North Korea Plays Frisbee!

Continuing the sports theme, I’d like to talk about Ultimate Frisbee. Or, more specifically, Ultimate Frisbee in North Korea. I know, it’s hard to imagine North Koreans running around throwing Frisbees and engaging in just a friendly competitive game. But it’s true!

North Korea is hosting the International Frisbee Tournament, to be held on August 11, 2012. More than 50 Western tourists will participate in this “Peace Tournament” with no political agendas whatsoever, but to simply have fun and make a good impression on the North Koreans as a Westerner. Continue reading

Dinner at Pyongyang Restaurant at Seven?

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – an area renowned for isolation, shrouding itself in mystery – runs a chain of restaurants throughout Asia. Named after North Korea’s capital city, the restaurants, originally conceived to entice travelling South Korean businessmen hungry for Korean classics like kimchi or northern specialties like Pyongyang cold noodles or dangogi, have emerged in areas near the China-North Korean border, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, and, most recently, Amsterdam. In the words of Australian journalist Sebastian Strangio, who enjoyed a meal at the Pyongyang restaurant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the restaurant is brimming with curious customers, an overwhelming majority of which is South Korean. At Pyongyang Restaurant, customers can get an intriguing view of the lifestyles of North Koreans allowed to work outside of the borders of the DPRK. Continue reading

A North Korean Restaurant in the Least Likely of Places

Going to North Korea is no easy thing. It’s not somewhere that you can just hop on a plane and go to. Even with North Korea’s recent tourism ventures, not just anybody can go because it’s so pricey. It costs almost $2000 per person for a three night standard package and this doesn’t include all of the other expenses such as the plane ticket to China. But even if you could afford the trip to North Korea, they don’t just accept all tourists. They’re extremely selective and wouldn’t let me in, for instance, because of the work I do here in South Korea for human rights

However, there is a place that you could go to for the North Korean experience. But it’s not in North Korea. It’s in Cambodia, of all places.

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The Diamond of Korea at the Heart of Inter-Korean Relations


Keum-gang Mountain

Located only slightly above the 38th parallel, Keum-gang Mountain (금강산) is often referred to as the “diamond of Korea” for its scenic beauty. Koreans’ profound affection for Mt. Keum-gang is apparent even from its nomenclature, in which the mountain is called by four different names that describe the varying ways in which the mountain appears in each of the four seasons. This national beauty had been off-limits to South Koreans after the ceasefire of the Korean War, until 1998 when the North Korean government started to allow South Korean and foreign tourists to visit through the private sector. In 2002, the region was made a “special administrative region” to facilitate South Korean tourist activities in the area. To many, such a move made by the North Korean government not only signified their willingness to work towards peaceful means of reunification, but also the potentials of the private sector of improving inter-Korea relations as a new approach to the issue.

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