Went to North Korea as a tourist 2 months ago. I saw quite a lot there and I am willing to share that experience with you all. I have also smuggled some less than legal photos and even North Korean banknotes out of the country! Ask me anything! EDIT: More photos:

38th parallel up close:



kids dancing in Mangyongdae Children's Palace:


Pyongyang metro:




North Koreans rallying in support of the new policies of the party:


EDIT 2: Military personal:



Playing W:RD in North Korea:


My Proof: http://imgur.com/a/FgOcg The banknote: http://imgur.com/a/h8eqN

Comments: 3877 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

beamingontheinside1394 karma

Did you get sick from the food? I heard some tourists get sick from the seafood there.

bustead1567 karma

Didn't try seafood so I don't know about that. However I can tell you that food is more than enough for all of us. We were stuffed from the first meal to the last. While it was not the best in the world, it is certainly good. For example this is what we ate in Kaesong, a city near 38th line: http://imgur.com/a/7ToJ8 Steamed insam chicken big enough for 3 people to share.

Boelrecci2154 karma

Sounds like kimmy put you up for this

bustead1888 karma

Well some may think it is all a show. I think it is just how the top 0.1% in North Korea spend their lives.

supernoonafangirl1313 karma

Will they "punish" you if you refuse to bow to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il's statues?

bustead2383 karma

Yes. You will be asked again to bow. If you refuse again you will:

  1. Be locked in your hotel room for the entirety of the trip and be sent home knowing that you will never be able to go to DPRK again.

  2. Be forced to write a letter explaining your actions and apologizing to "the people of DPRK" and give that to your guides. They may also get into trouble for your actions.

If you fail to write that letter or if you do anything more to incite DPRK further, you maybe arrested and by that point, you will most likely be sentenced to hard labor or shot.

KomeradObnobs790 karma

Did they tell you this?

bustead2026 karma

I was told that on a briefing section held by the travel company.

TTTT27965 karma

How many days did you stay there?

Were you on an organized tour or what? Did you have any chance to just walk around on your own?

Do you speak any Korean?

bustead1354 karma

  1. I stayed there for 5 days. 4 in Pyongyang and 1 in Kaesong (a city near 38th parallel). Pyongyang is relatively modern but Kaesong was a nightmare. Can you imagine a "hotel" with no power or water supply?

  2. Yes I was on a tour. In fact you cannot go in alone as far as I know. We didn't get any chance to walk around with no supervision but we did walk around in the streets in Pyongyang. It was a rather unbelievable experience and I saw more than I expected. The other "free" session is the visit to a shopping mall owned by the Chinese. (Most likely a mall reserved for the elites). We were allowed to shop there and had quite some fun.

  3. No I do not.

raventhon293 karma

What tour company did you go with?

bustead648 karma

I can't tell you that as I don't want to cause them any trouble (I am a smuggler right?) but I can recommend a Hong Kong based company for you:


funknut303 karma

Hopefully no one will recognize it based on the details you already supplied from your itinerary. Not suggesting you delete your post, but maybe if you think it might be necessary.

bustead291 karma

I may if I am to go back to NK in a later date. We will see

Yukos2 karma

"In fact you cannot go in alone as far as I know"

What a wonderful country! You should tell us more about how it isn't as bad as we think.

bustead0 karma

You get lots of food (no I am serious), a hot lady to be your guide and you can see how "American imperialists invaded our fatherland and we kicked their A$$" in a museum. What's not to like?

Glorious_Kim_Jong_Un800 karma

Did you enjoy my glorious country?

bustead512 karma

Of course Great Marshal! I enjoyed it so much that I can get my daily ration of grassroots!

lirannl645 karma

Were you ever worried for your safety/life?

Do they still put up this big show of perfection?

Have you managed to truly interact with any North Koreans, or was it all just a part of the show?

bustead1015 karma

  1. I did worry about my life when I was on my way out because I was carrying lots of photos (legal and illegal ones), the banknotes and a laptop with a game that is banned in NK. I was really scared when I went through the border checks but I made it out alive :D

  2. Well I would say they tried their best to present their best to us. For instance we went to a theme park in Pyongyang at night. When we got there the park was about to be closed but after a small discussion with our guides, the workers started the rides again just for us. Is it a big show? Well that's up to your own judgement.

  3. I did went to a local football school and talked to kids there. They pretended that they do not understand English and ignored us. What I can say is we got our A$$ kicked by some 11 year old kids in a friendly match!

lirannl290 karma

Why did you think that they understand English? Also, I'm not surprised that they ignored your attempts to communicate. Who knows what would be done to them if they did communicate with someone from the "sad world" without permission?

Have you been to South Korea? If so, how would you compare the people? If not, did your visit to North Korea make you think about South Korea any differently? Did it make you want to visit it more or less?

Have you watched The Interview? What's your opinion of that movie? (Obviously it's not realistic at all, no need to point that out, but I'm still curious to know what you think about it)

bustead289 karma

  1. We got into an English class and their books were about basic English grammar. It is reasonable for us to assume that they speak English. On a side note, adult students in the Grand People's Study House responded to our questions. I still remember that a middle aged woman (who is very attractive) told me that she was an accountant. Her English seems perfect to me and she seemed to be happy with her life.

  2. Well I think some North Koreans know that the world outside is not as bad as they were told to be. One of our guides is the daughter of a diplomat (who is now in Europe) so she speaks a number of European languages and she seems to know the world quite well. I guess the elites were most likely happy with their lives even though they knew about the outside world. Or maybe they only knew parts of it and with fragmented information, they really are as uninformed as we think they are.

  3. No I have not been to SK. Can't comment on that.

  4. The interview is funny but I guess it is too nonsensical for anyone above age of 13 to take it seriously. Apparently Great Marshal Kim jong Un somehow did so

HuecoTanks36 karma

What game on your laptop!?

bustead96 karma

Wargame red dragon. A realistic military RTS

FriedOctopusBacon28 karma

a laptop with a game that is banned in NK. I was really scared when I went through the border checks but I made it out alive :D

What we're the security checks like on the way out, and what game?

bustead59 karma

They search your bags and computers randomly by hand and my copy of wargame red dragon escaped from being launched :D

Dryu_nya14 karma

What was your contingency plan if they didn't like something they found?

bustead43 karma

To delete all my photos and take away my stuff. Really that's all I can do. Come to think of it I was beyond stupid

SumAustralian216 karma

For your first question, North Korea is one of the safest countries to visit, simply because you are watched 100% time.

bustead459 karma

One of my friends left a smartphone in a pizza restaurant. He got it back 4 hours later. That will not happen in Vietnam!

funknut143 karma

How was North Korean pizza?

bustead317 karma

Tasted real pale comparing to the American counterpart. The fruit slices on them tasted odd but hey, at least you can listen to NK propaganda songs while you eat!

plantsgrow600 karma

How much did your tour trip cost?

bustead768 karma

Less than $1200. Inculding the flight to Shenyang, where we met up with the group travelling there

Creativity_Rater501 karma

Everyone talks about how authoritarian the NK regime is, lots of government involvement in peoples lives. When you were there, did you see a lot of government influence? If you did, what was the craziest thing that the government tried to influence?

bustead898 karma

You have no idea how crazy it is. You will have to bow to every Kim Il Sung statue in doors and you better be respectful to the "Eternal President", "Dear Leader" and "Great Marshal". By the way this is a photo of North Koreans rallying in support of the new policies of the party:


This is what you see in North Korea whenever there is a major event. We were stunned by the sheer scale of people standing there praising their leader. Our guide told us that she had done the same back in high school so I guess this is rather common in NK

doroquad212 karma

So would you say the people genuinely love their leader given the numbers at those rallies?

bustead457 karma

Some may I guess. Heavy propaganda+good life=genuine loyalty to Kim. Most people in NK will most likely not be able to enjoy that sort of living standards though.

9kz7137 karma

Wait, tourists have to bow too? Really?

bustead316 karma

Yea. Unless you want to write a letter to "apologize to the people of DPRK"

Blue--Heron414 karma

What were the people like towards you? We're they hostile or very friendly? Where did you stay? I imagine there aren't too many hotels in an isolationist country.

bustead571 karma

  1. Some of them were friendly (eg the accountant I met in the grand people's study house) but some just outright ignore you (eg students in the football school). See above for my answer.

  2. I stayed in 2 hotels: yanggakdo international hotel in Pyongyang and a traditional hotel in Kaesong. Yanggakdo international hotel is decent (certainly not the best but definitely passable) with a casino (yes casino), swimming pools, bowling alley... Basically a well rounded hotel. The one in Kaesong though was a nightmare. The bathtub was broken and only hot water (>70°C) came out of the tap. The power went out 5 times in a row during the night and there were so many insects that I found a mosquito in my soup

ge_du_ma_sw_eol250 karma

Is it scary?

bustead412 karma

Part of it is. Apart from the train ride home (seen above for how I smuggled the money and photos out) I would say the 38th line was very tense. Guards everywhere and we were yelled at by one of them when we had to get out from one of the blue houses. He was clearly annoyed at our slow pace:


Chalupabatman19229 karma

Did you find out if supreme leader actually poops or not?

bustead314 karma

Nope. I am not allowed to question the authority of NK propaganda... I mean news reports.

FooperQ224 karma

Any fake stores like in The Interview?

bustead731 karma

too many to count. They said the Kim Il Sung visited a farm and the rice there grew 300% faster after he left.

bloke911203 karma

What was the your scariest or most intense moment you had while in NK?

bustead499 karma

When I was on my way out, I stuffed the NK banknotes into a pillow (I took a train out and there were beds on the train) and stored all my photos into my extra SD card (which is stuffed into the same pillow). The guard came in at the checkpoint and asked me to turn on my laptop for inspection. He then sat next to my pillow and start clicking on my destop randomly. Luckily he didn't find my SD card or my banknotes, otherwise I guess I would have made international news.

gibbet_nitwit170 karma

How were the people there? Did they treat you any differently from what you expected?
Also how was the food?

bustead251 karma

As for people there, well they treated us like we were part of the top 0.1%. They gave us the best service in a pathetic attempt to brainwash us I guess.

bustead168 karma

Food is, as I said above, more than enough. In the first night in Pyongyang we had dinner in our hotel and we were surprised by the quantity of food they were offering. I was stuffed after the first round but then they served us a second round. I did felt guilty that we didn't finish all of the food, especially while we were in NK

MeeKs19148 karma

How did you smuggle the note out?

bustead233 karma

Stuff it into a pillow next to my SD card. The border guard actually sat next to the pillow when he was checking my laptop. Luckily he didn't check my pillow :D

SpaceVik1ng136 karma

Did you hear any mainstream music or media over there?

bustead214 karma

I have found yellow submarine somewhere in the grand people's study house, as well as some old Chinese songs. NK citizens can also watch selected Chinese TV programs (eg CCTV documentary about World war 2) but that's about it. You can, however, watch RT, BBC and CCTV programs in your hotel room.

stopcallingmepeter126 karma

I hope you didn't already answer this but what are some things we outsiders believe about North Korea that are false.

What were the people you met like?

bustead387 karma

  1. People tend to think that everyone in DPRK is poor as F*** but in reality some parts of Pyongyang can be rich! For example see here:


Looks modern enough to me. Of course it is reserved for the elites.

  1. They are more knowledgeable than I thought. They spoke good English (or Chinese) and some of them can be friendly. I would say people I met in grand people's study house seemed to be good people to me. The guides are friendly and funny either! I remember one of our guides got drunk with us. We taught her to swear in Chinese and Russian and she started her oral practice immediately by cursing her ex for 5 minutes non-stop!

TheSkilledPlaya107 karma

Is the rumor about paid actor citizens true? Were the general public always looking uncomfortable?

bustead162 karma

Err I doubt if it is. You can't just pay a ton of people to be actors and do nothing but to impress tourists. The people we were allowed to speak to were elites and people who are well fed and educated. They are loyal to the Party and the rulers so there is really no need to hire actors. Besides we didn't have a chance to speak to people in Kaesong, where the "everyday North Koreans" are so yeah, I didn't see anything odd but I would say didn't even see the tip of the iceberg of NK

Zjurc174 karma

There was a photographer who did a lot of shots of his visit in NK and claims that there are massive amounts of actors and even provided photos of a train station. With a lot of busy-looking people just hurrying to catch their train. Beautiful, well dressed people. Only problem? The only train that arrived was the tourist train. No other traffic was happening. Yet there are people acting like there is.

It's lovely that you call them "elites" but honestly I don't think there are any besides the military

bustead147 karma

I think the people that I saw were not actors. They maybe told how to act in front of tourists but they are by no means deviating too much from their daily lives (or at least that's what they want me to see). A notable exception is the men in sunglasses/suits who acted really awkward (eg a 50-year-old man pretending to play computer games while spying at us) and to be honest they are the worst spies I have ever met.

Oh on a side note, there are 2 lines in Pyongyang metro and we were allowed to visit one only. However I saw people boarding the adjacent line in one of the stations so I doubt if all those people are really actors.

coconutting123 karma

A notable exception is the men in sunglasses/suits who acted really awkward (eg a 50-year-old man pretending to play computer games while spying at us) and to be honest they are the worst spies I have ever met.

I'm imagining a Kim Jong Il-type wearing a pair of these

bustead61 karma

Totally not suspicious, professional DPRK spy gear!

hot_coffee76 karma

  1. What can imperialist swines do to be more like great Korea?

  2. What can imperialist swine leaders do to imitate success of our Glorious Leader?

bustead104 karma

  1. Start by using all their money on nukes instead of feeding their own people. Then build death camps everywhere.

  2. The glorious leader can never be imitated!

rugby_league65 karma

What was your favourite Nth Korean meal?

bustead62 karma

Steamed insam chicken! That tasted real good but you cannot finish that alone. Better share one every 3 people or so!


anon010813 karma

I just gotta ask, with all the places in the planet that are not totalitarian shitholes, why did you pick a totalitarian shithole?

bustead5 karma

Explained above.

Ayyylien11 karma

Why did you even go to North Korea?

bustead9 karma

Because I want to see what DPRK really is from with in?

alexmc702 karma

Have you seen the Vice episode "Hermit Kingdom"? If so did you get a similar experience and vibe?

bustead2 karma

haven't watch it so I can't really comment. Do you have a summary for it?

alexmc706 karma

Vice actually set up the Dennis Rodman and Harlem Globe Trotters basketball game that everyone heard about. Before and after the game they were taken on tours around the country. It was chilling to watch because everything seemed so artificial. An example is when they went to a computer lab and people were doing "research" but everyone was just staring at the google home page. The only person that was actually typing a paper was the only person they were allowed to talk to. There are more examples I could give you if you are interested, but the whole thing was just really strange.

bustead1 karma

I went to a science park and I did find a few odd men staring at us wherever we went. Other than that though I didn't find anything odd. I believe that the "actors" are only used when western media is there?

cool_slowbro2 karma

How do you feel about the fact that you helped fund the NK regime?

bustead0 karma

As I said, I was there to show them that it is easier to earn money from tourist instead of building nukes. If they understand that one day they may reform their Economy and drop their isolationist attitudes.

__nightshaded__7 karma

This is such a bullshit answer. You didn't show them anything. You're no different or special than the thousands of other tourists who did the exact same thing and supported their regime.

But hey, you get to brag to all of your friends on Facebook about your "exotic" trip.

bustead0 karma

Well you pay your taxes. Does that mean you supported CIA torture and NSA surveillance program?

hi12345654321-2 karma

Did you have consensual sex with any of the women?

bustead5 karma

Unfortunately I didn't have any sex. Perhaps you can try?

raventhon-11 karma

How long was your tour? Do you feel like a douchebag for taking prohibited photos? How much karma do you want to receive from this awesome once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Did you even leave Pyongyang?

tl;dr I'm salty because I also just got back from the DPRK and I bet I had more fun than you did

bustead2 karma

Haha where did you go? I stayed for 5 days (4 in Pyongyang and 1 in Kaesong). If I can choose again though, I would have chosen 4 day package instead. I had to visit a farm and help the farmers there to plant rice in the 5th day. It was hard and dirty work and the worst part is I paid extra for doing it!

As for taking photos, I guess it is very hard for a military geek to stop himself from taking photos of BTR-50 APCs so I took them anyway :D

raventhon2 karma

I spent 8 days there, Hamhung, Wonsan, Pyongyang. Some cool beach time.

bustead2 karma

Damn that's cool! Did you go to 38th line?

raventhon0 karma

Oh, yeah - drank beers up on the balcony overlooking the DMZ, which was pretty swank.

If you go back, I really recommend going with Young Pioneer Tours - www.youngpioneertours.com/tour/photography-pyongyang-metro-tour/ is the tour I went on, and the price point seems a lot better than what you paid.

bustead2 karma

Hmm right. I have heard of that before. If I am going into DPRK again with my crush this is definitely in my watch list.