From bowing to statues to running marathons: A travel blogger reveals what it’s really like to be a tourist in North Korea

  • Entrepreneur Jacob Laukaitis visited North Korea with a tour group in 2016
  • He made a fascinating and insightful video of his seven-day journey there
  • Laukaitis visited countless schools but rarely got to interact with locals

|

200

View
comments

North Korea is often seen as one of the most mysterious places in the world to visit as it’s so closed off to the outside world. But a new video has revealed what it’s really like to be a tourist in the country. The fascinating footage and narrative revealed that as a holidaymaker, you’re never allowed to travel around on your own and you always have to ask your tour guide for permission before photographing anything.

On Laukaitis’ first day in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, he went on the underground

The Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang was one of the sights that the tour group visited during their stay

Laukaitis even took part in the Pyongyang marathon, which was only open to beginners for the third time

The video1 was created by Jacob Laukaitis, a 22-year-old entrepreneur and travel blogger who travels most of the year. He explains in the introduction that having explored some 50 countries, North Korea became a destination that he felt he had to visit. Laukaitis, who co-founded ChameleonJohn.com2, headed to Beijing, China, where he was given a briefing about visiting North Korea before beginning his seven-day tour.

He says that he had to surrender his passport while he was in North Korea and his guide monitored him constantly. Laukaitis’ journey coincided with the birthday of the Eternal President of the Republic Kim Il-sung, and the group followed the locals to pay their respect to the monuments

Left, the Monument to Party Founding, Right, the Juche Tower, the tallest structure in the capital Pyongyang

Every photograph he wanted to take needed permission from the guide as he was not allowed to capture certain aspects of life in North Korea, like soldiers, workers or construction sites. Although Laukaitis didn’t want to get into the politics of the country, he was keen to mention in his video that just a couple of weeks earlier, US student Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel.

During his trip, Laukaitis was led from place to place at specified times. He says he had little opportunity to interact with locals and in turn, the locals seemed to have little interest or were too afraid to interact with the foreign visitors. From high up, Laukaitis saw some stunning scenes of North Korea though after sun-down, most of the city is left in darkness

He was able to see how some of the locals lived on a tram journey in Pyongyang.

On board, he spotted little leaflets pinned to different parts of the carriage, which he says were thoughts of the leaders and their advice for the people. They visited schools, parks and other education establishments almost every day according to Laukaitis, and each time the pupils would perform for the visitors. Laukaitis even took part in the Pyongyang marathon, which was only open to beginners for the third time.

However, having recently injured his arm, Laukaitis decided to walk 10km of the journey and saw parts of the city close up. At one point, Laukaitis saw many women wearing traditional outfits dancing in a square

The group’s journey also coincided with the birthday of the Eternal President of the Republic, Kim Il-sung, and the group followed the locals to pay their respect to the monuments. Large groups of North Koreans were seen offering flowers and bowing to ‘leader statues’ in memory of Kim Il-sung.

The entire trip was tightly choreographed. At one point, the group were allowed to go on one ride at a theme park before being told they had to leave. The seven day journey was one of the most interesting journeys for Laukaitis, but he says he left the country feeling sad knowing that millions didn’t have the freedom that he did.

References

  1. ^ video (www.youtube.com)
  2. ^ ChameleonJohn.com (chameleonjohn.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • No product categories exist.