North Korea

One final note I want to make about traveling to North Korea is this:

Despite being an avid traveler who has spent extensive time in China and endeavors to go anywhere you can’t learn about in a book, I have recently changed my mind about North Korea. The death of Otto Warmbier didn’t do that. I have been studying China, Northeast Asia, and China’s growing influence since 2006. This includes how North Korea benefits, what they can get away with, and how China benefits from North Korea’s actions. In 2014, I changed my mind. I won’t go there.

Otto did break the rules. That’s true. But the rules broke him and the whole North Korean society. By intention.

However, if you want to go, you can go, and I will support your learning and adventurism. Just remember that, at this point, none of our allies can stop their nuclear tests, there are no U.S. embassies in North Korea, and you CANNOT run away from your hotel and find civilization or cross a border and start screaming for help. That WILL NOT work.

I would advise to know the rules before you visit North Korea, and I’d feel more comfortable if you contact me personally before you go so I can impress upon you the militaristic seriousness with which you must discipline yourself in order to not let the freedoms within you jump out and get you in trouble while you’re there. I’ve met Westerners who told me they spontaneously kissed a dirty Chinese sidewalk when they returned from North Korea because, at that moment, even in China, a place with very few freedoms and really dislikes Westerners and especially Americans, after only about a week in North Korea, that they finally had their freedom back. THIS is how bad it is.


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  1. This is a very well laid out argument and I love that it includes what YOU can do. Sometimes the media put out so much fear mongering crap, that it’s hard to have clear, laid out options on what’s happening.

    I will add two things. First, in regard to the South China Sea. the Philippines are no longer a staunch ally and Duterte has basically said that they don’t care about the island disputes. It’s not so easy to put pressure on China without them. It’s less China vs the world, as now it’s Philippines and China versus the US, Vietnam, Indonesia, et al. That’s not exactly an easily winnable, one-way argument.

    In addition, I think it would be wise to make mention of Vladivostok, the port near North Korea that enables so much of their workers to work abroad. Many of them work in Russia, though I’m not sure “pressure Russia more” is a useful tactic at the moment. I do agree that pressuring European nations with North Korean workers would be immensely helpful. For instance, NATO ally, Poland, has more than a few in the docks, kept under tight wraps.

    Last, I will say that it’s a bit moot point on traveling to North Korea as it’s all but impossible these days if you’re American. Since we must enter the country using tour groups, and every tour group that I know of has barred Americans from signing up as of 2017, I believe the only way into North Korea with a certain blue passport would be to sneak in. Correct, me if I’m wrong.

    Let me know if you agree or disagree on these points!!

    1. Thank you, Mikey, for a great comment. In each one of my articles, I include a section on what we all can do. It’s important to remind people of their power. Moreover, recent ideologies and wars have targeted citizens, economies and civilizations as an alternative to fighting a superior military. Therefore, as targets, we’re as much involved as anyone.

      Duterte has become a softer ally. We have two nationalist leaders in the alliance, but I believe that alliance has the power to strengthen again under new leadership. I will say our ability to pressure China doesn’t hinge on the Philippines, though the broad measures that are necessary need to happen slowly. We need to exit the Chinese economy. The TPP would have been a dramatic benefit for so many Asia-Pacific alliances. Check out my article on the TPP, as well.

      You’re right about Vladivostok. That’s what completes the case that Northeast Asia is such a hotspot. It’s overlooked compared to its potential for danger, which is greater and more concentrated than the Middle East. And yes, pressuring Russia wouldn’t do much, I agree with you completely on that!

      I had planned to go to North Korea to run the Pyongyang Marathon, and the only reason for not going was I was only confident I could complete a half marathon at that point. Then I went to grad school so training for a marathon was out of the question. However, as of 2014, China’s leverage over the United States has allowed North Korea to capture anyone they want with impunity.

      Thanks for a great response. I hope you can encourage more people to follow along as the situation in Northeast Asia continues!

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