Here at Visit North Korea, our goal is to organise and promote educational themed itineraries and opportunities to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or “DPRK”. A subject which is deeply misunderstood to the outside world, our project involves helping students and Young Professionals gauge a greater knowledge, awareness and objective understanding of this country in ways that can prove beneficial to them.
Rather than creating simple “sightseeing” trips to the country, our programs are designed with careful attention to detail, quality, educational experience and human interaction. We work to utilize some of the best regional expertise possible in order to build a pathway for students who seek careers in International Relations, Diplomacy, Area Studies and other portfolios. Our packages are both insightful, productive and nonetheless, fun.We believe in engagement with North Korea as the primary route to peace, cooperation and good will. Whilst such a strategy does not mean we “endorse” the regime or its activities, what it does mean is that we believe the present pathway of vilifying, mocking and threatening the country has failed to achieve any meaningful results. Dialogue must take preference over confrontation.
Trust is an essential element of all human interactions, without it we can achieve nothing. When we go to a bank to deposit money, when we jump into a taxi or when we choose to engage in any legitimate service or activity, the ingredient which made us willing to act was trust, the fundamental assurance that neither party (both the recipient and the provider) will engage in malicious or exploitative activity in the transactions given.
Thus, trust is mutual, it works both ways, it is not one way traffic, nor is it instantaneous. Two parties must work slowly and together, piece by piece, to develop it. At first, two people may be hesitant to share things because of distrust, but slowly as they talk and get to know each other, trust develops, and they become more open, then they become friends. Both sides must nonetheless, both work to maintain the trust they then place in each other; because although trust is hard to build, it is easy to break.
Here at Visit North Korea, one of our goals and missions is to build trust with North Korea and the rest of the world. For as unusual as that may sound, trust is an essential concept of politics and international relations as well. Countries militarize and build weapons when they distrust each others motives. The USA distrusted the USSR, and vice versa. It was only during the end of the Cold War, when Gorbachev decided to build trust with the rest of the world, that it came to an end. Right now, the world distrusts North Korea and North Korea distrusts the world; both parties are equally apprehensive about the motives of the other, both sides have valid reasons. The U.S distrusts what North Korea could do with weapons of mass destruction and North Korea distrusts what the U.S could do to their country- no sides fear is less rational than the other’s.
Therefore, the objective to achieving peace on the Korean peninsula is not through confrontation and pressure, it’s through building trust. As stated, trust in international relations, creates peace. States in the western world do not militarize and fight against each other because they trust each other. We must work with, rather than against, North Korea to help dispel ideas that we are all “out to get them”. There needs to be more dialogue and cooperation. Contrary to popular belief, North Korea is not “irrational” or “erratic”; studies of the regime shows that yes it behaves aggressively when it is threatened, but it also opens up more to the world when it is not threatened (Kim Young-Ho, 2014). It is a reactive regime with a “tit for tat”, strategy, if you threaten them, they will behave aggressively, if you be nice to them, they will cooperate.
In the late 1990s, North Korea and the United States were on very good terms, the regime had agreed to stop its nuclear program in 1994; it was building economic interactions and agreements with the South and it was behaving itself. What went wrong? George W. Bush came to office, 9/11 happened and U.S foreign policy became very aggressive. Bush began removing regimes from power and he denounced “North Korea” as part of an Axis of Evil, North Korea flew back into its shell and began denuclearizing. Thus, A lot of the way they behave really depends on how you act towards them.
It is possible to engage in a trust building process with North Korea and for the sake of progress, this is what we must do. As you show some lenience, they will reciprocate, and so on. You don’t have to agree with the things they do or endorse the regime, but you should be at least willing to understand their point of view like you would with any human being. Tourism is a way we can engage in a trust building process with the North Korean authorities, it is a way we can show them that “foreigners aren’t evil”, that we aren’t “out to destroy them or “Are American spies”. If we visit their country and conduct ourselves wisely, they will interpret that as a small act of trust towards them.
People who want to instantly “force peace, democracy and human rights” on North Korea are unwise in their actions. This attitude will only lead to continued nuclear proliferation, threats, mutual uncertainty and more distrust. With any human social situation, you need to be prepared to at least compromise and reason in your own point of view to consider another. Nobody “changes anyone” by threatening them or “moralizing” them with your own values. First build trust and understanding, then the changes needed can take care of themselves.