“Visiting North Korea raises many dilemmas for people from an ethical perspective” highlights Tad Farrell, the founder of NKnews. Indeed, some commentators, politicians and observers have criticized the concept of travel to North Korea. They make the following arguments: 1) That it supports a regime with money and their oppressive activities, and 2) that it finances North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But is it really such a dilemma? What is our take on the ethics of North Korea travel?
Claim: “Tourism gives money and props up oppressive activities of the North Korean government”
This argument is misleading. First of all, this argument assumes that the North Korean regime is completely dependent upon the money of tourists to pursue its agenda, it is not, in fact it doesn’t even make a difference. Tourism does not act as a serious economic variable in the country and if removed from the equation, nothing in the governments activity would be have changed. Over 100,000 tourists visit North Korea a year, 4000 or so are westerners. Now, 100,000 this may seem like a large number. However, compare it to France, who received 84.7 million tourists in 2013. Even compare North Korea to South Korea, who received 11.1 million tourists in 2012. That amount of tourists obviously brings in serious money; north korea’s revenue from it will not even match up to a particle of that. Tad Farrel of NK news points further out that the revenue from North Korean tourism amounts to 0.001% of their GDP. As tourism is therefore irrelevant in the North Korean economy, there is no link between it and what the government does (which is, as he highlights nothing to do with money anyway), nor can it lean upon it for a source of support.
“even if all westerners voted with their feet and didn’t visit, it would make no difference to the North Korean government from a financial perspective. As such, weapons programs, prisons and a one party system would continue to exist regardless.”- Tad Farrel
“you interact with so many people both directly and indirectly who are supported by your custom. For example, restaurant staff who would clearly find it more difficult without work. We believe supporting tourism is a positive way of spending money and the benefits of visiting and understanding the country and then perhaps helping with aid etc”- Hannah Barraclough,