Young Pioneer Tours

Traveling to North Korea and the US Sanctions

Working in tourism in North Korea, YPT regularly answers questions about safety and security issues for when we’re visiting the country.

The media paints a certain picture of the country and it is understandable that some people have questions about this. We give out detailed pre-tour information and brief everyone travelling with us at a pre-tour meeting, but it all boils down to “if we don’t break the law, and we respect the local culture, then we won’t have any issues with security.”

When the DPRK hits the headlines it is generally a big story, so people associate the country with political hyperbole, nuclear tests and detainments. Of course, to a great extent this is understandable, but at YPT we want to dig below the headlinesmany of which are greatly exaggerated or from unreliable sources—to see and interact as much as we can with the country and its people. We believe the most cultural interaction with North Koreans as possibleincluding tourismthe better, while also creating a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

As YPT guides to North Korea, we also get asked a myriad of questions about the country and its people. Although we are happy to answer any questions, especially about our experience as western guides, one thing we often try to encourage is to ask more questions to the North Korean guides. This allows you to form a relationship with them in the brief time you’ll have together, to find about their family, about their job and how they learned English, what they like to do and what’s their favourite karaoke song, and more specific things about Korean history or politics. The more we communicate, the more of an insight we get.

US Sanctions

When I talked about the sanctions on a trip earlier this year, our guide Mr Lee put his beer down and said, “well you know, we are used to living under sanctions. For us it is either more sanctions or less sanctions, never no sanctions.”

Recently, the US have upped their sanctions, and Air Koryo, DPRK’s national airline, has been included on the list this time around. Because many people travelling into the country choose to do so via Air Koryo, we felt it was important to clarify how these sanctions will affect those who choose to travel with us. None of the sanctions include specific bans on travel for US citizens or citizens of any other country. Furthermore, these sanctions do not cover “any transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from any country, including importation of accompanied baggage for personal use maintenance within any country including payment of living expenses and acquisition of goods or services for personal use, and arrangement or facilitation of such travel including nonscheduled air, sea, or land voyages.”

In other words, nothing has changed for tourists, including US citizens, visiting the DPRK, and we can still fly in and out the country on Air Koryo.

Safety and security are still atop our list of priorities in organising tours to North Korea, but interactions with our DPRK guides and Koreans in general, and an ever greater look inside the country, are still high on the list too.

The specific details surrounding the sanctions can be viewed here:

And if you’d like to inquire about our tours, or come back with us again, you can email your guide or tours@youngpi

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