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What not to do in North Korea

Yoon Min-sik

The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

 /  Wed, August 16, 2017  /  07:08 pm
What not to do in North Korea

The view of Pyongyang, North Korea. ( Gaman/File)

While the US has only recently issued a ban on travel to North Korea, travel to the hermit kingdom has always been extremely risky.

The oppressive and authoritarian regime does not tolerate any challenges by visitors, and tales of foreigners being detained for minor mistakes have frequently come up in the media.

Chinese travel agencies have distributed a list of things to be aware of when traveling in North Korea, and here are some that have been reported via Korean and Chinese media.

Be careful when referring to South Korea or North Korea

Just as South Korea states that the entire Korean Peninsula is its territory -- meaning it does not officially recognize Pyongyang as a legitimate government -- North Korea does not recognize the South, instead referring to it as “Nam-Joseon (South Joseon).”

Therefore, some tour companies caution against referring to South Korea as “Hangguk (Korea).” While not technically taboo, they say using the name can raise some eyebrows.

In the same vein, using the word “North Korea” is also not advisable. Instead, use its official name “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

Do not comment about North Korea’s social, political, economic situation, or its current or previous leaders

As previously mentioned, North Korea does not like foreigners questioning its state system. It is also touchy about someone mentioning that North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Commenting about its dictatorial leaders in any way is not wise, at least within earshot of a North Korean.

Read also: Guiyang set to become major tourist draw

A group of tourists bow before statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung (L) and Kim Jong-Il (R), on Mansu hill in Pyongyang on July 23, 2017. A group of tourists bow before statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung (L) and Kim Jong-Il (R), on Mansu hill in Pyongyang on July 23, 2017. (AFP/Ed Jones)

Retain a respectful attitude in front of Kim Il-sung’s statue

Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, is the most revered figure in the country. This is apparent in the fact that none of the succeeding leaders resumed the post of president after his death, leaving the presidency eternally to Kim Il-sung.

Tourists are advised to remain solemn when paying respect to Kim Il-sung’s statue or taking a picture in front of it. Mimicking the statue’s pose is taboo.

Never fly solo

Not following the instructions of the designated tour guide is one of the fastest ways to provoke North Koreans, many of whom have no sense of humor when dealing with foreigners they think are running amok.

Unscheduled and unauthorized visits to North Korean homes, or friends and families of the said tourist is strictly forbidden, as is taking pictures without consent or even talking to workers.

In 1999, a South Korean housewife was detained for days for a 10 minute chat with a North Korean employee during her tour of Geumgangsan.

Unlike in the movie “The Interview,” strolling around Pyongyang alone can also get you arrested, although being a personal guest of the supreme leader himself may let you off the hook.

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This article appeared on The Korea Herald newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post