제 목 North Korean Tourism: Plans, Propaganda, People, Peace
분 류 북한연구
년 도 2017
저 자

Dean J. Ouellette 저

발행일 2017.12.31
ISBN 979-11-962960-2-5

간행물 소개

<< Preface >>

This short book is an expansion of thoughts first expounded in an article I wrote for an academic journal. Within I offer my humble observations and opinions on North Korean tourism in the era of the Kim Jong Un leadership--what I've experienced, discovered, analyzed; what I've discussed and read from the scholars, industry experts, news media, and North Korean materials; and what I've heard from the tourism professionals, tourists, and even the North Koreans themselves.

What is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) signalling with its development of tourism today under Kim Jong Un? What opportunities does this afford?

In the following pages I look at what North Korea has been up to within its tourism sector, especially since Marshal Kim Jong Un took the helm of power. I look at the words of founding leader Kim Il Sung, describe what has appeared in the North Korean media and literature, consider some of the on-the-ground transformations, and reflect on my own observations while travelling in and around the country. I also examine how stereotypes about North Korea are being challenged in social media by the travel companies and tourists.

What I had intended from the onset of writing this book was to highlight what I see as opportunities to engage the DPRK through spaces--limited yet incrementally expanding--that the state's leadership is opening for us to interact with North Korean people--a chosen few directly, but a rising number indirectly---via tourism. The North Korean regime's designs and desires for its tourism industry can be interpreted, and perhaps understood. More importantly, our reading of their statements and actions should highlight the opportunities that we, the international society, have to engage the DPRK in positive interactions that can be mutually beneficial. It is my firm belief that, out of the extremely challenging and often frustrating situation the international community finds itself in when dealing with North Korea, by striving to initiate, foster, and sustain connections between people and among peoples, on various levels and in whatever spaces are made permissible, a brighter, more peaceful, more prosperous future can be realized over time for the Korean people and for humanity as a whole.

On the scientific side, this book may disappoint. In most cases I do not delve deeply into the data, or numbers, or create any myself. Such was never my intention. Likewise, if you are looking for a travel guide, you'll soon realize you need to look elsewhere--no detailed descriptions or flashy photos of urban attractions or scenic county landscapes here. Still, I hope you, the reader, will find value in the summaries, anecdotes, observations, analysis, (few) photos, and ideas that appear on the pages within.

That said, here are some of the questions I explore and some general conclusions.

How does North Korea view tourism? Has it changed since the days of founding leader Kim Il Sung? Indeed, North Korea's plans and policy with regard to tourism today show significant continuity with the past. Nevertheless, the fact that North Korean scholars are now writing about the sector, and what they are discussing, is thought--provoking. What was said in the past compared with what's being discussed now, coupled with the young leader's plans just might reveal a nuanced perspective on tourism.

Does tourism function as propaganda? Absolutely! It does so everywhere, in every land. However, for North Korea under Kim Jong Un there appears a slight shift in the focus of external propaganda to counter negative stereotypes of the DPRK constructed by the international press. This development may be more organic than manufactured. Regardless, with the global information revolution and growing use of social media, the timing may be right for outsourcing its image makeover. Western international tour companies and English social media may very well be playing--unintentionally--a role in facilitating interest in and a better understanding of the DPRK, its politics, culture, and its people. That's a plus. While the North Korean regime will need to work far harder to overcome its bad reputation abroad with Western governments, it can use tourism as a type of public diplomacy, or soft power, to persuade the outside world it is no 'Hermit Kingdom' anymore.

Tourism has become a more noticeable sector of Kim Jong Un's national economic planning. Is the interest in tourism simply for profitmaking? Is it for economic development? Are the proclamations and announcements mere rhetoric? The possibility of the tourism industry's rapid growth is unlikely, for numerous structural reasons. Nevertheless, the government has included tourism as a sector to pursue. Why? I suspect that it is linked not only to legacy politics, providing the young leader a means to legitimize and distinguish his rule, but also to the drive to modernize the country--which in the eyes of his people his legitimacy may also rest.

Is the Kim Jong Un regime's focus on tourism a sign of peace and opening? Experts have noted that in most cases peace drives tourism, not the other way around. Tourism is the beneficiary of peace. And the importance of peace to tourism varies according to a state's national income. On a macro level, tourism rarely if ever prevents political unrest. However, tourism does foster cross-cultural interactions, which can promote goodwill, better understanding, and change negative stereotypes among individuals. Unlike other countries, North Korea is and has been the most isolated, maligned, and disconnected nation on planet Earth. If the leader is serious about developing his country's tourism industry, then I wonder if this new emphasis is a genuine sign of peace and slow-motion opening.

Finally, for international society, do changes in North Korea's tourism policy open up opportunities for creative, meaningful and positive non-state-centric engagement with the country? I believe so, although we should temper our expectations in terms of the possible transformative effects tourism-related activities might have on the DPRK system. Today, the situation in North Korean society and the country's economy is quite different compared to ten years ago. The moribund economy is showing signs of life. An irreversible marketization phenomenon and information flows have changed people's perspectives, as more and more are beginning to know and be curious about the outside world. Kim Jong Un seems to have weathered the storm of hereditary succession and consolidated his power to reign. So compared to twenty years ago, when South Korea attempted to foster reconciliation with North Korea via inter-Korean tourism, North Korea today seems to be far more stable. The inter-Korean project failed back then--or has been in limbo for almost a decade. However, considering the changes in society over the last twenty years, and the North Korean government's need to respond to those changes by cautiously opening up, is the timing more opportune for considering tourism as one part of a new engagement strategy, but one more focused on social interactions?

For international tour companies, their work is not about peddling adventure travel for profit. Some of the finest among them who are dedicated to promoting travel to the DPRK are already branching out into educational, cultural, charitable, humanitarian, and development assistance activities in and outside the country in order to not only distinguish themselves in this small yet competitive market of Asia tourism, but also because they believe that raising awareness, improving knowledge, promoting understanding, building trust, and fostering harmony equates to responsible and sustainable tourism. Shouldn't we, the international community, be building on this new momentum?

Could tourism be a bridge to friendship and opening? Is it a bridge too far? A bridge to nowhere? North Korea's genuine efforts and clearer signals, the international community's active and sustained response, and patience on both sides to let relationships develop will provide an answer.


<< Contents >>

* Acknowledgements/ 5
* Preface/ 7

1. Perspective Today: The Socialist Tourism of the DPRK/ 13

2. Surveying the Past: Words and Designs of the Leaders/ 33

3. The Present: The Plans, the Progress, and the Perplexing/ 65

4. Propaganda or Publicity: Tourism and the Social Media Effect/ 113

5. People and Peace: Making Contact, Building Relationships, Signalling Peace/ 145

* Appendix: Tour Companies & Others/ 179
* A Note on Sources & Endnotes/ 189


<< Author >>

Dean J. Ouellette
is director of international affairs at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, Kyungnam University, and associate professor at the university's Department of International Relations. His research interests include North Korean tourism, NGO activities in the DPRK, inter-Korean relations, North Korea's foreign relations, development and capacity building, and trust building, among other topics.


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