Tourism in North Korea has "steadily increased" over the last decade, with "a large number" of visitors "from some 50 countries and regions over the last year," according to a report from North Korea's propaganda machine — a report that came on the same day that a North Korean diplomat took a U.N. conference on disarmament as an excuse to call for the "final destruction" of South Korea.
Hmmm. Now, we're used to fluff pieces from North Korea, like their uncovering of a unicorn lair and whatnot, but it's sort of hard to imagine that tourists are flocking to the country. Still, that's what North Korea's state-sponsored Korean Central News Agency insists in its report today:
The number of arrivals from European countries is also on increase. The increase is fueled by many attractions. Eye-catching achievements made by the country in the effort for building a thriving socialist nation in recent years are one of the attractions.
So it's sort of like Club Med but with more socialism? Let us preface this examination of North Korean tourism with perhaps the 16 best seconds in 30 Rock history...
The idea that Europeans and foreigners are visiting Pyongyang is a little hard to believe just because ... well, not even taking into account North Korea's strict restrictions on allowing outsiders, just getting there is hard enough. The only options by air are currently a few Air China flights or a scary ride on the the world's only one-star rated airline, Koryo, which is owned by the North Korean state and is currently banned in the EU because of "serious safety deficiencies." And of course countries like Britain have extended extensive travel advisories for North Korea. The U.S. State Department currently has this advisory in effect (their emphasis, not ours):
The North Korean government will detain, prosecute, and sentence anyone who enters the DPRK without first having received explicit, official permission and an entry visa from its government. Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arrest and long-term detention.
So what are these alleged tourists seeing? (You know, when they're not looking over their shoulders for fear of being mistaken for Americans and then getting detained). In a separate report, KCNA's propaganda machine claims that an "endless stream of visitors" are enjoying the venue of the 17th Kimjongilia Festival. (Yes, that's a Kim Jong-il festival, because it was his birthday this weekend). They write:
And who knows? North Korea's bustling tourist industry may also benefit from intrepid tourists who want to know what it's like to be so very close to nuclear war — or at least that's what North Korea seems to want their image to be. On the same day that the tourism "report" came out, there was a more than testy debate on North Korea's nuclear capabilities at the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, with a North Korean diplomat comparing the country to a puppy-killing tiger. "As the saying goes, a new-born puppy knows no fear of a tiger. South Korea's erratic behavior would only herald its final destruction," North Korean diplomat Jon Yong Ryong said at the meeting, which comes nearly a week after North Korea successfully conducted its third nuclear test in history and tried to explain it all away amidst word of more impending tests. Gosh, we just can't wait to visit.