Let’s begin with this 4 minute video/documentary that I made from my trip to North Korea (which is my first video ever to hit 1 million+ views!) .

This Video Will Change Your Perception of North KoreaI recently spent 3 days in Pyongyang, North Korea with Koryo Tours and I put together this short video/documentary from the trip.

Please keep in mind that this video is about my own personal experiences in North Korea, so please take what I say with a grain of salt. I am well aware that all tours to the DPRK are organized and preplanned, and what I saw was a skewed perspective (a small fraction) of the realities that may exist behind closed doors.

My goal in making this video (and all videos) has always been the same – to focus on spreading happiness & positivity in our world by connecting with people across the globe. While it’s more challenging to do this in North Korea, I tried my best to show you a different (positive) side of the DPRK and connect with the people – which may change your perception from all the negativity the media has brought to this nation.

Many of you know my deep love and appreciation with Korea, as I lived and taught English in Seoul 18 months. I can speak Korean conversationally, so I used my ability to meet eye to eye with as many locals as I could and have conversations with them. Most people I came across were friendly and kind-hearted, even after telling them I was American. It’s unfortunate that they were born into such a controlling regime, but it certainly wasn’t their fault or choice.

I welcome your thoughts, feedback and questions about my trip to North Korea (comment below!) If you enjoy this video, please share it to help me spread a message of peace, positivity and happiness within the DPRK.

Music: Ben Sound & Audio Autix

Posted by Drew Binsky on Monday, April 24, 2017

Disclaimer:   It’s important to know that all tours to North Korea are heavily organized and preplanned as to what we can do, eat, see and where we can sleep. Everyone must stick with the tour group at all times, and various rules are strictly enforced.  I realize that what I experienced in North Korea was a small fraction of the realities that may exist behind closed doors. 

Everything you are about to read is based off my own personal experiences in North Korea, so please take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Also, please note this is NOT an article about the politics of North Korea, so please, make your own judgments and keep your political opinions to yourself.   That being said, I encourage you to ask me any travel-related questions in the comments below about visiting the DPRK.


“I’m going to North Korea”

“Are you out of your mind?”
“Why would you ever risk your life?”

The questions came pouring in from friends, family and followers when they heard about my recent trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

And rightfully so, as North Korea has been a heavily debated topic across the globe for decades. Tensions are currently at an all-time high as I write this (April ’17), with Trump recently sending tens of thousands of American troops to the Korean Peninsula, and China ordering hundreds of thousands of military to prepare for battle.

From April 7-10, 2017, I went on a guided tour around Pyongyang, North Korea with a wonderful & reputable British tour company out of Beijing called Koryo Tours.  From start to finish, Koryo was excellent to work with and they made me feel comfortable throughout the process.  I recommend them if you are thinking about going to the DPRK.

North Korea was not what I expected.   For one reason or another, I was expecting to see very few people out and about in Pyongyang, and a of lack of infrastructure and overall cleanliness of the city.   It was quite the opposite actually — with thousands of people roaming around the street, all dressed nicely from head to toe, tall buildings with modern interiors and kids playing sports in the parks.

Here’s a selfie from when I got caught in the middle of thousands of people rehearsing their dances for the upcoming national holiday of Kim Il Sung’s birthday on April 15th.


Visiting North Korea was eye opening, surreal, and in a strange way, refreshing.   I tried to meet eye to eye with as many people as possible, and have conversations with them.   I wanted to feel North Korea.

I’m looking forward to sharing my first-hand experience with you inside the most isolated country on earth.

North Korea.


This 10-minute read is broken down into the following 10 sections:

– Why Did I Visit North Korea?
– A Brief History Lesson on Korea
– Rules We Were Told To Follow In DPRK
– Things To Keep In Mind As You Read
– Getting To North Korea
– First Impressions
– Things We Did
– Interacting With Locals
– My Two Cents On DPRK
– Final Thoughts

Why Did I Visit North Korea?

Aside from the fact that I’m trying to visit every country, I’ve always been fascinated with North Korea. When I was in college, I took an entire class on the history and propaganda of the DPRK.  Two months after graduation (Aug 2013), I moved to Seoul, South Korea to live and teach English for 18 months.

Here’s a photo of me teaching English to my Middle School students.


While I was living in Korea, I learned how to read, write and speak the Korean language at a conversational level, and I embraced the culture and traditions of Korea.   Given my obsession and deep connection with Korea, I was curious to see what life is like in the Northern half of the Peninsula – so I finally decided to go.

A Brief History Lesson on Korea

In case you are wondering why there are 2 different Koreas in the first place, here is a brief history lesson in two paragraphs.


On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when about 75,000 soldiers from the North bombarded across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the North and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the South.  The invasion was considered as the first military action of the Cold War, and by July of 1950 (one month after the North’s invasion), American troops had entered on South Korea’s behalf and the bloody battle started.

The Korean War lasted 3 years and finished on July 27, 1953.  In total, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war.  Since the day the War ended, the two countries split on the 38th parallel and a thick wall was built at the border or Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). For the last 65 years, North and South Korea have technically still been at war because no peace treaty has ever been signed. The DMZ is the thickest and most militarized border on earth, as North and South Korea continue to grow apart.

Rules We Were Told to Follow in DPRK

As tourists, we all had to attend a mandatory briefing the day before the trip (in Beijing), and we were given certain rules to obey while in DPRK.   Here are the top 3 rules that every tourist must follow.

#1) Never Disrespect The Leaders


The number one rule that we were told, and that you should be aware of, is to never, EVER talk about or disrespect their past or current leaders (Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il & Kim Jong Un). The citizens of the DPRK treat their leaders as Gods, and there are severe punishments if you disrespect them in any way. This includes folding a newspaper with his face on it, taking selfies with peace signs in front of their statues, taking cropped photos of their faces, or mentioning their names in any conversation. Just don’t do it.

#2) Don’t Spread Religion

We were strictly told not to speak about or attempt to spread any religion of any kind, such as giving people bibles, singing religious songs or handing out religious forms.   Sure, you can be a religious person and visit DPRK but you better keep your mouth shut at all times.  If we were found guilty of spreading religion, then we would have to face some serious consequences.

#3) No Photos of Military or Construction Sites

Photos and videos were surprisingly allowed of almost everything except military officers and construction sites.  The reason for the latter is because North Koreans always want their country to look the best shape possible, and construction sites can make it look bad.  Also, buildings are built by the military, so if you take photos of construction, then you’d also be breaking rule #1.

Things to Keep in Mind as You Read This

– All tourists sleep in the same 47-story hotel, called Yang Jak Do, which is located on a private island in the middle of Pyongyang. Once we enter the hotel at night, it’s forbidden to leave (but the hotel does have several bars, a bowling alley, ping pong room, billiard tables, karaoke room, banquet halls, gift shops, restaurants and more).

– All meals were planned inside of restaurants, and we had to eat with our entire group. The food was a mix of local dishes and Western food, and honestly wasn’t too tasty.  The photo you see below is a traditional Korean food called Nang Myeon (cold noodles). It was my favorite meal of the trip, and it’s actually a common dish in South Korea as well.


– There is no wifi or any access to the internet while in North Korea.

– We were not allowed to use local currency. Only USD, Chinese Yuan or Euros to pay for everything in gift shops, etc.  Also, every place we visited were “tourist places,” so we didn’t even have the chance to get local currency (although I asked for some from a street vendor and they gave me a few bills!)

– There are various tours running to North Korea with different prices all throughout the year (check Koryo’s website). My tour was the shortest duration offered — 3 days for the Pyongyang Marathon. All tours have different prices and schedules, which are all-inclusive (visa fee, return flights, hotels, transportation, food, tour guides, etc.).

Getting to North Korea

The tour started and finished from Beijing. As I mentioned earlier, everyone was required to meet in Beijing (where Koryo’s office is located) a day early for a mandatory briefing.  During the briefing, they went over all the Do’s and Don’ts (mostly Don’ts) — as well as prepared us for all aspects of the trip.

We flew on Koryo Air, a North Korean airline, and the flight was 90 minutes long. The plane was an old and jerky Soviet airplane, filled with about 90% tourists with Koryo Tours, and a few North Koreans.


It first hit me that I was going to North Korea when I was checking in for the flight at the airport. My palms were sweating and I felt very anxious.   I had no idea what was about to happen over the next 3 days of my life.   I was so worried about getting in trouble or getting my camera taken, etc.  I only told a few of my best friends and sister that I was going to DPRK… everyone else (including my parents) thought I was on a camping trip in China, because I didn’t want them to be paranoid while I was gone.

The plane took off and soon later we touched down in Pyongyang’s brand spankin’ new airport that was shockingly modern and clean.

Even more shocking, the immigration and security at the airport was a breeze.   They didn’t search me or anything!  Believe it or not, you are allowed to bring in computers, phones, cameras etc. – but you must declare every electronic item you are bringing into the country.

Here are the 3 forms that you must fill out in the airport and present to the immigration/security officers.


When we arrived at Pyongyang International Airport, we found our group of 20 people and met our local tour guide, Mr. Kang. There were some 800 tourists going to the DPRK this weekend in total for the Marathon (which I was told was the most tourists ever in the DPRK at any time).  Every bus (or group of 20 people) must have 2 local Koreans and 1 Koryo employee (Westerners) with them at all times.

My group mostly consisted of Europeans, and there was only one other American other than myself.

First Impressions of North Korea

From the moment we touched down, my eyes were glued out the window. I was fascinated by every little detail – from the distant mountains, to the farmers in the rice fields, to the colorful and tall buildings.

Given that we only had 3 days in Pyongyang, we immediately went from the airport to visit some sites. We visited the National Library where we ran into a newly-wed couple (and were able to photograph them). Then, we went to Mansu Hill Grand Monument, where we saw the two giant statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. It was crazy to witness this with my own two eyes, after learning and studying so much about them. The only word to describe it was surreal.


I was surprised to see so many modern buildings and wide streets with hardly any cars.   Nearly everyone was dressed the same, in dark fancy clothes, and there were lots of people walking around on the streets but I couldn’t figure out where they were going.  The metro was specifically crowded with people seemingly heading somewhere…

Were they going to work?

I hardly saw any workplaces such as hotels, restaurants, shops, banks, hospitals, offices, cafes, etc. Very strange feeling.


Things We Did in North Korea

Throughout the trip, we did a variety of activities and fun things that you might find surprising. Here were my top 7 highlights, in order with #1 being my favorite:

#1) Running in the Pyongyang Marathon

Without question, my favorite part of the trip was participating in the Pyongyang Marathon, which began and ended inside a giant stadium filled with 50,000+ screaming Koreans.


This was just the 4th year the Pyongyang Marathon has been opened for foreigners, so I can say that I’m one of the first few thousand foreigners to ever run in this race.  I only did the 10K, but people had the option to run a half or full marathon. The weather was perfect that day and the run was amazing – all throughout the streets of Pyongyang.   This was the first (and only) time that we didn’t have to be stuck with our tour group and we were free to roam around (within the track).   I was talking to spectators on the side of the road (in Korean) and giving high-fives to all the kids – which was really a special experience for me. After the race finished and while we were all waiting for the full-marathon runner to finish, I was able to mingle outside with a bunch of locals stadium and have conversations with them. There were even beer tents serving local beer!

#2) Riding on the Pyongyang Metro

The underground metro in Pyongyang is the deepest metro system in the world – averaging more than 100 meters (330 feet) below the street.


It reminded me exactly of the metro system in Moscow and Kiev, with its tube-like structure, tall ceilings and long escalators. We rode 6 stations and it was really crowded the whole time. It was a unique experience to be surrounded by North Koreans and seeing their daily life unfold in front of my eyes.

#3) Going to the Circus

Would you have ever guessed that Pyongyang has an incredible circus and talent that rivals Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas?


I surely didn’t know that! North Koreans, in general, are very talented when it comes to all sports, because they train very hard, and acrobatics is no different. We unfortunately weren’t allowed to take photos or videos inside the circus, but I snuck in a few (not recommended)!

#4) Walking in the Main Squares/Monuments

Walking through the massive Kim Il Sung Square, and seeing the dominating statues all around the city was fascinating.


We visited Pyongyang at a great time of the year because the following week (on April 15) was the biggest national holiday – Kim Il Sung’s birthday. In preparation, we witnessed thousands of people practicing their dances in the streets to get ready for the giant show in celebration of his birthday and to show off their national pride.

#5) Chilling in the Park

We stopped at a local park to hang out and see daily life passing by, and while doing so, we bumped into a newly wed couple taking wedding photos.


They even let us take photos with them (although they didn’t seem too happy about it).  While we were in the park, it was nice to be surrounded by locals going about their daily lives and simply observing the culture around us.

#6) Drinking at Bars

I didn’t expect to be drinking any booze while in the DPRK, but surprisingly, there are a few bars around Pyongyang (for tourists), as well as multiple bars in our hotel.


North Korea beer was actually pretty good, and easy to drink, and the soju (rice liquor) was similar to what you can find in South Korea.  Beer is cheap – about $2 USD per glass.

#7) Going to the Shooting Range

Yes, I shot a gun in North Korea.


They have a shooting range, much like any shooting range I’ve ever been. I shot an AK-something at some targets and bottles. We had the option to pay a little more money to “hunt” live chickens running around the back, where every time you shoot one dead, they give it to you to bring home to cook and eat.  A few guys in our group shot some and we ate them for lunch the following day.

Other activities that are offered in Pyongyang are going to the water park, amusement park, visiting schools, playing golf (which I wish I had time to do), and more.

Interacting with Locals 

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip for me was being able to interact with locals.


It was difficult to find opportunities, as the tour is on a tight schedule and we cannot break from the group, but there were certain instances where I had a few minutes to speak with people.

For example, after the marathon ended, I had a 10 minute conversation with a Korean couple and their son outside the stadium. I told them I was American and they seemed to be very interested and they wanted to hear more about it. The kid told me that he is a really good badminton player.

I also spoke with these adorable girls, as they were enjoying their lollipops.   As you can probably tell from the photo, one girl was very happy & open to speak with me, while the other was too shy.


I got to know our tour guide, Mr. Kang, and some of the hotel staff pretty well. Of course, I never brought up anything political (they wouldn’t talk about it anyways), but it was nice to joke around and simply hang out with locals. I realized this was the first (and maybe last) opportunity that I’ll have to interact with North Koreans.

I must say it really helped to know Korean Language and have the ability to ask people questions and try to get to know them.   The language in the North is more or less the same as in the South, but slightly more traditional.  Very few people speak English apart from the tour guides and hotel staff.

My Two Cents on the DPRK

I am not ignorant, naive or oblivious to the realities that exist in the country, such as labor camps, extreme poverty and severe bad treatments. I know we only saw a fraction of the “true” DPRK, which was a very skewed perspective of the reality happening inside.   I realize that people are essentially brainwashed from a young age and are told what to think, how to act and what to believe in. I know that people in North Korea rarely have access to phones, TV’s, or to any news/ current events happening outside of their borders.


That being said, I did see a charming side of North Korea that I didn’t expect, and that certainly doesn’t get discussed in the media.

Kids go to school, tell jokes with their friends, and play sports in the parks. Adults ride their bikes to work or take the metro, hang out on the streets with their friends and love their families.

People are people, regardless of how & where they were brought up. Everyone wants to love and be loved in return. We all need to eat to survive, and have a roof over our heads.

Nobody chooses which country or society to be born into, and it is unfortunate that people in the DPRK were brought up in such a controlling regime.  People in the DPRK stick together as one community, and many of them appeared to be happy as they don’t know any different.

To be honest, it was a little refreshing to not see everyone glued to their phone screens 24/7 (much like I experienced in Cuba).   It was like stepping in a time machine back to the 1970’s or 80’s.

Final Thoughts on North Korea

I left the DPRK with more questions than I had when I arrived.  I am still fascinated by their culture, economy, politics and how they remain to be the most isolated country on earth.

After reading this article, I hope you now have a better understanding of what it is like to visit North Korea. As I mentioned in the beginning, everything you just read was based off my personal experiences on a guided tour, so please make your own judgments.   I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions and questions in the comments below – so don’t be shy to ask away!

**The cost of my tour to North Korea was covered by Koryo Tours. That being said, every time I accept a sponsored trip, I always make sure I am able to write my honest opinions and I will never skew information to write positively about a company if I didn’t find it to be positive.  I can say wholeheartedly that Koryo Tours was excellent to work with, from start to finish, and they really did a professional job of making sure everyone is okay and safe.  The people working at Koryo are welcoming and kind, and they always made me feel comfortable. I highly recommend looking into Koryo Tours if/when you are planning your trip to the DPRK.**

Drew Binsky

A graduate from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Drew Binsky has visited 190+ Countries since 2012.He first caught the travel bug while studying abroad in Prague, then taught English in Korea, and now he's on a mission to visit every country on earth.Follow his journey on YouTube & Instagram @drewbinsky 🙂

Latest posts by Drew Binsky (see all)

76 thoughts on “North Korea is Not What I Expected, and Here’s Why…

  1. I’m so Impressive!!!!!

    Every time when I ask a friend should we give North Korea a try, he said are you losing your mind. I don’t blame him for this because this is a general mindset for most people and the media gives people a dark image about North Korea.

    The people there are so kind (like the South Koreans) but there are hard rules to follow in this country. sadly.

  2. Hey Reader And My fellow Mat …. Whenever You Plan To Come Himachal Pradesh For Hiking, Adventure Trip, Business Trip … Just Recall Me And
    I am Waiting for You Outside Your Door, We Can Make A Great Night Together And You Feel That Heaven You Ever Dreaming
    Or Call Us On 8816863565

  3. Hey Reader And My fellow Mat …. Whenever You Plan To Come Himachal Pradesh For Hiking, Adventure Trip, Businees Trip … Just Recall Me And
    I am Waiting You Outside Your Door , We Can Make A Great Night Together And You Feel That Heaven You Ever Dreaming

  4. The Taedonggang beer shop in central Pyongyang is a common after-work meeting place for North Korea’s working class. There are no stools or chairs. People stand around tables and converse while drinking Tadedonggang, North Korea’s favorite lager.

  5. Hello, Drew! Loved your article – thank you!
    A little remark, the capital of Ukraine is Kyiv, not Kiev. The last one is the Russian (not original) pronunciation

  6. Your article is very interesting to me as I am in South Korea right now (and I am a black woman). No one has treated me unfairly or exceptionally well. It’s been a pretty normal and delightful experience for me. I found your article and read it because I’ve always been curious about life in North Korea. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Great source of information for me. I am planning to do a trip to North Korean in January. This really fulfills my quest for information. Thanks, brother for much-needed information.

  8. Great Article, Thanks for sharing

    When it comes to our North Korea Travel philosophy, our goal is to increase contact with locals as much as possible, arranging visits not only to the main highlights of the country but also to places that show what life is like in North Korea and that allows for interaction with Koreans.

  9. I was always ancious to know something about North Korea, as you said the most isolated country on earth. I just want to know one thing, were they looking happy? Bcos to live a life like you are in jail is very difficult.

  10. Hi there,
    I see charm everywhere but in lots of cases, it’s because I search for it or insist on finding it. I am sure, I would say something similar were I to “check” the North Korea box. I like most of your articles but this one is all about completing a notch. I have zero desire to get this notch. Much as I would like to say traveled to every country it will never happen because there are some that I just will not visit – at least not in 2019. I pride myself in saying I have not been to some countries. Few will see this article as a contribution to travel blogging. Few will enjoy this for all the obvious reasons. Most will see it for what it is. This being said, you got hits, you got volume and today that’s all that matters in 2019. Hopefully, that will change in 2020 and beyond. Nikki

  11. Hi Drew,

    can I know does the Koryo plane, u paid extra 2 way trip?

    Your use rifles and hunt live chicken, how much does it cost?

  12. I’m still so surprised, i can’t believe this, i just got a loan of $80,000 from Mr.Fisher Moore and nothing like upfront fee, is as if i’m dreaming, but no its reality, i’m so happy right now, and not only that i just got engaged on friday, I’m full of happiness now, you can contact him now [email protected]

  13. lmao exposed
    on your north korea documents it says your real name is drew goldberg but you claim to be called drew binsky. DRAMA ALErT
    *sips tea*

    1. Oh wow, I just noticed that. I have been following Drew’s journies for a while now. I always thought his name was Drew Binsky. I’m so disappointed. I really trusted him. I really did.

        1. Drewey.. Drewey…dont listen to them. Theyre just haters. We all know youre last name is binsky. Love ya. Stay strong and bulk. Keep traveling. Lov ja. xoxoxo.

  14. Hi Drew-

    I’m a fellow travel blogger and I know that where you choose to go will always bring criticism and praise. You ultimately have to go where you want and share your personal insights. That being said, there seems to be a strong invalidating streak in your commentary. You did a whole series on how easy it is to travel as a Jew in Arab countries. As a fellow Jew (who speaks fluent Arabic) I can tell you you’re wrong. Are there Arabs who are friendly and welcoming? Sure! I have made friends this way. Are there ones who are bigoted or want to commit violence against me because I’m Jewish? Yes- I’ve met them. And it’s scary. You can still share a message of hope without totally disregarding people’s fears- some fears that are rather realistic. I feel this North Korea post is in the same vein. Could it be interesting to visit? Sure. It’s always better to see with your own eyes. At the same time, pointing out that kids go to school there just like kids go to school in any other country is not a particularly insightful comment. Kids are kids everywhere- and the torture, rape, and abuse that North Korea heaps on its citizens (and foreign nationals it doesn’t like) is not like everywhere. The Netherlands does not treat people this way, for example, and their kids also go to school. You are brave for going to so many countries. At times, I feel you are sometimes naive and push that naivité on your readers, as if they should feel bad for being afraid of certain places. When really, sometimes they have reason to be (and sometimes they might not). I’d like to see a little more nuance and a little less pie in the sky from your commentary. Showing a realistic, nuanced side to difficult places could do the world more good.

    1. To make comments such as “about 75,000 soldiers from the North bombarded across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the North and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the South” is just propagandist. The SU did not have troops in NK whereas the US had imposed a stooge called Syngman Rhee in the south who was systematically murdering anybody who was in favor of reuniting Korea including the suppression of the Jeju Uprising. The NK crossed the temporary border to stop that slaughter. Dean Rusk was ordered to ensure that the US would have a footing on the Asian mainland and the US got involved under cover of the UN as the SU was boycotting the Security Council because China would not be given the seat occupied by the Taiwan warlords..
      The US destroyed every structure in northern Korea and eventually ran out of targets-according to Eisenhower. Yet, the mighty US was beaten to an armistice. The border is not on the 38 parallel, it is on average quite a distance above it. “the torture, rape, and abuse that North Korea heaps on its citizens (and foreign nationals it doesn’t like) “. You have no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. NK is at war still with the US as the US will not sign a peace-treaty and the US and it’s glove puppets used to stage military exercised twice yearly to disrupt the planting and harvesting of crops. The development of nuclear weapons by NK has meant that the soldiers can stay in the fields. The war on Korea was the first war that the US did not win. By the way, The Netherlands tortured many many people in their colonies see link https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14623528.2012.719362

    2. matt u sound abit pollitically biased or politically influenced unlike many countries in the world i think north korea is the most peaceful country in my experience regarding to the fact that countries like america allow people to insult other peoples religious views , theres too much crime police man shoot school kids and school kids carry knifes and stabb each other on a daily baisis on the other hand crime rates are extremely including in europe but in north korea theres no such in the netherlands u can get away with insulting peoples private but in north korea thats a crime dont forget that kim jong un attended school in austria so there are things he encountered in europe he doesnt want his people to experience so before saying things about north korea that u havent experienced why dont u take a look at the problems in ur own country because north korean people live as a family and they love each other and they experience no crime only arrests if u against the government so how is ur country?

  15. Hey man.
    Great blog btw!
    I’m curious about when you had the chance to talk to the locals after the marathon and just wondered if you ever asked them about life in their country?
    Is there social hierarchy (outside of the political worlds) and how they spend their days personally. Or if you asked them about your notice of lack of shops and cafes etc?
    Be really curious to hear back from you!

  16. Interesting visit. I visited in 2010. However, if possible go back next time for a longer visit and use Young Pioneer tours. (Yes the tour that Otto was with sadly.) The owner Garth has a strong relationship with North Korea’s tourist department so you will have a better experience in my opinion. Most of the restaurants we went to were local ones that had excellent food. You also missed a visit to the DMZ. I suggest going when they hold the Mass Games again. Ironically I found your site from a Newsweek article that like many had mis-information about North Korea. The talked about a traveler who “smuggled” out currency, stamps and a poster that he bought at the black market. All of that was for sale at the gift shop we visited and no tour would go to a black market in North Korea.

    Unlike you I was able to have an interesting political discussion with the guy who was the minder for the Americans in our group. However, I think I would be more careful after what happened to Otto.

    If you are ever in Xiamen, China look me up! I’ve lived here 10 years. I’ve only visited 38 countries.

  17. Although I personally have no desire to go to North Korea, I was impressed by your fair, honest, and what I thought to be a very ‘balanced’ reporting on your own travel experiences there. It was heartwarming (although I am not really surprised) to find that even though not exposed to the everyday North Korea, there were moments of meeting regular folks who, like any other in the world, are ‘people’ who share similar feelings, curiosities, etc. Congrats on a good piece.

  18. hey Drew just curious can I still go to North Korea even though I still live in the United States at the moment

  19. Hmm mm interesting however im totally against your view of 3 days in a country of brainwashed citezens by a man that secretly loves the west himself, I am drawn to the documentary on the real side of nk not your staged version and actually I don’t like you as a person enough said

  20. Hey Drew! We are so happy to read your blog post and we share the same experiences as you did. Glad t see that there are also other travel bloggers who share same opinions about North Korea. We’re also happy you got a chance to interact with locals. I believe that after the trip you will never feel the same as you did before going there, right?

  21. Hi Drew,
    Thanks for sharing this article. It was very interesting to read about your experience in NK, obviously this isn’t something you come across very often! I appreciate the way you acknowledge that you were clearly shown a very prescribed/edited version of NK. I would even argue that you didn’t actually saw NK at all but just a staged version. However, what you were exposed to, is still fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  22. I would block all these comments from IDIOTS with probably ZERO perspective on travel who probably have never been out of their own bathrooms in their lives.

  23. Tourists to the DPRK are only helping fund this cruel regime. I hope it feels good knowing you made a cash donation to what is essentially the world’s largest prison camp. Your travel dates mentioned fall within the timeframe that Otto Warmbier was being held prisoner, yet you’re encouraging others to go as it’s a perfectly safe travel destinaion. Why? So you can make a few bucks off your affiliate links? I hope that’s worth having blood on your hands. This entire post is despicable and should be removed. As should your American citizenship.

      1. Rivers of blood. 5 million in Korea, 3 million in Vietnam, Cambodia? Laos? Philippines 100,000, Add all the anti-democratic US staged coups from Iran to Guatemala……right thru to present-day Venezuela. All the native American nations wiped out etc. etc…………………………………

  24. My guess is that your travel blog is your side hustle turned full-time
    online business? If so, I must commend you because you’re doing a
    fantastic job. How long did you stay in North Korea for?

  25. Why is it that the Social Security Administration (1 800 7721213 -a number I got from calling I 800 medicare) gives us information we cannot access anywhere else, namely that you CANNOT have your social security monthly retirement check sent to you if you chose to move to, live/retire in either North Korea or Cuba? Maybe North Korea and Cuba are DOING SOMETHING RIGHT THAT THE powers that be in the USA, don’t want us to know about? Maybe in North Korea and in Cuba, the residents have 100% literacy, etc?

    1. Whatever about poor embattled North Korea which had the nerve to beat the US empire to a standstill and is still suffering for that insult, the powers that be in the USA would not like you to see Cuba, which despite everything that a spiteful US can throw at it is still the most socially successful country in Latin America. Just look at it’s neighbors Haiti or Puerto Rico. The powers that be in the USA has an embargo on NK and Cuba which does not allow you to spend your money there.

  26. Hi Drew.
    Excellent article. I have just returned from a similar (if slightly longer) trip to NK and I share your thoughts to some extent. I still live in SK and when I mentioned that to people over there it triggered a lot of conversations, mostly if not all lighthearted exchanges – they’re so curious about the South.
    Anyway, safe travel!

  27. 5 million deaths in the Korean War? Where are you getting those numbers? That seems very high based on what I’ve read.

  28. So you travled and gave money to not only a country with concentraiton camps still in existance, but also straves and enslaves its own people, while they use said money to build missles and threaten to launch those missles at our own country, and also threaten to annilate millions upon millions of other innocent people. You are either the biggest dumb ass in the world or an absolute monster. You choice you pick, BOYCOTT THIS PERSON!!!

  29. Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts with regard to your trip the DPRK. I have wanted to visit but age and health no longer allow for such an adventure. Also, I agree that when the citizens of even drastically different countries and cultures are permitted human interaction that it can only be of benefit to all concerned. I have to add, in closing, that my eyes popped to attention when I saw that you had studied in Prague. I visited much of Eastern Europe in the ’80s, before the fall of the Wall. I had the opportunity to visit the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, and the streets in Budapest where the Soviets invaded in the 1950s, and W. Square in Prague where students gave their lives for artistic and intellectual freedom by lying in front of the invading Soviet tanks, effectively ending the Prague Spring and the rule of Dubcek. But I’ll never forget the spell-casting beauty of Prague, even if some of the buildings were somewhat crumbly. I’m glad I got to see Prague before the architecture was altered after the falling of the Wall, as glad as I am that the Wall fell. By the way, people were dumbfounded as to why I would want to travel to communist countries at the time. I laid a wreath of flowers at the entrance to the ghetto in Warsaw, and contemplated the students of Prague laying down their lives in pursuit of freedom. That’s what the trip was about to me. As a character in Jean Renoir’s film The Rules of the Game says, ‘Everybody has their reasons.”

  30. SO please to find your site, many thanks…………I am approaching 80yrs and have noticed the way that so many countries criticise NK without any true idea as to just what the conditions are, I would love to experience NK for myself, so many people follow the mainstream media as being the truth without anything to support the theoretical ideas of those with a self-interest in demonising NK. Don’t get me wrong, it could be that all criticism is truly justified, it’s just that I as an individual do not know the truth and will hold back my opinions until I do.

  31. As an influential travel blogger, you should renege all positive sentiments you have expressed about NK and remove any and all posts promoting tourism there. I have followed you for years and have been a huge fan! In light of recent events, I can not and will not follow travel bloggers that are still promoting the pariah country of NK. That is irresponsible and negligent. As a travel influencer, you should take this opportunity to do the exact opposite and inform people that it is NOT OKAY to risk their own lives and support the Kim Jong Un regime. The treatment of Otto Warmbier was disgraceful and unforgivable. Otto’s father spoke of how Otto was lured to NK by tour groups promoting safe, fun trips and claiming no one has ever gotten hurt — it’s totally safe. And look what happened! You should not be promoting and sugar-coating North Korea. Not anymore. You are encouraging people to turn a blind eye at the atrocities the regime is committing against not only it’s own people, but also citizens of other countries including the US. That is disgraceful. Please I beg you to do the right thing.

    1. I went to the DPRK way before Otto’s release.. and am I not allowed to travel there and share my experience? If your choice if you want to go or not, and it my decision to talk about my trip and let others know about my experience.

      1. Stop playing dumb with your comment. You are influencing people to take trips to NK with your post. It’s not just about “sharing your experience”.

    2. Hi drew binsky, I just discovered your blog bout NK and it was excellent, and no, I am not american but european. Excellent reading and explanation bout a country that is still so forbidden to the rest of the world, unfortunately, but in a way, bout being the devil’s advocate, it’s just protecting from the outside world’s crap the so called advanced western civilisation, complete downhill it’s going with their stupid politicians and poisoning their own people with junk food all around each corners of their city streets, getting fat, drunk, religions wars, feminisms, tatooed freaks, porn evwhere, kids using drugs, people glued on their cell phones, people divorcing for this or that reason etc.. etc… etc…. crazy world we are living in I am telling you. So sad world.
      Some comments on your blog can be so stupid, really, just ignore them. I am myself planning a trip to NK and about the “financing the dictature” bout some other comments, if you don’t like it, well, just leave it and move your fat ass or stay in your own hometown eating your fat greazy burgers and drinking beers whole day.
      Continue your great work, love it. Sometimes dictature is a good thing, keep things in order, not like europe or U.S which are a complete mess nowadays with their non-sense politics.

  32. This is interesting.
    Have you gone out into the real areas of North Korean citizens?
    Have you been to places outside the city?
    What are your thoughts on it?
    Very curious!:)

  33. Hi Drew,

    A really interesting post and I have followed your trip to North Korea keenly since you returned. I would be very interested to go as well in the future.

    I have one question. Since you visited, the political situation has escalated somewhat since. If you were to travel today, assuming you had never been, would you still go?


    The Edventures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *