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.