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glitterlok919 karma

Never in my time in the DPRK have my Korean guides ever tried to convince me that Pyongyang is representative of the entire country. It's well-known that it is the most prosperous and well-maintained city in the country, and they are typically very honest about the struggles their country faces in infrastructure, agriculture, poverty, etc.

Their reasoning for these struggles may differ from ours, but they're not denying they exist.

You can't say they're trying to deceive everyone when they aren't really making any extraordinary claims.

Edit: Just to add some thoughts, this "best Korea / worker's paradise / they think they're the best place ever" thing has really gotten out of hand in my opinion.

From everything I've experienced and read, Korea has been well aware of its place in the world for a long while. After the famine of the 90s (that was 20 years ago, folks -- latest numbers around hunger in the DPRK put it about even with Jamaica), Koreans knew they didn't live in a perfect society. Smuggling and constant traffic between Korea and China (as well as access to foreign media as another commenter pointed out) has left little doubt that there is lots of prosperity outside of the country.

So they're not stupid. And they're not lying and telling people they live in a paradise.

The rhetoric of more recent years has been more along the lines of "We don't have the things everyone else has. We aren't as advanced as some other countries. We do struggle with many things. But we do this because we believe it is better to make our own way, independent of outside influence. We may not have the things you have, but we think this way is better."

Whether anyone actually believes it is open for debate. My point is that as far as I know, the DPRK hasn't acted like it's a perfect paradise since the days when it was kicking ROK's ass economically. Since then, it's taken more of a "we suffer because we are right" stance.

glitterlok572 karma

In my own opinion, having been to the DPRK as a tourist and having been closely following the DPRK for years, OP is being a little sensational (it's understandable).

A couple things to remember regarding your question: The people who have been arrested and detained in the DPRK have all knowingly broken some kind of rule. Stealing, smuggling in bibles, etc. They're not arbitrarily snatching people up for stupid little things, although the punishments may seem extremely harsh to us outsiders.

Rules around photography in the country have become less and less enforced over the years. As of May of last year there were only two "guidelines" in place -- try to avoid military installations and try to avoid construction sites. Neither are strictly enforced and neither are a big deal -- if they do happen to look through your stuff (more likely on a train exit than a plane exit) and find photos they don't like, they'll just ask you to delete them and send you on your way.

The same goes for DPRK currency. They'll take it from you if they find it, and that's it. Almost everyone that I know (including me) who has traveled to the DPRK has brought home currency.

As for the risk...I broke a "rule" while I was in the country last year. I folded up a piece of paper that had the leaders on it. It's a no-no! One of my Korean guides tapped me and asked me to unfold it, explained that it's considered disrespectful, but told me not to worry about it -- it happens! It was impressed upon me and other tourists that the more particular rules of Korean society are "for Koreans", that it was completely understandable that we wouldn't be familiar with them, and that we shouldn't be concerned about making mistakes.

There are thousands of foreign tourists who visit the DPRK every year with no incident. It's one of the safest places you can travel. Most tourists realize that traveling to Korea is just like traveling anywhere else -- you go, do your best to respect local customs, and leave as many of your preconceived notions as you can at home. The handful of people who have been detained in the past few decades were all knowingly doing things they shouldn't have.

OP did not take a risk in traveling there, and neither would you! :-)

glitterlok329 karma

  • How’s the air quality these days with lots of people working from / otherwise staying home?
  • How often do you get out of the city? What are some of your favorite places to visit in China?
  • What are some food chains operating in the country that you think are getting it right in terms of keeping their food relatively healthy?
  • How was CNY? Did you go anywhere for the holiday?

glitterlok256 karma

I'm going to Hawaii next month for around two weeks, and I plan to be "homeless" while I'm there. What are the essential items I'll need, bearded wizard?

glitterlok85 karma

It’s about 6am in Beijing. I wrote my comment at ~3am.

While I think it’s fairly bad reddiquette to start an AMA and then scamper off, I’m not in any rush and don’t expect OP to respond into the wee hours.