North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) or as it is known as „country of morning freshness“ is one of the most detached and isolated countries in the world in terms of its politics and economy. It is located in the northern part of Korean peninsula. On the north it borders with China and Russia, to the south it borders with Korea. To the east is the Sea of Japan and the west – Yellow Sea. This country is situated amidst the most dynamic part of the world, but it does not support active economic ties with its wealthy neighbors. This certainly reflects negatively on its economy.
Today North Korea is among the poorest countries in the world and has the lowest standard of living in the region. Country’s economy is heavily dependent on climate, because it relies mainly on agriculture (especially rice growing). The agriculture is developed mainly in the plains of western regions of North Korea. Few years in a row, however, the agriculture was systematically destroyed by the very bad weather conditions. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the local economy is quite closed. In the recent years, the country had to accept humanitarian aid, because it was the only salvation from the hunger caused by the monsoon rains. Who has never been in East Asia has no idea how powerful and devastating rains may have caused by the monsoon. They may be extremely heavy, continuous and regular, which is able to destroy each harvest.
It is interestingly, if you’ve ever thought about a trip to North Korea? Many people do not know if this is possible, because they have heard a lot about the peculiarities of the regime in North Korea and they know that the country is not very open to the world and to foreigners. But actually – yes, that is possible. Of course, there are very terms with which to comply and must to get acquainted with, but still worth it. One such trip will show you much more than being in North Korea. It will allow you to touch the past of millions of people worldwide. This will allow you to look at the years of totalitarian regime and to understand how they lived in the former Soviet Union and some countries in Eastern Europe. For you this trip could be a real time machine, which will greatly enrich you culturally.
There are many important things that you should read before traveling to North Korea. Ask your tour agent for the full information about what can and can not be done! Do not let you to carry mobile phones, computers, laptops, smart phones or any of this kind because it is prohibited. In the streets try to look natural. Do not talk to the locals because it is extremely undesirable. Even because of the smallest occasion you could deemed for an inimical or a threat to the regime of the country.
Avoid making comments about the country, because this could cause you problems. Do not try to tie contacts or friendships – this will incur you trouble. If you visit North Korea, it is best to behave like you do not see anybody and do not separate from the group. The entry of tourists in North Korea is only possible with an organized group. Nobody will allow you to go there as individual visitor, and even if it were allowed, we would not recommend you to do it. It is good for you to know that North Korea is not a fan of human rights. There could be thrown in jail any foreigner who say something against the regime, and nobody will ask who is he/she and where is he/she come from.
If you have decided to experience this adventure and to visit North Korea may be wondering what time of year to do it. North Korea has a temperate climate with very hot summers and cold and snowy winter. Temperatures range from (-3) °C in January to around 29-30 in July and August. Best months for tourism in North Korea are May, June and September. July and August are not only very hot, but also very humid. Then is the monsoon season in North Korea. Precipitation is very heavy and frequent. Otherwise, in May, June and September temperatures are very nice – between 20 and 27°C plus a plenty of sun shine.
A tourist guide to North Korea would not be completed unless it provides information for those who have made this country what it is today. From 1948 until his death in 1994, Kim Il Sung governed the DPRK. He was succeeded by his son Kim Jong I1. You can hear many legends about the Korean dictators, but perhaps the most bizarre of all is that which tells how Kim Il Sung was born of a beautiful flower in the mountains of North Korea. Hardly anyone would believe this, but the legend is quite popular. This is indicative to where the propaganda is spread in this country. You will see their faces everywhere – on posters, on billboards, in various state institutions and where else. After sunset you will be surprised that instead the light of street lamps around you will light up billboards with the image of one of the dictators. This propaganda may seem ridiculous, but just imagine how you would think if every night in your life with the moon rises and the image of Kim Jong Il? Imagine that there are people who do not know other than that. People who do not have Internet access, mobile phone etc.
North Korea is known worldwide for its policy and government system, but this country has another very fascinating side which is much less known even from the staunchest fans of travel and tourism. “Country of morning freshness” fully deserves this name because there are very beautiful and picturesque scenery, which will really fascinate you. North Korea is a very green country. Most of the territory is covered with beautiful deciduous forests. They are home to a huge variety of plant and animal species. Here are some typical for this part of the world animals, such as the Asian tiger. In the local forests also live bears, deer and a wide variety of birds such as cuckoo, cranes, hawks, tits and many others. Some representatives of the wildlife are the same as their relatives in Europe, while others differ just slightly. Most species inhabit sparsely populated mountain forests in the eastern and especially northeastern regions of the country. Here on the border with China is the highest peak Paektu-san. It is 2744 meters high and it offers incredible views of both North Korea and China. The area is fascinating, and the locals cherish it very much. From the top reveals an enchantingly beautiful views of the lake of volcanic origin Tianchi, whose waters reflect the sky like a mirror. In translation from Chinese the name means “Heavenly Lake”. It is amazing and is with certainly among the most beautiful places in the country. It is hardly to find so wild and untouched places especially in densely populated part of the world like this. This area of 120 540sq.km. is home to about 23.5 million people and yet wild places are abundant.
Nature of North Korea is so different in all four seasons, that the country is simply unrecognizable. Spring blooms and all becomes green. Life is reborn and the air is filled with aromas of whole range of trees, flowers and shrubs. In summer everything is covered with dense vegetation. Warm weather and heavy rains make the vegetation exuberant and fresh. Then nature is in its high. In autumn everything is painted in golden hues. The animals began actively to prepare for the cold winter. Some animals gain fat, because they will hibernate in the winter, others are occupied with stockpiling of food, while others (refers to certain types of birds) go to warmer places. Winter is charming. During this season in North Korea often fall heavy snow and temperatures are held permanently below freezing. Though beautiful, the winter is very harsh and not all animals succeed to survive. The coastline of North Korea is highly indented, and in many places there are beautiful beaches, especially on the shores of the Sea of Japan.
The traditional architecture of North Korea as it is in all countries in East and Southeast Asia merges very well with the local nature. Ancient culture of this country can be seen best in the province, whether for a museum, temple or something else. The best place to see not only beautiful landscapes, but also ancient architecture is the ravine in southwest of Mount Miohyang-san. There are the temple – Pohyon, the museum by the gifts of Kim Il Song, The International Exhibition of Friendship and so on.
Pyongyang is the heart of cultural, economic and social life of North Korea. The city of Soviet-type has a population of 3.3 million people, but it seem some quiet and empty. The reason is that there are almost no cars on the streets. Indeed, very few people have their own car and they are mainly people from the rulers. In Sundays to see the moving car on the streets is impossible. People move here by bicycle or public transport. That has some good points – there is hardly to find another millionth city that is so little affected by the pollution of cars. Most importantly, you can walk without anyone to bother you, rob or attack, because there is no crime here. The reason is the draconian laws and extreme severity, which may even give you the creeps.
We can not write to North Korea without to mention that DPRK and South Korea was one country throughout all the its history. It is divided from the U.S. and Russia after WWII. Cultural heritage of these two countries is so alienated today you can see that if you travel on the both sides of the border dividing the former unified Korea. Today, after several decades of division, however, North and South Korea become emotionally cold to one another, despite the common border and centuries-old past. To see how different have become today these two worlds you need to look at the capital of North Korea – Pyongyang and to compare it with South Korea (Seoul).
North Korea is among the poorest countries in the world, but the truth is that walking down the street does not seem quite right. At least not at first sight. You’ll notice how clean the country is. Infrastructure is relatively good, the gardens maintained … everything looks quite normal. While the country has not sufficient financial resources, it has available huge amount of free labour force, which could be done all in the name of the people. You’ll notice, however, that there is no good stores and no modern shopping centers, and the goods sold here is no way to tempt the Western tourists, unless you buy something as a souvenir. However, the monuments are everywhere. The most modern building and the only skyscraper in Pyongyang is 330 meters high tower hotel Ryugyong. The building was begun in 1987. Today (September 2010) The Ryugyon hotel is still under construction. For a very short time you will see quite Pyongyang propaganda. Everything somehow imposes to you how happy and free the people are and how they are ready to do everything in the name of the people without to expect anything in return. Most of the people here live in large panel buildings most of which look very similar to one another, as it is yet in many former socialist countries. North Korea is among the most colorful tourist destinations. Dangerous, different and unknown, it shows another world, another thinking and an entirely different system of government. Hardly anyone would wish to live there, but worth to visit it.