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North Korea

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What was North Korea like? They have been isolated for so long. South Korea is a better place to live despite their social problems. 


I have met one North Korean, he was very shy and withdrawn, he reminded me of children who come from families with domestic abuse issues. Did you notice anything similar? Maybe it was only him. Were the people you met there nice? Did they look oppressed? Did they have enough to eat?

To me North Korea was not that special apart from that I had a guide on my back that kept telling me not to photograph people or actually anything but the official sights and made me delete some pictures. It's hard to make a proper judgement of what's going on in a place during an ordinary vacation. Just a few days with a tourgroup and restricted freedom of movement makes any judgement pretty much worthless. During my trip I've seen no extreme poverty but many people at the countryside look like they do physical work on a low calorie diet. I've seen a country which technologically is backward. Virtually everything is done manually and with working animals. Some Chinese in the tour group said China 30 years ago. A lot of technology however is available. My guide had a tablet with 'internet' access. That is, what I've seen was a site which looked like a list of official translations and some mail function.


Contact with locals is hard. That means you virtually only meet people that are screened to work with tourists (guides, drivers, waiters/performers in tourist restaurants and shops). Communication is difficult due to language issue's, even my guide didn't speak very good English, but she admitted to being a Russian guide but doing English guiding as no other English guides were available. When it came to the 'official' views her English was ok, but when questions were asked and no official view was available it became difficult. My impression is mostly due to legit language issue's, but also to avoid answering questions. Somewhat sensitive questions presumably without official answer were usually met with silence.


When meeting ordinary people there is the language issue, but certainly often also some kind of suspicion. Often the ice can be broken by making a picture and showing it on the camera. But it never came to meaningful communication. In a Pyongyang square several school children passed, when I tried to approach they seemed scared and ran off. Only after showing one slow kid a picture I had made things improved and a couple of girls were willing to pose for a picture with me, but still at a safe distance. 


If you want an old more extensive and in dept view you can read a diary of an expat here.



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