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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Tourism During Wartime

by | May 1st, 2013 | 05:31 am

“Honey, what do want to see on vacation this year? The Parthenon, Machu Picchu, or the Kim Il-sung mausoleum?”

You just can’t make this stuff up: according to Yonhap North Korea is “is trying to lure more foreign tourists” while at the same time telling their diplomatic representatives to flee due to imminent conflict. Huh? Who comes up with these marketing campaigns?  Well, the mausoleum it is!

Better yet, why don’t we roll out our new foreign tourism campaign by holding a foreign tour operator incommunicado for four months then charge him with a capitol offense? Sort of like saying “we’re open for business” while snubbing Eric Schmidt and threatening the largest economy in the world with a pre-emptive nuclear strike.  Pure genius, if you ask me.

Sort of like the BBC-LSE kerfuffle. (For those of you blessedly ignorant of this affair, BBC journalists imbedded themselves in a London School of Economics student tour of North Korea without fully explaining themselves and now LSE is in a lather.) Let’s be honest: North Korea has little tourism value, for Westerners, at least, except as a freak show, a bizarre throw-back where you can go and say you met real crazy commies, got drunk and sang karaoke, and if you are an aging radical, expressed nostalgic revolutionary solidarity. For the seriously inclined, Brian Myers has a thoughtful take on this.

In the meantime, we have a whole series of posts on the outfits that sponsor these junkets.  My favorite is Political Tours. So when I see some LSE student on TV whining about how she wants her face blurred out in the BBC documentary, my reaction is if I were a grad student who had been on the Beeb-tour of the oh-so-spooky DPRK, I’d be inviting girls up to my apartment for private showings. Get a grip!