That’s a good question! It’s certainly not something people understand or accept easily. In mainstream public opinion, the idea of travelling to North Korea appears to be bizarre, daring, unconventional and perhaps slightly crazy. At Visit North Korea however, we pride ourselves on being different. We do not “go with the flow” we are objective thinkers who choose to see past the mirage of the media and government. We advocate travel to North Korea because we believe in a more open, peaceful and interconnected world free of prejudice, fear, confrontation and hate. We want to broaden people’s horizons, we want people to think differently. We have a vision for creating a better future and want you to be a part in that.
Do you know as much as you think?
Serious question, do you? In this world, amplified by the presence of social media, everyone believes they are an armchair expert in everything. People google their symptoms and believe they can diagnose themselves, they choose to ignore experts and make rash political decisions without understanding the consequences and so on. North Korea is no exception to this. Based on a few sensationalised media stories, some of which are from politically motivated sources, people in the “liberal world” believe they can make strong judgments about a country they’ve never been to, who’s culture they do not understand, who’s language they do not speak, who’s historical background they do not truly grasp and so on. Because these people are free, they believe they are already “open minded” and do not have to question their beliefs or surroundings. However, open mindedness is not simply about having access to information, it is about the cognitive ability to grasp, comprehend, tolerate and consider differences to your established beliefs. Despite that the western world is free, many people fall dramatically short of this capability because their thinking is clouded by their absolutist sense of superiority. Thus, when it comes to obscure topics such as North Korea,many people don’t bother to question what they know, read and hear.
Broadening Horizons, Thinking Differently
With this in consideration, we work to organise these tours because we want people to think differently about the world. We are looking for open minded people who are prepared to broaden their horizons and reach out to the wider world. We believe the experience of visiting North Korea is not a “staged” propaganda tour, but there are many elements which allow it to constitute an authentic, meaningful and worthwhile experience. Nor do we believe that there is any risk to doing so. North Korea is not just one man, a regime, a war, a bomb or a prison camp, it is a country that shares several millennia worth of history with its southern neighbour. It has an authentic and rich culture steeped in lasting tradition, with a sense of being and expression that is articulated with beauty and character. The people of North Korea are friendly, humble and curious about the outside world. Notions that they are “brainwashed robots” are not only crude stereotypes, but ultimately offensive to people like us who have spent years getting to know, appreciate and understand the locals for who they are. Yet time and time again, those who do not go, those who do not have this experience, believe they know better…
Whilst of course this does not mean people cannot have legitimate concerns about the politics of the country, nor are we dismissing those, at Visit North Korea we are providing an alternative vision for a better future. We ultimately do want to see things change for the better in North Korea, but we reject the idea that we have the right to do this by force. Rather, we believe that human to human interaction and engagement with the outside world on a grassroots level is a means of facilitating a brighter tomorrow. Not only do we have something to learn from meeting North Korean people, but North Koreans are able to benefit from us too. The idea that North Korean travel only serves as propaganda and funding the regime is false, we can testify to that from years of worth experience seeing the country and its people. I (the author) have witnessed profound and personal acts of kindness and friendship from various individuals I have encountered, yet those who have never been and do not know insist so strongly they better. For this organisation, visiting North Korea is a means of expressing global citizenship. It solidifies a commitment to humanity itself and to the people of the country, not the regime.
Conclusion: A sense of mission
Therefore, we promote travel to North Korea because we feel a sense of mission. In admiration and respect of Korean culture, history, traditions and most importantly, the people themselves of the DPRK, we want to envision a better world. This is not a glorification of the regime, we want to build bridges and new ties between the people of the country and the international community. For all that we may object to in the country, we want to show people that there is a bright and optimistic side. To do this, we are striving to promote objectivity and open mindedness. We urge people to realize that is righteousness is not self-righteousness. To truly create a better world, we have to stop viewing everything in such deeply absolutist and abrupt terms. We have to look at the bigger picture and envision just what can be done. Visit North Korea strives to help a better future in the DPRK. Threats of war, moral chauvinism and condemnation have changed nothing and never will, but open mindedness, human engagement, education, experience and grassroots ties might just yet.That’s our mission.