indefinable leeway though in terms of going off and doing different things. It isn't as sexy or exotic as it sounds though, mainly going and getting stuff for people, having the odd wander, rather than total free reign

radical0111 karma

Is it true that marijuana is some what legal there? Any encounters with it? or any drugs on the whole?

KoryoTours30 karma

no its not true. The article you're probably referring too seems to have been written by someone who didn't quite grasp the difference between rolling tobacco and weed. Still I guess if it gets you high its all good though right?

Abyjs11 karma

Which is your favourite of the three national leaders so far?

More seriously, was Kim Jong-Il ever really popular in his own right, or was it more because of who his dad was? How about Kim Jong-Un?

KoryoTours19 karma

Sorry I do make it a tendency not to comment on the country's leaders. They are an abstract issue for me as we don't deal with them and our work is in the private sector so they are not part of anything we have to deal with day to day.

2231adam10 karma

How is the public transportation in North Korea? And how well organised is it. I'm curious to know if N. Korea actually have metro, buses, trains and ect.

KoryoTours7 karma

Yes, there is a metro in Pyongyang and also trams, trolleybuses, and public buses as well (check my instagram for some pictures of them). No other cities have a metro but some have tram and trolleybus systems

DeathMetalFTW8810 karma

They know you're a foreigner right? I know North Koreans are led to believe they have it better than the rest of the world. Do they like, take pity on you I guess? Like, assume your life sucks and that you're really lucky for getting to come to best Korea?

KoryoTours45 karma

yeah they know I'm a foreigner. I'm 6 feet tall, white, and bald. I stick out a bit in a crowd of locals. They don't really believe they are better off than anyone else in material terms, its a bit more complicated than that

nprovein13 karma

What is your Nationality?

KoryoTours27 karma

I'm British

stuartjones9 karma

whats the tv like?

KoryoTours22 karma

in some hotels there are some international channels so if I turn it on I usually go for BBC World News myself but for the locals there is just the national channel (more than one on weekends) it is pretty dry stuff usually; news/propaganda, films (one foreign film every Saturday, otherwise all North Korean), cartoons, some cooking shows, weather, karaoke, exercise, etc. Its hard to watch for too long to be honest for anyone who is used to a wide range of channels

funkseoulbrotha8 karma

Will a US citizen of Korean descent be able to go on these tours or will I be scrutinized as a spy.

KoryoTours10 karma

no, this is no problem at all, we take in a good number of Korean Americans (and of course Koreans from Australia, UK, Canada, and elsewhere) Nobody will think you're a spy

whiteworld8 karma


KoryoTours14 karma

they are fine with that, actually a slightly derogatory word for foreigners is 'yellow head' A lot of people in PY have seen a lot of foreigners before so to be really unusual you have to have some mad hair, be exceptionally tall, something like that, basically peacock it a bit

Vandirian8 karma

I have a question I have never seen answered. In the DPRK Cannabis is completely legal, what are the chances of acquiring some while visiting?

KoryoTours10 karma

sorry but its zero, that stuff in the article wasn't weed, and it isn't actually legal. Its not something many people really know anything about here though

cbl52578 karma

Will I ever be able to bring amateur radio equipment for use during a visit? Most of the ham radio ops in the world would love to work a P5 station.

KoryoTours14 karma

This is something I have looked into quite deeply actually; no it isn't possible to do this at the present time, There have been a couple of cases of people doing this but it was mainly a guy from the UN who did it some years ago and another chap in the free trade area in the 90s for about 5 mins. I would hope that it becomes permitted soon but it isn't something that can happen at the moment

thehypervigilant8 karma

Hi! My question is do they have "normal" things there like fast food places or restaurants?

KoryoTours17 karma

There are restaurants (and a handful of fast food ones too, only in Pyongyang in this case though). most people rarely go to restaurants though, its cheaper to cook at home and cost is a major issue for most people. Still there are more restaurants in the major cities than people expect. Don't forget though that most people in this country are farmers, miners, fishermen etc. They basically never go to restaurants

KikiFlowers8 karma

What are some things that are big No No's? Besides speaking badly about the Government.

KoryoTours21 karma

that's the main one, for tourists wandering off is discouraged, as is proselytising

saafend8 karma

What are your views on the fact you are providing tacit financial support for a government widely known around the globe for having appaling human rights? How can you morally justify it?

KoryoTours28 karma

this question starts with an assumption that I would disagree with to be honest. We are an apolitical company and don't offer support, tacitly or otherwise, to the government here. We attempt and have done for 20 years, to encourage as much human to human interaction as possible. We believe that maximising the amount of contact between North Koreans and foreigners can help to humanise each side (and they have a very very bad view of foreigners, as we often do of them of course) and with any luck lead to more understanding. I wouldn't describe it completely as diplomacy but a similar idea. The work is supported by a lot of NGOs, embassies, government organisations and so on so its not as wildly controversial as you might think, and going somewhere certainly does not imply support for the government of the place you're going to In no case is this true. Hope that helps! I answered this in a bit more depth in the last AMA I did by the way

twat697 karma

Is the government monitoring all this? I thought only specially selected people in closely monitored libraries got access to the real internet in North Korea. How did you get them to agree to it? Do they have anything like Golden Shield (aka the great firewall of China http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_shield#Technical_implementation)?

Are there certain words that if we use here would likely get you cut off?

KoryoTours4 karma

no, I have internet access through my phone. there isn't anything like the Chinese system and I'm not being monitored, you can say whatever you like

SelflessGaming6 karma

Have you read "Escape from camp 14" and if you have, did it affect your views on the country?

KoryoTours15 karma

I have the book but haven't read it yet (my girlfriend is reading it, I'm next in the line!), I've heard its very good though. To be honest I don't expect to learn so much from it as I do know a fair amount already plus it is a novel after all. Anyway I'll reserve judgement of course as I haven't actually read it yet!

createdaily6 karma

I recently read an article about methamphetamine use rising in North Korea. Is there any truth to the idea the North Korea is becoming hooked on meth?

KoryoTours9 karma

maybe, honestly though I have never encountered it and when I have asked people I know about it they don't know what I am talking about. This isn't too strange though as most people I know could be vaguely described as being middle class and not the target demographic for meth

Tacos_Bitch6 karma

What's your favorite thing to do in North Korea?

KoryoTours17 karma

boring as it may sound I like hanging out with the people I know here and learning about what's going on in their loves. Hearing any family news or gossip, sharing info and opinions, that kind of thing. Lazy I know! (I should have said hiking or something like that)

Bachman_charles5175 karma

Wait What How?

KoryoTours7 karma

I run this company www.koryogroup.com its my job to be here quite frequently. Right now I'm up late and nothing interesting on TV so thought this might be fun

Uberwomensch5 karma

Is there any chance of an uprising by the North Korean people against their government? (of course this is on the assumption that they are aware of their government's oppression in the first place)

after reading the waitbutwhy article about the writer's time in North Korea, I've been interested in discovering whether or not the people wholeheartedly believed in their government. The pictures gave me goosebumps! Seeing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in almost every corner is not a pretty sight

KoryoTours27 karma

To be honest there is no way to come on a trip and find out something like that beyond a reasonable doubt and in many ways its a bit of a tabula rasa on which anyone can project what they ant to see. so there are visitors who have decided they will see a crushed population living in fear, and thee are those who dearly want to see an egalitarian socialist state with everyone working together. In each case (and all other inbetween (those are extremes) people can see what they want. Its very hard to be objective. And of course for the purposes of putting something online or telling stories to friends there is a natural human tendency to make things a bit more extreme than they may have been

zeimbo5 karma

Do the chickens have large talons?

KoryoTours5 karma

is this a reddit thing that I have missed out on by being in North Korea for the last few days? is it alright if I say I don't know?

jennybento4 karma

how do you reconcile giving money to the NK government? I'd like to go but minimizing the money the regime gets would be key for me. Or am I overestimating how much of it actually goes to them? How much do they charge for a night in the hotel, for example?

KoryoTours7 karma

I've answered the first part of this broadly a couple of times below. I would point out that we don't give money to the government. We don't 'give' money to anyone in fact, We purchase goods and services from various organisations and they remit a percentage of income to the central government (tax), the exact amounts I do not know Not enough to keep them in power though, that's for sure. Probably not even enough to fund the construction of any of the hotels that have been built. The funds we spend though do employ a great many people in tourism and tourism-related fields, they do help to increase the numbers of people with regular exposure to foreigners as well, the number of people working with foreign visitors has increased greatly over the years. They of course share gossip and information with friends, family, etc. We see this as a very good thing indeed.

BobSlydelsTongue4 karma

Which Korea is the best Korea?

KoryoTours6 karma

I was waiting for this one!

ClungeCreeper3214 karma

How much does the infulence of the kims effect the everyday person, like is their life much different from your average american or european? Ive heard of the restrictions on media and internet and things but Ive always assumed that they live happy lives in their wee bubble. Am I far off?

KoryoTours7 karma

Its very hard to say this with any certainty to be honest and of course in any country at all, especially one with more than 24 million people, there is a wide variety of life experiences. I would say (vague I know) that it affects people in different ways, for many people their lives are mostly about farming, working, mining, and the hard jobs they have to do in a poor country. For people involved in more political jobs then it is more of a day to day focus on issues relating to the leaders. Bt regardless of this across the board they are a constant presence in everyone's lives

wowmuchdoge4 karma

From what you've seen, do the people really believe the whole story about their country/leaders/unicorns and how it is so good compared to the evil rest of the world?

Thanks for doing this AMA!

KoryoTours12 karma

they believe on different levels I would say (by the way nobody believes in Unicorns, its a slight bit of misreporting) everyone I know subscribes to the general national meta-narratives of Koreans being the best people, Korea being best, reunification being the primary goal of all Koreans, that kind of thing but in the minutiae different people take different things at face value and sometimes as metaphors. It is easy to make fun of them of course but most of the more nutty pronouncements are meant as fables rather than literal truth

jesuslol4 karma

KoryoTours7 karma

no. I've answered this a bit below and more has been written online. The product in question is actually tobacco and can be found very easily in the markets (that specific market any tourists can visit, the bank also despite what it says in the article itself). I would imagine it is an honest mistake though (I have heard it is most likely a translation error, one word used for dirty rolling baccy in the North is a slang word for weed in the South) but if it gets you high then why not try it anyway! its cheap too!

Mikeydoes4 karma

What types of things has Kim Jong-Un done to help North Koreans? -Are there any positives that become available from to him being in power that weren't there with with Kim Jong-Il?

How many years do you think before the North and South will be at peace?

What percentage of North Koreans are educated to the outside world-- as in they understand that Kim jung-un is not a God, and tht there is more to life than what their government is currently allowing them?

KoryoTours4 karma

Sorry I don't want to ignore this very interesting question but its not really for me to answer. I couldn't comment with any hope of being remotely accurate. I'm sure there are experts (or at least those willing to claim to be so) who are happy to have a stab at those questions though. Sorry to let you down

MonetaryFlame4 karma

Can you list all thousand proxys that you are currently using?

KoryoTours7 karma

my computer is set to use Astrill, but that's more for China than here as a lot of sites I use regularly are blocked in China. no need to sue one here

perspicatic3 karma


KoryoTours15 karma

My English is good (although being British I may sound funny to some), my Chinese is alright (conversational I would say), my Korean is crappy though, and like almost everyone else I can manage some of the easier French, German, Russian, etc

CabraCorpse3 karma

Have any of your tours ever been ushered off or cancelled due to military/political activities? ie parade, execution etc? Also, are you personally aware of any events that have transpired that were improperly reported in the media or propagandized?

KoryoTours4 karma

not really, that's not really anything that affects tourism and we've been here in the country during all the recent big events such as nuclear tests, the island shelling etc and it hasn't had any affect on tourism at all. The only time we were not allowed to bring tours I the last decade was in 2003 when SARS in Beijing caused the closure of the border for about 3 months

ShinjukuAce3 karma

What has changed in North Korea over the last ten years?

On a private tour, is there any way to see more of everyday life in North Korea instead of just monuments? I know they aren't going to let people see prison camps and things like that, but is there a way to see non-fake factories, farms, and residential areas, and to interact at least somewhat with the people there?

KoryoTours3 karma

good question, the access is the same on a group or private tour. Actually I have never been to a fake factory, farm, or residential area, I have been to real ones of all the above though and they are possible for any visitor that we take in. I would suggest dropping me an email on [email protected] and I can reply at more length, sorry I can't write it all out here, time constraints!

Salacious-3 karma

If I recall correctly, don't you all have a guide that watches you all the time? What would the North Koreans do if you just ran away from the guide or somehow escaped? Is that a crime, or would they just send you home or something?

KoryoTours12 karma

Its basally more of a problem for the guides than for the person doing the running away, the way it works is that the guides are essentially the mum and dad of their tourists during the trip and are responsible for everything done by their charges on the tour. This of course disincentivises people from getting up to no good as unless you're a sociopath you're unlikely to want to deliberately cause problems for someone else rather than yourself

KoryoTours10 karma

Oh I should clarify a little; the guides don't watch you all the time, the guides are there to show you around, translate, etc. I know there is a common belief that they are all spies and so on and I don't want to ruin anyone's sexy holiday story but this isn't really the case. If you visit on a major political delegation then its maybe a bit different Tourists are pretty low on the food chain though

woohoo553 karma

you mentioned that South Koreans aren't permitted in North korea, but what about westerners who are of Korean descent?

KoryoTours3 karma

yeah no problem. You just can't travel on an ROK passport, any other passport is fine

Jolte3 karma

Do they mention Dennis Rodman in North Korea a lot by any chance?

KoryoTours3 karma

not all that much actually. He was very big news and everyone was talking about him when he was here though. Everyone knows who he is though, he's probably the most famous foreigner in the country these days

utopiah3 karma

I actually checked before your AMA the possibility to go a bit after Xmas and couldn't find any flight. Now I saw your previous AMA where you said that between the 15th of December and January it is problematic to go. Why is it? Is it only related to the weather?

KoryoTours3 karma

actually this has changed now. you can go year round. We have a tour going this year over new year which will be the first time tourists have ever been here at that time of year. I'll be going along on that one too

joespornos3 karma

What's the worst thing you've seen a tourist do in terms of causing trouble? What was the consequence?

Alternatively, what is the worst thing a tourist could do?

KoryoTours6 karma

its a bit lightweight I know but the worst I have seen someone do is bang an ancient drum with their flip-flop, it was a major foul and got a lot of shocked gasps from the Koreans. That's the worst I have seen someone sober do, sometimes people get drunk and then...well, you know how people get. But in terms of political acts people don't really do those on tours; it isn't worth it as its someone else who gets into trouble and nobody is really up for causing problems for someone else, especially not in a place like this. As for the worst thing a tourist could possibly do I guess something wildly disrespectful to the country's leaders would be considered pretty unforgivable by the locals. As to what that may involve I leave it to you to imagine, this is Reddit after all!

homeskilet923 karma

What is the perception among North Koreans of their lifestyle compared to that of other nations? What is it like to be in Pyongyang, like how does it feel?

KoryoTours10 karma

as ever its impossible to generalise and be totally accurate but all the people I know (and by extension all the people they know) are fully aware that almost everywhere else is better off materially and financially. They take some solace in concepts such as national unity, the struggle against a perception of outside threats, etc things like that. As for what its like to be in Pyongyang I don't want to be blasé about it but I do come here a lot. Still there is a slightly odd feeling that it somehow can't be quite real and even now I sometimes look around and think 'wow! Pyongyang!' especially when I am here and see some news reports about North Korea on the TV (I mean on international TV in this case)

BobLeBoeuf2 karma

How are you online in Pyongyang? I thought that internet use even for tourists was not allowed.

KoryoTours5 karma

3g sim card. it is possible for foreigners to get these now. Its very expensive though, I'm hoping my balance holds out long enough for me to answer as many questions as possible

GymResultChick2 karma

1)Is there pron made in NK? Are there condoms available? What is the dating life there and any special social quirks? 2)Do you feel safe? 3)Are there any amusement parks? I've been to Everland in SK 4)RIP

KoryoTours8 karma

  1. not that I know of. I haven't seen condoms for sale in shops either but it may be like the UK in the 50s where they were bought under the counter in barber shops, something like that as for dating life I have answered this a bit below just now
  2. Yes, its perfectly safe to visit here, I've been here a lot of ties and have never felt in any danger
  3. Yes there are three main funfairs in Pyongyang
  4. Thanks, I guess....

AtomicDan2 karma

How long do you believe it will be before there is a major change to the way North Korea is run, if there will be a change at all?

KoryoTours1 karma

honestly no idea, sorry!

shakensunshine1 karma

What's your favorite thing about North Korea?

KoryoTours4 karma

lame I know but the people, I really enjoy watching the people we know grow up, start families, get promoted, retire, and all points in between

UniqueError1 karma

How is it like there? Is it like they tell us; rainbows, unicorns and eternal happiness?

KoryoTours1 karma

no. But to be fair they don't claim that there are unicorns (sorry internet!) the situation is of course more complicated than it is usually presented but there are undoubtedly a lot of very major issues that have been going on for much too long. That said there is life here too. most people spend their days working, thinking about their family, how to make money, what to do in spare time, telling their kids to study hard and to tidy their rooms, that kind of stuff

josuegruiz1 karma

Your religious beliefs? if there are any. Thanks!

KoryoTours1 karma

I don't have any. I'm not sure if that's really relevant though but I'm happy to answer

TheRD101Person1 karma

Is there anything noticeably different non-politically there, such as different foods, fauna, etc.?

KoryoTours1 karma

there are, different to where though? the fauna is regular for this part of the world (although the do claim there are a lot more wild tiger than there really are!) but the food is very different to western countries at least

BananaToy1 karma

why are people confined to the pre-set tour and not allowed outside it to roam around and interact with locals?

KoryoTours4 karma

I can't tell you the exact answer as it isn't known to me (actually all tours are not the same, so its not a pre-set cookie cutter thing but once an itinerary is determined then it is supposed to be adhered to, also there is some interaction that is possible but I do know what you mean) - this is an issue with national tourism law and the government's policy on what visitors can and can't do. yes it is very restrictive and yes it is easing up a bit and I do hope that before long it will be possible to travel as freely as anywhere else. Still this is sadly not the case. We do what we can to push for more though

halloweenjack1 karma

Just checked your Instagram so I know that the Ryugyong Hotel isn't open. I've read that in the past it's either been Photoshopped on official pictures to look as if it's been worked on more than it has or occupiable, or simply ignored. What's the situation like now? Do they at least acknowledge it in conversation?

KoryoTours2 karma

actually neither of those claims is remotely true to the best of my knowledge. In the book the Complete Idiot's Guide to North Korea it is claimed that tour guides simply deny it is there. This is total nonsense and has never been true (and is an odd claim to make by its very reputable authors). Guides have always been happy to talk about the Ryugyong, as long as I've been coming here at least

GymResultChick1 karma

Have you seen any homeless people? What are the worst conditions you've seen?

KoryoTours3 karma

I've not had direct experience of the worst standards of life in the country. of course everyone knows they exist but they are not visible to visitors basically. the worst that I have seen are people who have been stunted by severe malnutrition (mostly the famine in the 1990s) and people who are simply very very poor. Also the kids in an orphanage we visit, while well looked-after by very diligent staff, could always do with more nutrition, we try to help them out as much as we can and there are a lot of international organisations both big and small helping people in many different ways

Solunatics1 karma

Hi. I wonder how you started running tours to NK, and why NK of all places? :)

KoryoTours1 karma

How we got started is listed on our website at www.koryogroup.com and why NK? basically its the most interesting place in the region in my opinion. Everyone has heard of it and knows something about it, yet it remains a place with very very few visitors or experience on the ground

Rambo_Brit31 karma

How easy is it for someone in N. Korea to travel outside the country? Like lets say you wanted to just visit the US, is it easy or a pain in the ass? Are other countries easier to access?

Assuming that you have traveled away from N. Korea, which countries have you gone to?

KoryoTours3 karma

I'm not a North Korean so I assume answering the second part of the question might be a bit of a waste. Its very hard for people to travel, although more people do than you would expect, however the number of people going abroad for holidays and leisure is exceptionally small indeed. most people who go abroad do so for work, trade, diplomatic missions. By far the largest number are workers doing jobs such as logging, fish processing, construction work in Russia, this is very common and there must be tens of thousands of North Koreans doing those jobs. Also common around the world are North Korean restaurants with NK staff, also they have a lot of Embassies and trading companies, as well as a fishing and commercial fleet (as anyone watching the new recently about panama will know!) so when you fly or train out of the country you always meet students going abroad, sports teams, businesspeople, etc and its more than expected, but the absolute numbers are still very very low indeed

KoryoTours3 karma

sorry I missed one part there; visiting the US is the hardest for North Koreans. Due basically to the relationship between the two countries (it isn't very good) there is a NK mission at the UN in NYC though and there have been academic exchanges too

GymResultChick1 karma

What do they do with people who are born with defects? Have you ever seen anyone who was mentally or physically handicapped? Do they have computer or cell phones being sold to residents?

KoryoTours3 karma

Cell phones are very common now, over 2 million have been sold in this country of course the cost is prohibitive to much of the population but in Pyongyang now its rare to see someone without one. Computers are often sold in shops, usually they are second had ones from China, people seem to have a massive fear of them being riddled with viruses as well. As for disabled people it is common to see people with amputations (usually leg) in Pyongyang and elsewhere, mental disabilities not so much, I would guess I have seen someone who visibly had down's syndrome maybe 3 times in total though. I do know of an orphanage for kids with that problem though and we've done work to provide playground equipment there (by the way we can of course recommend charities with very worthy small projects that people can fund, email for any questions on this). There is also a Korea confederation for the Disabled which we have worked with in providing the first braille dictionaries printed here in decades (the old ones were almost all worn out and the paper was so low grade that almost nobody could read them) but in general you see less disabled people than elsewhere


That is pretty cool! My friend went there not to long ago to shoot some parkour segments for his parkour company. How is your trip so far? How is the food over there?

KoryoTours2 karma

the trip is going well thanks, all good! food is fine (although today I had spaghetti for lunch and Chinese food for dinner, not the most Korean day!)

Hockeyloogie1 karma

What is the general idea of other democratic countries, including those in the east?

KoryoTours2 karma

They tend to take the view that they don't really care what other countries do. This does fit with their policy of being annoyed at other countries' meddling in what they see as internal affairs after all. So I guess most people here if given the choice would prefer that most places embrace 'Juche oriented socialism' but they know that this isn't going to happen

gnujack1 karma

During the Cold War, people said that you could trade denim to Soviet citizens for an inflated price because that product was so hard to find there. Is there any product from the west that North Koreans seem to value in the same way?

KoryoTours3 karma

not really. Although foreign cigarettes are prized here They can be bought in shops and on the street though but they are always very much appreciated as gifts and of course can be traded onwards

Nanowith1 karma

How are you using the internet freely enough to use Reddit? Will you get in trouble if they find out you did this?

KoryoTours2 karma

I have a 3g sim card. No I wont get into trouble for this. no problem!

kerenski6671 karma

Is it possible to connect to the North's intra-net as a tourist, or "only" to the internet?

Also, thanks for doing this ama, nice job.

KoryoTours2 karma

thanks! sorry it isn't possible to connect to the intranet as a tourist, You can have a quick look when visiting places that are hooked up to it but not possible to access in general