Yough Pioneer Tours

About Young Pioneer Tours Team

What separates YPT team from the crowd in our own humble opinion is our professional, friendly and enthusiastic guides who accompany every group tour. Not only do we enjoy fantastic relations with our colleagues in North Korea and around the world, but have the first-hand knowledge and know how to open doors that would otherwise remain closed if not travelling with us. All guides work full time for the company, and are supported by a great team of staff that help out in the office.

Gareth Johnson – 40 – UK

I founded YPT way back in 2008, as at the time I realised there was nothing in the way of a budget company that catered for the demographic of people who would not usually do “group tours”, so felt I could combine my love of travel with my new-found love for the people and culture of North Korea.

Later I was lucky enough to meet people who shared my ideas and passions, which has led us to where we are today. In North Korea my favourite place is hard to say, but would probably be a combination of Mt. Paektu and Chongjin. Mt. Paektu simply for what it represents, and its utter beauty, and Chongjin because it is so rarely visited and offers a really interesting insight into the the DPRK, both from a business and social point of view. The seafood in Chongjin is also great, plentiful and cheap!

Aside from North Korea I like to “pioneer” our new destinations to other interesting places around the world. Having lived away from the UK since 2001, and having visited many countries, I still get the biggest thrill in soaking up a new place and everything it has to offer. I am pretty sure this is something I will never grow out of. What I love most about YPT and my job is that the people we attract on our tours are people that I would genuinely be happy to be travelling with. They are “my” kind of people, and I am happy to say I have made a lot of friends through the job.

Rowan Beard – 33 – AUSTRALIA

I was previously based in Vietnam for a few years indulging in the easy-going life South East Asia had to offer. Over the years, my curiosity for North Korea was slowly building up from all the news headlines and stories that would subtly grab my attention. The thought of travelling to the DPRK crept into my mind which I then found myself thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to a country so little tourists confronted.

I made my first trip to North Korea with YPT back in 2012. I had no idea what to expect but what I experienced on tour changed my perception I had of the locals and the culture. In 2013 I relocated to Northeast China and started working for YPT – pioneering tours, building relationships, and supporting charity work for North Korea. I find it exhilarating guiding YPT groups and having a unique time with our customers which I consider myself incredibly lucky to meet from all around the world. 

John McGovern – 38 – UK

While doing fieldwork in the countryside of the old red capital Yan’an, northwest China, in 2010, I was put in touch with YPT by a friend. As luck would have it a tour of revolutionary China was soon to be passing through, and I was able to host them in my town for a day’s sightseeing and a night’s drinking. One thing led to another and after years of guiding for YPT I am now managing and creating itineraries to expand YPT’s horizon with the many international destinations we offer.

I have lived in China for over 10 years and obtained my PhD in Chinese studies. I’m interested in all things communism from the DPRK to Cuba, without forgetting the old red bases of China. So it was a no brainer to join the YPT team, both for my colleagues and to meet the people who come on our tours!

Nicolas Platt – 22 – CANADA

Born and bred in Victoria – Canada with a background in the automotive industry, I’ve always had a fascination with travel to off the beaten path locations since my visit to Chernobyl on a backpacking trip after high school. No place, however, had peaked my interest as much as the DPRK which culminated in June 2017 when I travelled with YPT on the epic “All Korea’s” tour spending three weeks exploring and traversing both North Korea and the Sino-Korean borderlands region in China. Those three weeks left me incredibly enamoured with both the people and customs of the DPRK.

It didn’t matter whether I was among the glitz and glamour of the modern Pyongyang skyline drinking coffee at one of the cities new cafes or camped out on the beach roasting marshmallows at the remote home-stay village located on the shores of Sea Chilbo. All the Koreans I had the chance to interact with were among the most hospitable people I had ever encountered and left me with a genuinely different and much more positive perspective on the country then I had initially entered with.

Having the opportunity to work for YPT, a company at the forefront of tourism in North Korea and other daring destinations is an incredible adventure. I look forward to showing our customers a different side of North Korea by providing them with a similarly fantastic life-changing experiences that I went through on my first trip. In addition to this, I am also looking forward to continuing to build on the excellent relationships, and legacy YPT has established within North Korea.

Michelle Liang – 29 – CHINA

I first moved to Dandong from Chaoyang city in 2012 to complete my college masters in tourism at Liaodong University. Moving to Dandong placed me right on the border of North Korea which gave me the biggest advantage of understanding more of the DPRK culture and way of life.

Most Chinese don’t think much of North Korea but the mystique and natural beauty I saw every day from across the Yalu River always captured my curiosity. In 2017 I decided to become a North Korean tour guide and use my bilingual skills to help teach and show foreigners my homeland and North Korea.

The reason why I decided to work for YPT because I like the open-mindedness and the curiosity tourists share with me. I will do my best to help you understand the friendship between China and North Korea, because I personally feel that North Korea is a good friend of mine. I hope to see you on the road!

Joel Gallagher- 26 – UK

I’ve been working and traveling throughout the former USSR for a number of years. Before YPT, I was a security advisor, fixer and guide specializing in high risk and hostile environments around the world. But I’m a Soviet history lover at heart, so when the opportunity appeared to join the YPT team and create and lead tours to the far-flung relics of the fallen Soviet Empire, I jumped at the chance and over two years later, I haven’t looked back.

I love all things Soviet, but my biggest passion is taking people into the four post-Soviet rebel republics of Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. They are by definition bizarre, steeped in dark and fascinating history and completely off the beaten track. My other favourite part of the job is location scouting trips hunting down relics across former Soviet states and meeting like-minded people from across the world, guiding them through the old USSR and breaking stereotypes about the region. Looking forward to meeting you on tour!

Shane Horan – 35 – IRELAND

I moved to Beijing to start working for YPT in April 2014, before that I’ve been hopping around the globe for the last 5 years living in New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, India, Laos and Cambodia. Having studied International Relations, History and Geography I’ve always been interested in the world around me. My favourite part of Korea is the east coast. There’s a lot to be said for BBQ clams followed by a sing song around the beach fire!

I’m passionate about travel to so called “rogue nations” and changing people’s often incorrect perceptions of them. Working for YPT has proved to be a perfect fit for me. We’re all like minded avid travellers and a small tight knit family passionate about the DPRK and our other international destinations. I’m living the dream and long may it continue!

Rik Brinks – 34 – THE NETHERLANDS

From the moment I decided to go to North Korea I was excited knowing I would go and experience something different. Even for Dutch people – who seem to travel all over the world- DPRK seems a small bridge too far. It’s not, though. All expectations were easily met on the tour I did in September 2013 when I joined the National Day tour.

Ever since, I felt connected with YPT; their relaxed, open-minded, and progressive way of organising tours across the world spoke to me. After returning to The Netherlands I stayed in touch with YPT and introduced a new destination; Haiti. Interesting about this island is the noticeable contrast between the troubled past, the cultural heritage and the mysterious Voodoo. This place should definitely be on your list, too! The first trip to Haiti took place in May 2014. It was a successful and interesting travel experience. In the future I will be in charge of tours to Haiti, Venezuela and who knows what else!

Marko Moudrak – 45 – UKRAINE

I was born in a country that no longer exists – the old Soviet Union. Once the Iron Curtain fell, I did what any caged animal would do – run, eventually ending up in the great white north, aka Canada. After getting a degree in engineering and a number of years in corporate life, I got bored, got a degree in photography in New York and went back on the road. 70+ countries and a number of passports later I never looked back.

In 2011 I met YPT – people that share my passion for travel and views; I have worked with them ever since. I now run tours to Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe as well as a basket of unrecognised countries.

I am passionate about travel and sharing the world around us. I strive to give customers unforgettable experiences and get as much exposure with locals as I can in order to dispel negative myths about people of so called rogue nations.

Alistair Riddell – 41 – SCOTLAND

I ran away to join the circus a few years ago and now work as an independent theatre production consultant in between taking tourists to places their mother definitely would rather they didn’t go to. I also host tours around Chernobyl but spend most of my time in Cuba, and despite having visited every province of the island I still have a long and growing bucket list of places to explore. I particularly enjoy the lesser-seen side of Cuba where regular tourists don’t venture, such as relics of Cuba’s Soviet relations but I also like exploring the ‘new’ Cuba – checking out the new restaurants, bars and other private businesses that are springing up every day.

Ben & Eilidh Crowley – 31 & 29 – AUSTRALIA & SCOTLAND

Having developed a knack for travelling to unusual destinations, our travel experiences include over 90 countries each. Most of which we’ve driven our own car to, and many of which are the types of places YPT takes tours to. Some of our favourites being Iran, Nagorno­-Karabakh and Transnistria. After Ben proposed at the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan, the world’s second most closed country, we thought it was only fitting that we honeymoon in the world’s first most closed country, North Korea. Not only did we fall in love with DPRK while we were there, we also fell in love with the YPT team and started hatching plans to start YPT tours to Turkmenistan and Central Asia. With Ben’s Masters thesis on Central Asian politics, Eilidh’s career in tourism, and our desire to explore and show others the hidden corners of the world, it was a perfect match.

Simon Haywood – 34 – UK

I’m a former uni lecturer and photographer from England, who has been living in China since 2014, with a background in language and literature. Moving to China truly ignited my passion for all things East Asian, and I am self-taught in both Chinese language and calligraphy and can speak and write some elementary Korean. My curiosity for the DPRK was sparked while I was still at uni when I saw an image of the Ryugyong Hotel looming over the Pyongyang skyline, it was a place I had always promised myself I would visit. My first visit finally came in 2018 when I spent a week there with YPT, and quickly realised I needed to see more. This was then followed by a month living and studying Korean in Pyongyang at Kim Hyong Jik Teacher Training University during the Summer of 2019 with YPT.

During that time I made lifelong friendships and was captivated by the wonderfully photogenic Korean countryside and the towns and cities that dot it. While each season has its own charm, for me Autumn shows the country at its height of beauty, from soft light glowing on colourful city blocks, to wave after wave of golden fields buzzing with villagers bringing in the harvest, to the majestic tree-clad Mount Kumgang decked in a rich tapestry of autumnal foliage.

Of all the countries I have travelled to, lived or worked in, none have left such a deep and lasting impression on me, and I can’t wait to see what your adventure with me to the country brings!

Fiona Fu – 27 – CHINA

I studied in Xi’an for five years, majoring in English. When I graduated, I was hesitant about whether should I go back to my hometown of Tianshui in Gansu Province, or stay in Xi’an, but the slogan of YPT really attracted me. Now I feel joining this family was the correct decision! Every day we receive many emails from different countries, and through YPT everyone can communicate their experience about travel and DPRK culture and history. I can make contact with so many people from all over the world.

Working at YPT really makes me happy, travel is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing things, and although I haven’t been to the DPRK yet, I hope you can enjoy a happy time there and share it with us. If you are also interested in Xi’an and the long history of this cultural city, we all welcome you to visit and I am sure you will spend an unforgettable time!

Joy Chen – 24 – CHINA

I was born in Chaoqing, a small city in Guangdong. I then studied in Guangzhou and am now living and working in Shenzhen as a support staff for YPT. Just as it is for many of you, travel has been and is an important part of my life.  As the saying goes;  Walking thousands of miles is like reading thousands of books. The DPRK is close to China in location, but too many Chinese people it still remains largely mysterious.  Joining YPT is a good chance to find the answers we are all curious about – and that’s the reason I joined the family!