This week heralds the beginning of a new era. Whilst there are always doubts and sceptics, the erupting tensions that plagued last year are coming to an abrupt end, and hopefully, the North Korean nuclear crisis is too. We saw scenes of warmth and reconciliation as the two Korean leaders met and pledged to end the decades long conflict which has divided their nation, with an immediate “end to all hostilities”. Many questions of course, still remain. We don’t know how the peace will take shape or how the many obstacles to it will be overcome, but is quite certain now is that the heated exchanges will cease. Either way, a new window of opportunity and engagement between North Korea and the world is opening up. As Visit North Korea, we have a vision we want to achieve with our work and we want you to be a part of it.
We believe in learning, engaging, fun travel to the DPRK. We believe that the way forwards is to engage the North Korean people, to build crucial human contact, to build bridges and to secure mutual understanding which sweeps away apprehension, distrust and misconception. Despite that tensions are over, there are many people who will continue to be uneasy about North Korea due to the nature of its political system. Many of these individuals will continue to advocate changing it by forceful, moralizing or coercive means. It is time to look at the bigger picture. Decades of this kind of rhetoric has changed nothing. We cannot simply impose our values on another country with a completely different historical, political and social experience, one which has never known anything other than conservative, authoritarian rule for millennia. Rather, we must now be prepared to work with North Korea, than to work against it, in order to foster a natural evolution which can improve the country and assist its integration into the world.
As sanctions are lifted, we should seek to help North Korea become a prosperous and connected country. The leadership are experimenting with economic reforms, development is now their primary goal. We should not hinder this. As the DPRK’s economy changes, is changing and if we allow to continue, its politics will adapt. The lessons of Vietnam and China teach us this. Although they are never what the west would “prefer” them to be, nor are they the totalitarian, rigid systems they once were at the same time. Marketisation and external contact creates an atmosphere of openness and enterprise which ultimately improves people’s lives en masse. Both of the stated countries are becoming more and more prosperous. There are no legitimate reasons as to why we should not be trying to engage North Korea in order to foster the same thing.
As a result, expanding basic foreign travel in North Korea becomes a huge part of this. It stands to break down over 70 years worth of barriers placed up by both sides. The western world has an erroneous, hysterical and generalised picture of North Korea, one which passes scathing judgments with minimal understanding. The reasons behind that are not all unjust, but they do cloud people’s perception. The ultimate reality on the ground is that the DPRK is a welcoming country. The people are interested in us, they are interested in our lives and they are not hostile. When I first went to the country, I was terrified; yet over time I have grown to know and love North Koreans for who they are. Many locals have engaged in acts of kindness towards me, many have been open in discussing things related to the outside world, even the controversial topics. They are people, they are human beings. They cannot challenge their political system, but they like to have fun, they like to have a laugh, they are not different from who we are.
Our travel programs therefore stand to promote human-human, cultural and educational exchanges. We want to see a North Korea that is prosperous, we want to see a North Korea that thrive and ultimately grow out of the challenges which has held it back. We want to see a country that the world can better engage in. We want people as a whole to have a better knowledge of Korean history, traditions, language and culture. For us, this is our great vision. A vision for you, a vision for me and a vision for the Korean peninsula. Do not be afraid and help us in our goal to create a better world.