What really happens when people Visit North Korea?
1. They realize not everything the media claims is true
To visit North Korea is to actively rebel against a behemoth of often hysterically negative media coverage. In the Western world, the media has so much to say and judge about the DPRK, yet knows and understands so little. A country which offers little in terms of accessible sources of information and is viewed through entrenched political hostilities has created a landslide of fake news and inaccurate coverage. Thus, when someone visits North Korea, they quickly grow to the understanding that many things reported have been exaggerated.
For example, on my first trip to the DPRK in 2014, a viral story broke online that “North Korea told its people they had won the world cup”.Nobody checked the reliability of this story, but everyone believed it because it conflated with negative stereotypes of North Korea portrayed in the media. When I got there, I learnt quickly the story wasn’t true and that many North Koreans had access to real world cup coverage. Thus, when you visit North Korea, you tend to quickly develop an objective and open minded perspective. Although you are always thinking, you tend to stop viewing the country in a more hysterical way.
2. They learn North Korea is more connected to the world than it appears
Although North Korea is known for its secrecy and its seclusion from the outside world, it is changing. It is an increasingly information aware country with a substantial knowledge of the outside world. When you go there as a British person, your guides ask a lot about the player league, its players and its teams. They even talk about politics too. One guide was once chatting about the South Korean election to me, she knew all the candidates and she was very much aware that South Korea was a Democracy, this is not the North Korea that is stereotypically portrayed, where everyone is assumed to be “brainwashed” or “deluded”. Not at all.
3. They learn North Koreans are ordinary human beings as well
A visit to North Korea teaches people that North Koreans are real human beings. Unlike the media portrayal, they are not brainwashed robots or slaves who do everything for the government without question living in fear and misery, they are real people. They have thoughts, feelings, perspectives, aspirations and lives too, eager to make the most out of the situation they live in. Some of our guides on a night after their work was finished love to get together and have a drink, just like people do in other countries. Although this all may seem like an obvious point to state, the way the media portrays the country often makes some people forget or fail to think seriously about this.
4. They see North Korea is more than just a bomb, a man or a regime
Like its Southern counterpart, North Korea shares a rich history, tradition and culture that stems back for thousands of years. When we imagine North Korea, we think of one man and his government. When people of think of visiting North Korea, they think of that too. Whilst we cannot ignore the obvious fact that obligation to the regime permeates so much of everyday life, nevertheless North Korea is much more than this. When one visits North Korea, they get to experience the delicacies of Korean food, they get to learn about a nation, they get to examine Korean history in ancient cities such as Kaesong, they get to examine Korean art and also discover a way of life which is based more on tradition and the country’s Confucian past and society than in the very modern and hip South. There is much to learn about Korea as a whole from visiting, it’s not one man and his bomb.
Conclusion: Think, Challenge, Rebel
Ignore the media stereotypes and don’t listen to Trump and the Neo-Cons in Washington. There is so much to learn, so much to understand and so much to see regarding North Korea in a hands on, objective and first person experience. People who have visited the DPRK have been able to challenge and think critically about the world around them. Their experiences helped them realise that we don’t know as much as we presume we do. At Visit North Korea, we are all about challenging the world we are taught to believe in. It’s time for an adventure, it’s time to take the red pill!