Why I Think It Is ETHICAL To Travel To NORTH KOREA (2020)
All right, i'm not gonna lie, i have stopped and started this video. About, seven or eight times now. I have no idea how to start it. Uh, i knew it's gonna be a difficult video. But. Seems like it's a little bit more difficult. Anyway. Um. Hello, everybody. And, welcome, to my home i've always. Thought about, the ethics of traveling to north korea it's something that you you can't get away from as somebody who goes there all the time right, and it's it's one of the most frequently, asked questions. And it's also, one of the biggest forms of like, abuse i get online and stuff like that through instagram, and youtube. People have very strong opinions, on it i wrote my thoughts down in a blog now you can go visit that blog, or alternatively. You can stay with me right now and, listen, to what i have to say. On. Um, is it ethical, to visit north korea. As somebody. Who. Has been there, almost 30 times. And. Indeed as somebody, who, does the marketing, and promoting, for it so i'm gonna. Start, by saying. Write out. That. I think. Tourism. And travel, to, north korea, is ethical. And that's probably. An opinion, that you don't share with me. And with this video i'm not there to try, and convince, you otherwise. I just want to put, in. My. View, my opinion. Give you, something. Maybe different, to think about, hear a different perspective. So stick with me. Try and stay to the end i'm gonna. Start this. Right now properly. Let's go. Okay, so, we're gonna talk about. Seven different things today, uh just to divide it up. And make sure that i stay on track as well the first thing. Is a little bit of an introduction. And background, on me, why my opinion. Matters. In, uh. This topic, okay, uh the second thing, is, some north korea miss busting. So. Um, things like. Oh but they only let you see what they want you to see stuff like that okay we're gonna talk about that. Number three. Is um, why. People think it's unethical. Okay so, um. Then number four we're gonna talk about my first trip to north korea. Um and one impact that that had on me. Uh that was, in. 2016. I think i need to check that one. Um. Number five. Was number five again. Ah number five is an important, one, why it is ethical. All right, so, maybe you should just go ahead and skip to number five wouldn't recommend it but you could. Number six, is um my personal struggle. Which i've spoken, about a little bit in this intro. Um but i will delve further, into. And then number seven is a conclusion. Um. Don't skip right to there you probably want to hear what i have to say a little bit before that. It's a little bit of an interim background on me i've been working, in north korea for almost three years now, and i've visited, the country, almost 30 times, usually when tourism, is like happening. I visit the country. About once a month on average i work for, choreo tours. Um. And, do the, marketing, and promoting. Of north korea tours if you don't follow my social media then why aren't you following my social media okay if you want like videos then posts and stuff like that on north korea, follow me at zoe discovers. Um and also follow choreo tours because i'm posting on there as well i'm not gonna lie, it. Gets, a little bit, difficult. Um. Promoting. North korea. So much. And. Even i have my moments sometimes, i'll be like um. What am i doing, why am i promoting this i'm gonna talk about.
My Personal struggle later but now you know a little bit about me let's go on to the more exciting. Myth-busting, stuff okay so number two myth busting, so the first, myth we're going to burst, is. My money, is being used to build rockets. Okay. They gotta be some pretty cheap rockets. Okay i'll try and stay serious sorry. So. North korea, does not run on tourism. And if you need any proof of that. It has been closed for tourists. Since, mid, january, it was one of the first. Um. Countries to close because of the coronavirus. Pandemic. And. I don't know when it will open again, but. I'd be very lucky if it would open, in 2020. Okay. It's closed previously, for ebola. And also sars but north korea. Does not, run, at least entirely. On the tourism, industry. Um, they would also, like i said have to be pretty cheap, rockets. To, build. Just purely, on, the, tourism. Money, because north korea remains one of the least visited countries, in the world. Not many people visit them. There's not much tourism, so you may ask where does the money go and that's the second thing that we're going to talk about here a tour to north korea, is not cheap, and i think this is one of the big reasons, why people ask this question, so much, you're spending, so much money. Where does it go, now to be fair, you see a lot of return on this money. Um, let me give you an example of how much it costs, um for about a five day tour or four day tour, four nights. Four or five nights, um it could you're looking, at. Somewhere between, one and two thousand euros, depending on the, the company you go with the the, way that you fly, or train. Um i have another video on how much it costs right, um but it's not cheap, you see a return though, um. So when you get there. That's everything, included, all included. Hotel. Food. Transportation. Two korean, guides. Um your western, tour leader. And, a whole bunch of other stuff all of the background, admin stuff right apart from the money that you pay, to the, foreign tourism, agency. You're gonna wonder about the money that you're paying to north korea. So, in north korea, everything, is officially, owned by the state, that means everything is government owned. So if you want to call me out on it you can say sure, all my money is going to the government, and what are the government going to do with it, they're going to build rockets, okay. Fine if you want to say that, but, what i'm going to, say. About that is. Everything, in north korea, is owned, by the state. That includes all the companies. However. When you go down a level the travel companies, function. As. Normal companies, as we know them, okay, so, they have, um, different levels, of, bosses. Of workers, of employees. And each one of them needs to get paid. Um, you've got things, like. They need to buy buses, they need to buy petrol. Office supplies, pens, paper. Printer. Um. What else do you buy in a company. Uh the the company may be state owned just as everything, is in north korea, because it's owned by the state as part of a socialist, system. However, that, once we cut out the government, level. Um.
The Money will circulate, around. The. Company, okay so, like i said going into, salaries. Um paying the various, uh levels, of staff. Anything, that usually. You buy, in a company or a company needs money for, okay, um that will be a lot of where your money is going, and that goes on things, apart from your pens and papers and office supplies, you've also got to consider. Um the entry fees the hotel, the meal. Um, everything, that they do in the country, and, two, very, highly educated. Uh korean, tour guides. They're amazing. Their english is awesome, they speak several languages. Um. They deserve every penny, um, really they're they're. They're very good. All right so, the last myth and the one that i mentioned before, because it's my favorite one but also the one that's trickiest to talk about. Um. Is. They only, let you see things. That, they want you to see. So, yeah they do, and also no, um. This one will take a little bit of explaining, and i really hope that the recording, hasn't stopped because i don't want to say this again, so first of all you are going on a, tour. To north korea you're going in a tour group. Any, tour company in the world, any tour group in the world. Will. Want. Will have you. In a tour. And they will take you, to places. That they want you to see there are very few tour companies, in the world. That. Will represent, their country. In a bad, way. And show you. The bad things of their country. So if you. Go on any tour, in any country in the world, the chances, are. Is that, they will take you, to see the nice places of the country. And they will take you to the places, that they want to show you because they are representing, their country, they want to show it off everyone's, proud of their country right, and north koreans are especially, so they are especially, proud of their country, and they especially. Want to show off, all of the beautiful nice things about their country. And now. For me. This is because they've got themselves, into. A, kind of vicious, circle. Um, so. The north koreans. A lot of them. Who have contact, with foreigners, or, the tour guides. They know what kind of things. We say, in the west. About north korea. And because of this they try and counteract, it, so they try and show you, all of the lovely places, all of the beautiful, places. The beaches. The nice restaurants. Beautiful, pyongyang, stuff like this. And in turn. What we do, is then, we take that. And, we say okay well you're just hiding it from us. Um. So. It's a bit of a vicious circle, right if you get what i'm saying so, they know we're saying bad things about them. So they try, and show us really nice things, and in turn that just makes us say bad things about them because we're like well you must be hiding something, i don't know. In what's. I don't know. How they can get out of this, or how we can get out of it either. So it's no secret. That, north korea. Tourism. Is tightly, controlled. Um. You. Walk around, with a guide, and you should be with your guide, at all times, apart from when you're like in the hotel or in a restaurant, of course you can you can walk around as long as you stay in the building. Now i i also, want to. Um say, these guides, are not government, minders, they are trained professional, guides. Um not government minders, and they're not there to spy on you they're not there to to follow your every move, in fact, they're there to make sure that you don't get in trouble because. Again with a vicious circle. If someone tells you not to do something. Then you're probably gonna go and do it if you're a certain type of person, right i'm also the same, and not in north korea though, um. If you're a certain type of person. And you're told hey you can't do this then immediately, you get curious, and you're like hey i'm gonna do that. I'm getting really off topic here um, but basically. Um, yes north korea, tourism, is controlled. Uh you, have to walk around with your guides. But. It's not as controlled, as you will think they won't be watching you all the time it's a mutual trust thing, if they can trust you you can trust them. Is fine they're not out to get you. Um it's more tightly controlled. Than many other places in the world.
But It's less tightly controlled. Than, what you're probably, envisioning. But the main point that i want to say, about, they only, show you. What, they want to show you. Um, to debunk, this myth. Is that yes. They may show you beautiful pyongyang, beautiful restaurants, the beautiful, sights, the museums. For me personally. No matter what country i'm in. These things are not so interesting. I, love people i'm such a people person i love talking, can you tell. Um. And when i go to a country, i try and be as local as possible, or try and, interact, with the locals as much as possible. Um, museums, art galleries. Sites they're just not my thing which is a personal thing right. Um, that's fine there's lots of amazing, sites in north korea. Um. But. You can see. A lot. Of the country. And of the people. If you, look. Okay, so. And i don't mean. If. You. Go to the museums, go to the art galleries. And see all of the things that they want to show you. But if you, connect. With the day-to-day, life there. Um, if you. Look beyond. What you're being shown. Then. You will see a lot, i've spent a lot of time. Trying to connect, with the with north koreans, whether it be in the in cafes, and restaurants. Um. In. The. Parks. Or, mountains. Dancing, and singing. Um. You really. Can. See, that. It's a country full of people. And, these are people. Going about their daily lives. These are people, with the same common goal as every single person in the world, and that's to be happy, right. And. Um. Whilst, they will show you what they want to show you. It doesn't, mean, that you can only see what they want you to see. That was a great little sign off, i didn't expect that. I like that i'm going to put that at the end maybe, anyway i still have something to say. Um. Ah. Yeah so. Um. They only show you what they wanted to show you. And um, it's all staged, it's all for show. Um. I'm really sorry like. I'll try and answer this um. But. I understood, it okay i'll talk about my first um trip to north korea. Soon. I. Understood. The whole. It's only for show, thing, um, for the first few times. That i then, went to north korea, as a guide. I understood why people asked it.
Um, And i remember. Me being in the same situation, but now i have, a hard time. Comprehending. Why people, still ask this and i think it's because i've, i've. I've seen so much of it and it's so, real, and. I think it's such a shame. You know i've had people, on um. After a two or three day tour very short tour and many people are convinced, it's all, um a stage is all for show. Um. Which is fine you didn't spend so long in the country, it's a shame that that's what you're taking away from it, um, but i, remember, there was one time. After like a five or seven day tour. And. One of the tourists, said to me like. You know you don't really believe all of this it's all the stage it's all the show and. To be honest i think after. A week in the country if you're not. If you're not if, if you're not seeing it. Then. Uh there's no point in me trying to convince, you because the, most convincing, thing you have is right in front of you. Yeah i think it's a shame. Yeah, um. The whole stage and it's for show thing, um i'll just really quickly, blitz through this, but. It's not. It's not staged it's not a show, um. I don't see. For what benefit, north korea would have. Creating. An entire. Country. An entire, city an entire. Thing, for sure what what is it that, that we're saying is is stage what is it, that's a show, because. You know. We take people into the country, and already, you're on the train. From china to north korea with koreans. Okay they're. Maybe visiting, relatives, or they live abroad, or they study abroad, whatever, so already, we're seeing, koreans, here these are not actors. And then. They come into piano and train station. And then there's, you know families, and friends greeting their families. Um or friends who have just come in maybe they haven't seen them for years or weeks or whatever. And then. You know they'll. They'll get in their taxis, or get in a car and drive home. Um. Is that a show. And then. You'll get onto the pyongyang, metro. And. People will ask me hey zoe where are all these people going. And i'm like. I don't know where they're going. Because they're not paid actors, and we didn't pay them to be here so i don't know like maybe they're going to school they're going to work. They're going to a friend's house. Where do you go when you ride the metro. Um. Yeah it's, uh. Maybe i need to, make a whole new video on this, but. It would be. Very counterproductive. For north korea, to. Create. All of its buildings, all of its infrastructures. Put hundreds of thousands, of people, in one place. Um. All for a show. If it's all for a show then, they may as well just. Do it. Another, note on um they only show you what they want to show you. Um. If we're talking about the ethics of visiting north korea. Why, do you want to go there, and see the bad things. To me that's unethical. You want to go there and visit.
A Country, that is, showing off their country the things that they are proud of, you don't want to go. And. And go and take photos, of the poverty, every single country in the world suffers with poverty, in some form or another. And it's incredibly, rude, and unethical. To want to go to a country. And photograph, this or video, it. Um for me that's that's an ethical travel to north korea, the third thing that we're going to talk about is, why do people think it's unethical. To travel to north korea what are the arguments, there and why, are people so opinionated, on it, so the first thing is. Is that, people don't want to support, the north korean government. Now my issue with this. Is not that you. Whether you want to support the north korean government or not, it's that that is even, in the question in the first place, people who visit, the us. Uk. Tonga. Iran. China. Are never accused, of being political. Supporters. Of. That, country's, respective, government. Just because they visited the country. Because, that would be absurd. And the same is for north korea. If you're going to north korea. You're not necessarily. Supporting. The government, actively, maybe you're going there because you want to find out about a different society. Um, maybe you're trying to take all the countries off in the world whatever. Um. But, to, associate. Someone who visits. North korea as someone who is supporting, the government. Then you have to do that with every single other country that you visit, if you go to north korea explicitly. To support the government. Then you have gone to north korea and you've supported, the government. If you go to north korea. With no intention, to support the government, then you have not supported, the government, of north korea. Simple as, before we get onto the main topic, why it is ethical, in topic number five, um. I'm just gonna take a, minute or two to talk about my first tour to north korea. Um and why it had such a big impact on me and, indeed why i'm here, saying this now, stay with me for one more minute. Um. My first tour to north korea was back, in. 2000. And. Yeah no i think it was 2000. No no it was earlier than that maybe 2015. 2016. I thought i wrote it down but i didn't. Anyway, it was um. It was a few years ago, and, you can see why i first visited, in my other videos so i'm not going to bore you about that, but, how i would describe. My, first. Um, taught in north korea. As a tourist myself, my first ever time in north korea. Um, and why it's. Important, and relevant to this video. Is because that i found it so. Pleasantly. Underwhelming. And. No, i'm not gonna lie the camera fell over then. And uh there is no way that i'm gonna record all of that again so i'm sorry if there's a uh, a change in the surroundings, a little bit.
Um. Why it's relevant, why my first tour to north korea is relevant, is because, um. My first impression, when i first went there was that it was, pleasantly, underwhelming, and this is something that i use and say a lot to tourists now or people who ask me what is it like to visit north korea. I say it's pleasantly, underwhelming, and that's because, it's probably. Nothing. Like you're expecting. It's not as scary, and dangerous, as you think. Um, and it's kind of. Normal. In a nice way, and. This normality. Is, um, is not reported, by the media it's very human, we're all humans and we lose sight that the north koreans are also humans. All we can do is concentrate, on the government. And, all the media can do is concentrate, on the government so fair enough that that's all we do too. Um, but when you go there you can see, okay this is a country, full of people and, they're kind of normal. And wow i kind of want to know more about. These people that i've never actually heard about like. How many north koreans have you heard of or heard about or. Considered. In your life there's probably. One. Or. Three. You know. You know who i'm talking about. Um. Have you ever stopped to think about the the people the humans, of north korea. Finally, if you manage to sit through all of that well done thank you for the support. Um number five, why is it ethical, to travel to north korea and we're going to further sub-categorize. Point five, into. Six different categories, number one. It opens, up north korea, to, foreigners. Okay. When you visit the country, it's not just you seeing them, you're not going into like a human zoo and just looking at the koreans. From behind, bars watching them. Go about their daily life okay. You're there too. And. Foreigners, are not represented. In north korea. So nicely. And they definitely, weren't. A longer time ago okay. You, being there in north korea, and your presence. Even if it's just, you being there and looking like a foreigner. Or even if it's just you smiling, at somebody. A glance, a wink whatever. That makes a big difference and equally, point number two it opens up foreigners to north korea. So the media doesn't represent north korea in the best way. Um, how can you get a really true insight into north korea. That's by going there and. Despite, my efforts to market, and promote the country, um as a tourism, destination. Uh, most of the people, that come to north korea. Are. Like they come because. A friend has been, or, a, family, member and has told them about it and said like hey you should definitely go. Um otherwise. Very few people. Go to north korea, who don't know anyone, who's ever been to north korea so it opens up foreigners, as well, as opening, up the north koreans, point number three, you can learn about a new country and learn about a new political, system.
Okay. Again. Don't go by everything that you hear in the media. Learning about the political, system, doesn't necessarily, mean that you're supporting, the political, system, it's just seeing things from, a new light, a new perspective. Um it doesn't mean that you're gonna get brainwashed. Um, i promise, i'm not i don't i don't think i'm brainwashed. Um it doesn't mean that you're gonna get brainwashed, by it okay. Um, it, it just, uh allows, you to have first-hand, information, on the country and the political, system number four, you can have your own opinion, on north korea. Yeah, that's okay, once you've visited the country. You can have your own opinion, of whatever, on north korea okay, and you can have your opinion backed up because you've been there, you've, been on the outside of north korea you've heard about north korea, and you've been to north korea. Okay. You have all the information, that you need and now you can form your own opinion. And it can be backed up, and i will listen and respect your opinion. But. You can't do that if you've never visited north korea, okay. Number five. You can tell your friends about it like i said before. Um the most people, who come to north korea are people who have had friends or family go there before, and even if your friends and family decide that they don't want to go your friends and family, now have. All that new knowledge, you can tell your friends and family all about north korea. All about what you've experienced, perhaps give them a bit of a different, insight and perspective. Than what they would, otherwise, get in the media. And number six. Cultural. Engagement. So choreo tours the company that i work for, um engages, in, various. Uh cultural, engagement. Uh within, north korea. Okay so, uh whether it be sports. Dance. Film. Anything like that and it allows. For engagement, both externally. And internally, so both inside, korea, and outside of korea. Um. This can bring, about. Constructive. Change. So i promised you i would talk about my personal struggle, a little bit um and we're already up to number six so you've only got one more before we get to the conclusion. At seven i promise, it's, it's great you're gonna wanna hear it the reason, why, i, work in north korea and still do and still love it so much is the people i, like i said before i love people i get on a very personal, level i have. Friends in north korea, who i, care about. And that's difficult. Because. I know that they're in north korea. And also i know that. Uh we have very different lives. And. Um it's not so easy for me to contact them. I wonder what they're up to i wonder if they're okay especially, during this um this difficult, time or this difficult, year that is 2020.. Um so i do. Worry about them, it's always difficult when i leave north korea. You know um, it's always difficult. Not knowing how they will be, how they are. Um. And it's hard to say goodbye to friends. As well. I remember one time as i was on the train out of north korea. It was a really weird situation. I was in the dining carriage, of the train. And they have a tv on and sometimes this tv plays, um. It plays anything, um. Sometimes some propaganda. Sometimes, some north korean songs. And this time, and it's the only time that i've heard it it was very bizarre, they um. They were playing, the little mermaid. Um. Or. Clips of the little mermaid, and the song, part of your world came on. And i i love disney songs, and i love singing so i was like just singing along to myself. And then um. And then.
Uh. The. Profoundness. Of that song, uh hit me. And um. Yeah, this. Is difficult, you know, um in reality, they are part of their. Own world. And, um. I'm, in my own world. Uh outside, of theirs. And, i hope that one day. These things will overlap. Uh but until, then, i will strive, to um, to open things up, a little bit open the minds, of um. Of people, when they think about north korea and also. Um, the north koreans themselves. So, to, conclude. The part that you have, all been desperately, excitedly, waiting for i'm just going to sum up pretty much what we've said, um and and come to. Um. Yeah come to a conclusion. As to why, i believe in tourism to north korea and why i think it's ethical, to travel to north korea. And i want to, say. That. Those, who, don't travel to north korea. Because, it's unethical. To travel to north korea. Are not helping the situation. At all. In fact, you're making it worse you're just isolating. The country. Further. Imagine. Imagine, for a second. That north korea has no tourism. I'm not going to say any more on that but. Imagine. Imagine what the country would be like. And. That's what you're saying. Okay that's what that's what you're supporting. If you're not visiting north korea. Because, you think it's unethical. Then a north korea without, any tourists without any foreigners, there, that's what you're supporting. On the other hand. Those who go there, with the right intentions. And the right intentions, being. To. Form your own opinion of north korea. Learn about the country, learn about the people. And. Yeah ultimately, form your own opinion. Of, north korea. Those. Going for these right intentions. That is ethical, tourism. And. That's why it's ethical, to travel to north korea, the koreans, that i've worked with over my, years of working in north korea have always been, fun. Genuine. Loving people, who are so, eager to learn. And, so interactive. And love finding out about. You whether it be personal stuff about, for example. Interested in my family, or whether they're interested. In, you know what's going on in the world. They're, genuine, fun people, who. Love, to. Drink. To dance. To be happy, to chat. Okay. And when i think of the people there. And i, strip. Everything, else out of it the the politics. Everything. When i think of the people. Um, and. And their desires. To, to, learn more, about, the outside, world as well. I'm reminded, that. What i do. I, believe in and i believe that it's good. And. That's why. I, believe, that tourism, to north korea. Is ethical. I hope you enjoyed listening to me um i'm very curious, to hear. What your opinions, are of this video, like i said um. You guys are a harder audience to, to talk to because usually. I'm talking to an audience that has taken the first step you know already decided to come to north korea. I don't know who i'm speaking to here. Um. But. I hope that you. Can. Listen to what i have to say. Um. And. Maybe. Now you've heard, a different perspective. On travel to north korea. And i hope. That. Once. Travel. Is back on. Once 2020, is finished. Maybe you will consider, north korea, as a, travel destination. They are waiting for you. Um. In fact. If you want proof of that, you can go check out my north koreans. Talk new year's resolutions. Uh, one of the north koreans talks about how his, new year's resolution. Is to guide more people, than ever. To his country in 2020. Unfortunately. That one didn't come. Quite, true. But maybe we can try again in 2021.. Anyway thank you very much for listening guys. Um. Post your opinions in the comments below, i think i'm gonna regret saying that but uh i'm interested, to see, what you guys have to say and i'm always up for a debate. Stay nice though. Thank you very much for listening guys. You.