I know it sounds terrifying but yup..! it has been decided that I am going to North Korea or DPRK (Democratic People Republic of Korea) – this is how the country likes to acknowledge themselves by the way. In North Korea, the people don’t call the country as North Korea because Korea is Korea, a unity. To distinguish North Korea and South Korea will somehow offend them.
WHY NORTH KOREA?!
Well, it seems silly but one day I asked google “what is the most unique country in the world” the top result saying North Korea as the #1 most unique country due to its homogeneity.
Besides I also thrilled by the fact how intimidating and scary the trip will be. Don’t get me wrong but I am just looking for a different experience.
On Christmas! I will depart on Dec 24th and come back to China on Dec 27th. So it will be a 4 Days 3 Night trip including the train ride that will take half day for one time trip.
I’ve checked the weather, it will be around -1 degrees celcius during that particular time, so yeah it will be a white Christmas in North Korea! So Exciting!
I am an Indonesian, so technically I have no resistance to visit the country as historically both of the countries have a great relationship, courtesy of my 1st President, Soekarno who started a good relation to Kim Il Sung back in 1960s. According to my research, citizen from the US are banned from entering North Korea, and not all tour willing to include Japanese citizen in their tour due to diplomatic issue between the countries. So, this time I’d say I am lucky enough to be Indonesian.
However – of course joining a tour provider is an obligatory. It is completely impossible to go to North Korea without signing up in a tour.
There are bunch of tour providers that popular for this special destination and most of them based in China. My first tour option was with Young Pioneer Tour, but due to several circumstances I ended up going with a private tour by Koryo. It cost me a deep pocket, but I guess it’s worth it.
After some correspondences with the guy in charge from Koryo regarding to requirements and itinerary, we finally deal with a 4 Days 3 Night trip. The trip will start and end in Dandong, a Chinese city that lies in the border of North Korea and China.
THE VISA TO NORTH KOREA / DPRK
The tour sent me a registration link where I had to fill in personal data along with attaching copy of passport and a photo to process my DPRK visa. And then I had to pay half of the amount of the tour package in Euro which already include the Visa fee. The visa requirement is pretty simple though.
At the same time I also need to prepare my Chinese visa with multiple entries, as the trip will depart and come back through Dandong – China.
After 2 weeks of waiting, also 1 week prior to departure, I finally got the news that my DPRK visa has been granted. Yay!
Then Koryo sent me a pre-read documents about what is allowed and not allowed to do in North Korea, the document consist of 30 something pages. Pretty thrilling isn’t it?!
WHAT TO PREPARE TO NORTH KOREA / DPRK
Our mentality and attitude. We need to be more mindful, especially if we want to bring up sensitive issue regarding to their leaders or their country. The tour guides are up for any discussion but make sure not to mention or asking anything offensive. Taking pictures are allowed, but we have to ask permission first because there are things that should not be captured, for instance like unfinished building construction (not sure why), and anything related to the military.
Clothes : It’s winter. Of course I will bring layers of warm clothes. But the document saying that there are certain places where it is mandatory to use specific dress code like collar shirt with a tie for men. While for women, any clothes that covers shoulder and knee as well a closed toe shoes.
Belongings : Anything that I need for the trip. Camera and Phone are allowed but make sure to delete everything that might related to North Korea, like the leaders picture or news screen shot.
What to not bring? plenty! Religious stuff, Newspaper, books, documents especially when it related to North Korea, Radio, Flags, and inappropriate clothes (?) probably they meant like a sexy clothes (?).
Money : Since we are not allowed to exchange into (North) Korean money. Therefore we have to bring enough Euros to cover any tipping or additional payment outside the tour package. Actually the tour package already cover 100% of our daily need. Only not include personal shopping or activities like bowling, etc.
Souvenirs : This is only a suggestion. We are expected to bring souvenirs from our origin country to give it to the tour guides and the driver as a token of appreciation.
The tour arranged a virtual briefing 1 day before the departure. I know! A briefing! I guess they just want to make sure that we understand and fully aware of all the stated rules in the document. SO YEA hopefully we don’t do anything stupid that will jeopardize ourselves there.