North Korea has a bit of an image problem. Between starving its people, publicly executing officials with anti-aircraft guns and its nuclear ambitions, the hermit kingdom isn’t the kind of place most people would think of as a tourist destination.
The odd defector to successfully make it out usually confirms that life in the world’s most secretive state is indeed quite dreadful.
Yet rotund leader Kim Jong-un has a coveted assignment for the North Korean tourist board (yes, that’s a thing): entice two million annual visitors in the next five years to the self-proclaimed ‘socialist fairyland.’
We’re sure failure will be tolerated very well, in typical North Korean fashion.
Currently North Korea accepts about 100,000 tourists per year. Like much of the country, tours are rigorously regimented, photography banned and independent movement is strictly prohibited, unless you’d like a permanent stay.
Kim Jong-un is personally behind the move, as he has seen an opportunity to open the curtain on his family’s ghastly creation. Speaking in Pyongyang, he said: “Tourism can produce a lot of profit relative to the investment required, so that’s why our country is putting priority on it.
Many people in foreign countries think in a wrong way about our country [but] we are developing our economy. So I think many people are curious about our country.”
Aside from the personal safety and boredom aspects there are also deep ethical concerns about giving money to the repressive regime. The elites of the country get nearly all the proceeds of such ventures so there are concerns that foreign travel dollars just enable the regime to continue its long line of atrocities.
The State Department, UK Foreign Office and all other government advisory boards in the west currently advise against travel to North Korea.