Thursday, May 24, 2007

A "Stalinist theme park"

I came across an article in the BBC today that is relevant to something that came up two days ago in class; that is, organized tourist trips to North Korea. The article highlights much of what Professor Larsen told us in class: that the trips are expensive, difficult to arrange, and true to what we all might expect from both communist regimes and capitalist tourist ventures, strictly regimented. My favorite line speaks about various memorials that are, essentially, required reading for group travel in North Korea: "[Pyongyang's] many statues and monuments . . . are a must-see. In fact they literally must be seen, as the compulsory guides who accompany all foreign tourists are certain to include them in the itinerary."

Of course, it seems that that which may deter some (energy shortages, ghost streets) is exactly what draws others. I'm interested to see just how far North Korea is willing to allow foreign tourists to take pictures of their countryside and eat in their restaurants -- if tourism will provide another source of economic profit for the country, or if openness will ultimately lead to its (dis)integration. The article, incidentally, is a few years old.

Also, you have to love the BBC for parenthetically citing the Korean War as resulting in a stalemate.

1 comment:

rfishel said...

I think it will be very interesting to see how North Korean leaders decide to walk the fine line between taking in money from foreign tourists and keeping their country isolated from those same foreign nations. Interestingly, it seems that the countries most restricted to travel to North Korea have the most money to spend (US, Europe, etc.). I wonder if Western tourism is a consideration is its diplomatic decisions. Furthermore, if more and more tourists are allowed to travel to NK and it opens up and becomes less isolated, will there still be the attraction to visit? Will the aura still be there?