falling into infantuation with Korea

…and by Korea, I kind of mean North Korea. It all started (as many things in my life do) with “The Story” on NPR. The program this night was an interview with the author of “Nothing to Envy”, which offers a glimpse of every day life in North Korea based on the testimony of six defectors. I devoured the book and have continued reading every other book on the DPRK that I can get my hands on. I knew so little about the Korean war, even though my grandfather and his brother fought in the war and my great-uncle brought home a North Korean wife (she defected to the South at the beginning of the war). I regret not having asked her about her life and experiences while she was alive. She passed away four years ago.

Now, instead of planning a grand trip to China, I’m more focused on Korea. In this trip I actually join a tour group to North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang, as well as view Yanji, the biggest city in the Korean autonomous prefecture of Northeast China, close to the Tumen River, over which so many defectors cross into China. From there on to Seoul to view North Korea from the DMZ.

Day 1 Fly to Beijing (one way $585)

Day 2-3 Beijing Peking International Youth Hostel, dorm $22/night Activities: Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Hutongs, Temple of Heaven, Lama Temple, Excursion to Wall of China, Excursion to Summer Palace, Chinese Opera


Day 4-8 Koryo Tours Liberation Day Short Tour  $1805, DPRK visa $65 Stay in Pyongyang and see all of the major monuments to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, then get to watch a performance in the mass games. Finally, see the DMZ from the Northern side.

Day 9  Return to Beijing, overnight hostel ($22)

Day 10 Beijing to Yanji Soft Sleeper, 24 hours $90


Day 11 Yanji, the seat of the Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Northeast China, an area with a large ethnic Korean population that shelter many defectors. It is about one hour by train to the Tumen River, and it’s port, where there is a bridge crossing to North Korea, and roadside parks for viewing the Hermit Country from the Chinese side. Yanji hotel $60/night


Day 12 Yanji to Seoul $300

Day 13-16 Seoul

(Yanji-Seoul-home $1000) Top things on my list? An all day trip to the DMZ ($90, $9 for lunch), Bukchon Village, The Korean War Memorial, and Lotte World. Hostel $17/night.


Total travel cost (excluding food/souvenirs/entrance fees outside of the DPRK): $4181

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