|Currently we do not operate in North Korea -
although with the number of enquiries we should start again, but not right now.
Very early on Passport Travel was the 'go to' place to arrange tourism related travel into North Korea. It was a fascinating period. We met some weird and wonderful people, both here in Australia and in North Korea. Passport Travels owner was wined and dined by a mystery officer from Austrade, who happened to have full name and detail lists of impending trade delegates being sponsored to Australia by factions of certain Unions. He went away with spare copies of any DPRK material we had at the time, more obviously than his department had in their archives! Subsequent calls to number on said business card brought the response, 'Who, no one by that name at this address'. Nice to see some of our tax being repaid with a nice meal!
We entertained members of the above mentioned North Korean Trade delegation whilst they were in Melbourne. After some lubrication with much Guinness (they love it) at a local pub we loosened a few tongues, especially when the very obvious 'Government Man' went to the loo! Then at the conclusion of their public display we volunteered to haul away three van loads of unsold material brought in from the DPRK!!!
We had given ourselves a serious storage problem and rapid dispersal was required! Several Korean departments at Universities were pleased to receive donations of classic propaganda material. Hobart University has a complete set of Kim Il Suns works in English - they took up serious book shelf metres!! We gave away many items to various eccentric friends and colleagues who valued such material in their, 'weird and wonderful' sections. Our office still has one of the most complete libraries of such material anywhere we think! Our owner has, in recent times, found forgotten boxes and sold much through E-bay to ravenous collectors of, wacky material, from wacky, but deadly states.
We stopped tours due to the food problems (people dying in the fields from starvation) and although the press is not as full of those stories now, we can't escape the fact that the situation has not come back to what one could call normal. In fact it has got worse. During the last tour we operated to North Korea clients were offered 'boiled water' at Kaesong as a refreshment (that was all that could be had). Yet back in Pyongyang you drank imported Stella Artois beer with your guides! A bit of a contradiction. You will be offered large feast type meals designed to be more than you can eat.
We used to operate a train package from Beiijng to Pyongyang and then through to Vladivostok and on to Moscow. This was soon closed to foreigners as the rail line went through, 'Starvation Alley'. At present we feel that when visiting your presence takes already meagre resources away from those that need them. People are still hungry, yet they have the money to fire missiles. Yes, the world is full of similar contradictions and we avoid dealing with other places as well. Currently, visiting as a tourist can't really be considered a helpful move.
Our programmes might start again once we all feel comfortable with the situation. There are others operating tours into North Korea. The North Koreans may not want to work with us after what we have written.
We hope you are not too saddened by our North Korea stance. You could of course visit a little bit of Nth Korea in Beijing...
Petrov is an Australian academic of Russian origin who is a
recognised experct on North Korea. Based in Canberra
Leonid Petrov graduated from St. Petersburg State University (1994) in Russia where he majored in Korean History and Language. He obtained a PhD in History at the Australian National University (2003) and specialised in the studies of North Korea. Between 2003 and 2005, Dr. Petrov taught Korean History at the Intercultural Institute of California (San Francisco) and Korean Economy at Keimyung University (Daegu). In 2006/2007 Prof. Petrov worked as the Chair of Korean Studies at Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. Currently he is a Research Associate at the PAH RSPAS ANU for the ARC-funded project “Historical Conflict and Reconciliation in East Asia” (Chief Investigator Prof. Tessa Morris-Suzuki).
He has an interesting web site dedicated to North Korea.
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