Should We Join A Guided Tour Of North Korea? Print

Would encourage controversial travel ideas? Which brings the next question. Is this senior out of his mind? You be the judge.

Q: We’ve been all over the world since our retirement a decade ago. We’ve enjoyed every moment, and now we’re considering a bucket list destination ... North Korea. We got the idea when Dennis Rodman and his basketball players visited there and were treated well. We hope it caused attitudes to open up, and create normal travel to that country. What do you think? KRT, Waukegan IL

A: First a note. Senior travel pals from Hong Kong visited North Korea recently, and they found cities drab, people nice but fearful. They said NK resembles gloomy 1960s Russia. So, with all the welcoming places in the world to see, why go there?

We’re not against visits to former enemy nations. One of our ex-GI editors was in Vietnam last year. He found it all friendly, eagerly promoting Western tourism and dollars. There was a recent full-page Vietnam ad in the LA Times encouraging Americans to visit. As for going to North Korea, we’d wait to see if the Rodman mission results in more solid evidence. The NK government can start by freeing travel operator Kenneth Bae. The American citizen was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for bringing Christian ideas into the strictly anti-religious Communist country.

And we’re still furious about the 85-year-old former GI jailed for months after talking about his 1950s Korean War experiences. He was then forced, Soviet-style, to confess his sins in a rigged trial before they let him go home.

Before recommending your visit, we’d need to see many more friendly actions by the hard-line Communist government there. This writer, also a Korean War vet, is still skeptical that the conflict hasn’t officially ended, even after 60 years.   

As advocates of older Americans wandering the world, we at encourage peaceful exchange among all peoples. However, we’d wait until North Korea stops jailing visitors, spewing out hateful propaganda and making hysterical war threats.

Further, the government there must show more positive signs that it will ensure the safety and freedom of visitors. Some jokester recently revised the Las Vegas slogan to: "Whoever happens in North Korea, stays in North Korea."