social sciences

A sneak peek into North Korea

It is actually possible to go to North Korea for vacation. You will need to apply for a visa. Your trip, however, will most likely be highly restricted. You will have a curfew, you can’t leave your hotel at certain hours. And you can’t photograph everything you see, your camera will be checked upon leaving. You will be accompanied by a ‘tour guide’ at all times, so you can’t stray from the predetermined trip. Though, apparently the Chinese have a little bit more freedom and are allowed to drive cars.

One of the most famous hotels in Pyongyang is the Yanggakdo Hotel. If you’re interested in what it must be like staying there, I recommend you read the reviews on TripAdvisor. On average the hotel gets a ‘decent’ rating, though, reviewers often add ‘for North Korean standards’.
One of the reviewers explains:

“Whilst a lot is to be said for the fact this hotel is in the DPRK and all the perks that come with that this is by far one of the worst hotels I have stayed in. Nothing works, not the plugs, television or shower.”

Pyongyang seems to serve a purpose of displaying North Korea’s greatness. There are big skyscrapers, (fast food) restaurants, parks, and luxury stores. The restaurants’ customers or mostly those who are part of the elite, foreign diplomats, or tourists.

Luxury stores

The following video displays a POV of a tourist visiting a luxury store. Most of these goods aren’t available to the general public.

Fast food restaurants

It’s interesting to see the lady behind the counter use a calculator while taking the customers’ order. While it is supposed to be a fastfood restaurant, the service seems to be quite slow.

North Korean news… on YouTube?

North Korean news is interesting because it’s different from our news in the western world. It mostly consists of coverage of new construction projects. The construction and opening of Munsu Water Park were extensively covered by the news. It featured thousands of workers, building the new amusement park in absolute synchronization, using outdated methods of construction compared to western standards. North Korea had its own YouTube channel, Korean Central Television, on which it regularly uploaded (sometimes only hours apart) news, soap operas, and kids’ shows. However, YouTube took down the channel a few months ago.


North Korea has its own version of ‘Kpop’. The legend goes that Kim Jung-Il called for his country’s own girl band. The women are always wearing uniforms, oftentimes military-styled. They play the drums, electric guitars, keytars, synthesizers, and more! I have been told that their songs often feature lyrics about the Korean War, the Great Leader, and their accomplishments as ‘a self-sufficient’ nation. In February last year, they held a concert celebrating a rocket launch.


In this video, several defectors are interviewed and tell you all the good and bad things they experienced in their homeland.


There are many interesting documentaries that show us the insides of the regime. Including this 3-part series by Vice.

Sources: The Real North Korea (Lankov), Without You There Is No Us (Kim)