People

People from North Korea are not allowed to talk to foreign people traveling in their country except for those who have obtained permission from the tour guides. Although they are mandated by the government to refrain from having influences outside of the country, they are extremely loyal to their one and only president, Kim Il-sung. They are also much disciplined people, even the children, and this is evident in the dance presentations they have during the Arirang Festival, in honor of Kim Il-sung. North Korea has a mandated dress code. Women wear traditional Korean dress called the Choson-ot. North Korea also has a high literacy rate. Since most of them do not go out of the country nor do many foreigners go in, the country is among those nations that are not mixed with other races.

Geography

North Korea shares the Korean peninsula with South Korea on the southern tip, divided by the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It is also bordered to the north by China and Russia, the Sea of Japan ito the east and the Yellow Sea and Korean Bay to the west. North Korea is mostly surrounded by hills and mountains with deep, narrow valleys in between. There are also wide plains along the coast in the west. Its climate is temperate; summers in the country have a slightly rainy season called changma, and winters can be extremely cold. Among the largest cities both in area and population in North Korea are the capital of Pyongyang and Hamhung.

History

North Korea used to be annexed to Japan, and its citizens were abused and exploited during their occupation. When the Japanese were defeated during World War II, the Korean Peninsula got into the hands of the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. The Soviet Union established a communist government under Kim Il-Sung. A civil war erupted when North Korea tried to invade South Korea. Both countries were devastated after the Korean War and the more industrial North got ahead in development against the agricultural South with the help of the aid from the Soviet Union. Unfortunately due to mismanagement in the government, heavy flooding and cessation of Soviet aid, North Korea faced yet again, another devastation as famine led to the death of many of its citizens. Today, North Korea is a self-proclaimed, self-reliant state and practices socialism. The country considers Kim Il-sung as their one and only president, and he is, in fact, the only known dead president in the world. They also practice a cult of personality around Kim Il-sung and his son and heir, Kim Jong-Il. The country is still in conflict with South Korea because of its communist practices.

Famous Attractions

Attractions in North Korea include buildings and museums that were solely built for the purpose of giving more information to the public about their well-preserved culture. There are also various cities like Kaesong and Nampo, and scenic mountain spots such as Kumgangsan, Myohyangsan, Paekdusan and Panmunjom, where foreigners are allowed to go. Also among its major attractions is the SS Pueblo, the vessel from the United States army, that Kim Jong Il said is used to promote anti-Americanism in the country. Although it is almost impossible for US and South Korean citizens to enter the country, exceptions are made for Americans during the Arirang Festival, which is a two-month long festival in honor of their dead president’s birthday. One may also visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It stands on the border between North and South Korea. If you stand there, then you are literally in two places at a single time!

Nightlife

Nightlife in North Korea may be next to impossible. Parties may be possible but only inside the designated tourist hotels. Other than that, a foreigner is not allowed to stray out without permission. North Korea is mostly dark and unlighted at night so it is evident that no nightly activities happen. Activities in the country are highly restricted and monitored, even picture or video taking. But travel around the countryside could be a wonderful thing to do on a day trip. If one shows extreme courtesy to his guide, he might even be able to visit other places that are not usually in the itinerary.

Cuisine

Despite a huge difference in political views, North Korea and South Korea are pretty much the same culturally. Food in the North is much like the food in the South. Their usual diet includes rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables and meat. Grains have been a staple in a Korean meal, and aside from the usual white rice bowl; there are also other ways of eating and preparing rice like making it into a rice cake or a rice wine. Soybeans are also important to Korean cuisine and are used to make tofu. A visit to a local restaurant may also be possible although permission from your guide is required. North Korea also has some local specialty drinks such as the insam-ju, Korean vodka mixed with ginseng roots. There are also locally made beers and alcohols that are inexpensive, although getting drunk is highly avoided.