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dutchct983 karma

Our driver was a very aggressive driver. For whatever reason he wanted to get everywhere as fast as possible. That combined with sketchy North Korean roads made for some hair raising moments.

Since a lot of the roads are super old and made of concrete, they were really in bad shape; frost heaves, large cracks and pot holes. The driver would be so aggressive he would chirp the tires when braking and turning.

Additionally a lot of the pedestrians there aren't used to cars because they're aren't that many cars outside the cities. They don't look before they cross and often don't seem to hear us coming.

We had a few moments were we almost hit cyclists, children, pedestrians. This all came to a head in Hamhung (a city on the east coast). We were tearing down the road and there was a large crowd of people crossing the road. They slowly start to open up as we approach.. except one guy decided he wanted to play chicken with. As we race toward him he just stands there, staring at us. The driver realizes he's not moving, brakes and swerves. Everybody in the car looks back as we pass him to see if we hit him and he's still standing there looking at us. We must have missed him by inches.

The guides say nothing.

The next day when we're about to leave Hamhung and I talk to the guide: "Can we please slow down? We've had a lot of close calls" She replies laughing: "yeah, ok." I say looking her in the eyes "No seriously, we've almost hit a few people. Do you remember yesterday, we almost hit that man on the road?" She kind of realized how serious I was and talked to the driver. We drove at a reasonable pace from then on.

dutchct508 karma

I know you're getting some down votes for this one, but it's the most common question we get.

Our curiosity piqued when we started watching documentaries about North Korea and reading the Wikipedia articles. There are so many crazy stories that we just had to go see it for ourselves.

My girlfriend are very curious people by nature and have done some adventurous tourism in the past (solo driving through the Altiplano of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina).

We're not the type to go to an all inclusive resort. We really just want to experience something different and expand our world view. You don't really know what a place is until you go there.

dutchct469 karma

At one point our guide asked us which was stronger, South or North Korea. I was a bit taken aback by this and tried to answer as diplomatically as possible. Basically I told her that the culture in the north was very strong, and the south is very western by comparison. I told her the south was very advanced technologically and told her about the internet, Wikipedia etc.

She asked who is Wikipedia written by and what does it say about the North? I told her it was written by people all over the world and that it said both good and bad things about North Korea, just like it does for every country.

Finally I told her that if the two countries were to resume fighting, It would be a very bloody war and that I hoped that would never happen. She didn't appear to be offended by any of this.

dutchct437 karma

This is a good question and we considered it ourselves.

Our perspective and the travel agency's perspective is that the more North Korea is exposed to western culture, the better. In any other part of the world the idea of interfering the local culture would be distasteful, but when we're talking about a regime that has kept its power in large part due to keeping its people fearful and angry at westerners, anything that can be done to break that down is a good thing. Any tourist that goes in becomes an ambassador for the outside world. They can see for themselves that westerners are not evil and conversely we can see that the general population isn't evil.

We were really aware about our image during the trip and tried to be as polite and friendly as possible.

Additionally the travel agency we went through also does humanitarian work. For example during our trip they brought in medical equipment.

The more they open up the better it is for North Korea and the better it is for the rest of the world.

We do understand that our money did go to an oppressive regime.

dutchct377 karma

Some of the most interesting stuff we saw while we were there on the drives between landmarks. All the land marks are very controlled experiences, but on the drives they can't control what you see. It gives you an idea of what it's like to live in North Korea.

Some things we saw were people mowing lawns by hand, children walking with large bags of rice, people watering crops with a bucket plant by plant, wood burning trucks, ox and carts.

But the one that really sticks with me was while driving back from Hamhung, I saw a child on the side of the road playing with an AK-47. He was barely strong enough to hold it up, kind of shakily pointing it at the horizon.

This was a shock to me so as soon as I saw it I turned my head around to look. The guide noticed this immediately and looked as well. I realized a minute later that maybe we should stop and deal with it. But then I realized the guide saw it as well and did nothing.