North Korea is an anomaly, a symptom of the Cold War, a relic of a bygone era.


Military parades, a controversial nuclear weapons program, a horrific human rights record and a starving populace dominate the perception of a nation, that seems to be frozen in time. Its turbulent history is a tragic tale of a people divided and of a country isolated and shunned by the West. However, it is also a story of a warm and beautiful people, of a rich and centuries-old culture and of a thrilling past.


And change is coming.


Although progress is happening slowly, North Korea is a counrty in transition. Hundreds of buildings are being painted to say goodbye to the colourless monotony of the last decades, individualism (at least fashion-wise) is flourishing through Chinese imports, and capitalism, appearing in form of department stores offering Western products, is creeping into the country. In addition, more and more uncharted regions are being opened up for tourism, just waiting for intrepid travellers to be explored.


Beyond the propaganda war, being waged on both sides, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is a country as fascinating as it is controversial.


North Korea is not flawless, far from it, but its people deserve a chance.



The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) divides the Korean peninsula and is one of the most fortified places on Earth.  


It is here that most of the fighting during the Korean War took place and where the armistice was finally signed in 1953.


It is a place laden with history, and a testament to the ongoing conflict.


The museum shows the North Korean narrative of the Korean War.


Lifesize replicas of KPA (Korean People’s Army) jungle camps and trenches, a 360-degree panorama of the Battle of Taejon and the captured US-Navy ship USS Pueblo are just a few of the exhibits displayed.


The propaganda inside is a sight to behold. I highly recommend to check it out, if you have the chance!

Visiting Pyongyang

Dive deeper into North Korean history and culture by visiting the capital of the DPRK, Pyongyang.


Learn about the role of the North Korean leaders and the state ideology Juche in society and marvel at some of the architectonic highlights and the symbolism behind them.


A perfect introduction to this isolated and often misunderstood country.


TOUR | It is not possible to travel to North Korea independently!


If you want to experience this fascinating country, you will have to book a spot on a government guided tour. There will be a fixed itinerary and you will be accompanied by guides for the entirety of your visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

VISA Believe it or not, the North Korean visa might be one of the easiest attainable visas in the world!


Since a government guided tour is mandatory when visiting the DPRK, your tour operator will manage the visa process for you. All you have to do is send them the required documents, so they can apply for your North Korean visa. On entering the country, you will receive a blue tourist card, instead of a stamp in your passport, to avoid future trouble travelling. Sadly, the tourist card must be returned to the authorities when departing.


South Koreans are not permitted to visit the DPRK, whereas U.S. citizens have been banned from tours organized by Western companies, following the Otto Warmbier incident. Americans in possession of a dual citizenship may travel to the DPRK without issues, however.


For further info read the first section of this blog post.

MONEY | Currency: North Korean Won (KPW). Tourists will have to pay with hard currency (e.g. Dollar, Euro, Chinese Yuan, etc.), when inside the DPRK, however.


Since you won’t be able to withdraw any money in North Korea, make sure to bring enough cash (for extra drinks, souvenirs, etc.) on your trip.

SECURITY SITUATION | Despite the apparent volatility being portrayed by Western media, the rhetorical sabre-rattling, and frequent threats being exchanged quite regularly, the political situation on the Korean peninsula has been relatively stable over the last decades.


While not entirely improbable, an anew escalation of the conflict seems very unlikely. Nevertheless, always keep an eye on the political landscape of Korea, when booking a tour to the DPRK.


I discuss safety in the DPRK more thoroughly in this article.

Ancient Korea

4th century BCE-108 BCE
Gojoseon and Jin kingdoms

Gojoseon appears as the first Korean kingdom in the north of the peninsula, with its capital Pyongyang. Around 300 BCE, the competing state of Jin emerges in the south.

108 BCE-313 CE
Proto-Three Kingdoms period

After the fall of Gojoseon, multiple smaller kingdoms emerge on the Korean peninsula. By 313 CE, all have been incorporated into the Kingdom of Goguryeo. 

Three Kingdoms and Northern and Southern period

37 BCE-668 CE
Kingdom of Goguryeo

Also known as Goryeo, source for the modern name Korea, the kingdom of Goguryeo establishes itself as the predominant political power in Korea, controlling all but the southern tip of the peninsula. A mighty military state, Goguryeo vies for supremacy with various Chinese dynasties, and only the small kingdoms of Baekje and Silla can retain their independence.

North and South States

After the fall of the Goguryeo, the majority of the Korean peninsula is dominated by Unified Silla, while Balhae controls the northern reaches extending far into Manchuria. While Balhae is heavily influenced by the Chinese Tang dynasty, Unified Silla embraces Buddhism and trade by controlling the East Asian seas, thereby establishing an incredibly wealthy state.

Dynastic period

Goryeo Dynasty

Wang Geon unifies the peninsula and establishes the Kingdom of Goryeo. Buddhism becomes the dominant faith and numerous advancements in the fields of literature, philosophy, religion, and other sciences are made, despite multiple attempted invasions by neighbouring countries.

Joseon Dynasty

General Lee Seong-gye founds the Joseon dynasty on Confucian ideals and moves the capital to Hanyang (Seoul). The country enjoys his golden age during the 15th and 16th centuries, resulting in great cultural and scientific achievements. Beginning in the 17th century, internal conflicts, civil unrest, corruption, and foreign invasions slowly weaken the Korean state.

Qing suzerainty

Following two invasions by the Manchu, Joseon Korea recognises Qing suzerainty after the Manchu conquer China and claim the Mandate of Heaven. The country also adopts a gradually stricter isolationist policy.

Korean Empire

Korea is granted complete sovereignty as a direct result of China's defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), fought over influence on the Korean peninsula, and the country is renamed Korean Empire.

Modern era

Russo-Japanese War

Russian influence grows in an attempt to strengthen the empire's position in the east; however, the superpower is humiliated by Imperial Japan in the Russo-Japanese War, the first defeat of a European colonial power by an Asian country in modern times. Korea becomes a defacto protectorate of Japan.

Occupation and oppression

Korea is fully annexed by the Empire of Japan, its natural resources exploited, and Korean culture and language suppressed.


In the aftermath of World War II, Korea once again gains independence, however, in reality the peninsula is split into two parts, a symptom of the emerging power struggle between the communist and capitalist world. Soviet forces occupy the north whereas the Americans land in the south. Dividing the country at the 38th parallel, they hope to release a unified Korea once a single government can be found.

The Korean War

The Korean War devastates the country, leaving more than three million dead and virtually all major cities on the peninsula in ruins. An armistice is signed, effectively ending the bloodshed but a formal peace treaty never follows. Korea is once again divided along the 38th parallel, and a four-kilometre-wide strip of land is heavily fortified and transformed into the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Juche ideology

North Korea adopts the Juche ideology, a distinct North Korean alteration of Marxism-Leninism, to distinguish itself further from China and the Soviet Union.

Economic decline

After three decades of growth, the communist system shows first cracks and North Korea falls behind the South economically, a decline only worsening after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

March of Suffering

A devastating famine, caused by mismanagement, natural disasters, and loss of Soviet support ravages the country, leaving hundreds of thousands dead. The period becomes later known as the Arduous March or March of Suffering.

Kim Jong-il

North Korea's founding father Kim Il-sung dies and is succeeded by his son Kim Jong-il. His tenure is mainly characterised by a gradually stricter embargo policy adopted by the West as a response to the DPRK's nuclear weapon program, and the implementation of "Sogun" or "Military First", a policy aimed at prioritising the country's military.

Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un takes office after his father passes away unexpectedly. Following a brief period of thawing relations with the West, North Korea has resumed and intensified its nuclear weapon program, leading to new tensions on the Korean peninsula in recent years.

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