North Korea On Miles: I Can, But Should I?

Yep, I’m doing it.

Ok, at least thinking about it………..But what, exactly, is it?

North Korea.

Yes, there.

In light of Kim Jong-Trill’s son’s semi-recent cyberattack on the eternally beloved creator of PlayStations, Walkmen and the 12 CDs for 99 cents deal on the back of Parade Magazine, a.k.a. Sony Corp., I have decided I can’t take it anymore. I’ve had it with North Korea.

Their attempt to abuse the ability of a Japanese multi-national conglomerate to meet quarterly profit expectations shall not, will not and cannot pass!

So, the fight to their shores I will take, and take well, and, since North Korea has apparently the world’s largest military organization, I gotta come heavy, loaded for bear; grizzly bear. Ol’ Unnie will be, bet.

Luckily, my cavalry is relatively inexpensive.

young pioneer

Ten hut! Presenting YOUNG PIONEER TOURS – “the first company to offer budget tours to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (aka Korea Norf). The tours run all year and generally range in price from €600-1300, although there is a monster, 30 day tour available for €4200 (I really cannot even begin to imagine what spending a month of your life in North Korea would be like).

Much fun would (could?) be had on any of the Kim Il Sung Remembrance VIP or Sporting Interest or Revolutionary Epic Tours, but if I only have one chance to inflict maximum damage on the Supreme Leader, there’s only one time to go.

A time best spent with family.

A time best spent at home.

A time best spent with heavily marinated, slow-cooked lamb, baked sweet potatoes swelled by butter and cinnamon, roasted brussel sprouts and a Medusa chocolate cake, one that turns arteries to stone just by glancing it. That thick.

Yes sirs – it’s Christmas, the most American of holidays; unrestrained capitalism at its finest, somehow turning a religious event into a day where normally happy families turn into insensible ingrates when unnecessary desires go unfulfilled, desires that didn’t even yet exist a week before. Personally, I think we should focus on bigger issues, like remembering that Santa will always be white!

Unnie won’t expect a thing.

And hark! The heralding angels must be singing about deals because it turns out that the Christmas tour is the absolute cheapest – three days and two nights of chaperoned wonder for only €445, or close to $500!

All else I need is an award ticket to Pyongyang…which doesn’t exist.

Air Koryo, both the DPRK’s national airline and the world’s only “one-star airline,” is a member of exactly zero alliances and does not have any type of frequent flier program. Air Koryo also appears to have planes and flight attendants straight out of an early Bond film.

Image courtesy The Daily Mail

Image courtesy The Daily Mail

It turns out the Christmas tour starts at the Dandong, China railway station, so, if I want to clap at Un, I’ll have to fly to China, instead, which is easy enough.

Here’s a rundown of award mileage costs in coach-, business- and first-class, for a trip from the US to China (HT: Travelisfree):

  • United – 70k/130k-140k/160k
  • USAirways – 60k/90k/120k
  • American Airlines = 50k-70k/100k/125k
  • Delta = 70k-160k/120k-350k
  • Air Canada = 75k/125k/175k
  • British Airways = 50k-75k/100k-150k/150k-225k
  • Alaska = 50k-65k/100k/125k-135k
  • Lufthansa = 80k/135k/210k
  • ANA = 55k-65k/85k-105k/120k-160k
  • JAL = 50k-60k/80k-100k/115k-155k

Some of these airlines, like BA, Air Canada and Lufthansa, place fuel surcharges on award tickets. Generally, the American carriers don’t, which means the average, all-in price for a economy-class ticket and the tour would be, at most, $1000 and 70,000 miles – not the worst deal for a trip to two countries halfway around the world.

New York to Beijing to Pyongyang

New York to Beijing to Pyongyang.

Now, if I do go on this Christmas tour, I will definitely fly coach. In fact, I would ask for the middle seat in the last row, turn all the overhead lights on and ask the flight attendant to keep the bathroom door always ajar. Nothing like a overlit and stinky seat that never reclines to signify real juche. The struggle is real, comrades.

kim salute


it would also mask well the true nature of my visit to North Korea.

Which is what, exactly?

(Spoiler: I’m actually not going to start regime-change.)

The tour, of course, would be beyond bizarre, a political Ripley’s Believe It or Not, an opportunity to time-travel to a culture past (albeit one with nuclear weapons) and a chance to feel totally secure, superior in the fact that America is, indeed, the greatest place on Earth.

Their leader hates us, threatens us, attacks us and our allies, yet will gladly beg me for my money and then parade me around his home. A real clown, an infantile and destructive hellion to the last.

Or is it me who is the fool?

This wouldn’t be like going to the USSR under Gorbachev, all blue jeans and glasnost; it would be like going when Stalin was omnipotent, killing and terrorizing at will; better yet, at whim. Best guesses place the ultimate population of the North Korean work, prison and reeducation camps to be around 150,000-250,000 people, out of a population of 25 million people. US equivalency would mean rounding up everyone in Houston and Philadelphia and ordering them to a lifetime of servitude and degradation of the lowest order.


Via The Daily Mail: This drawing by another prison guard who defected comes with the description: ‘In this position, called “pigeon torture” prisoners are reportedly beaten on the chest until the vomit blood.


Via The Daily Mail: Survivors told the U.N. that they had to stay in stress positions until they collapsed.

Yet, it has to mean something to the North Korean people to see us come, and, to see us want to come, to see us wondrous and bemused, equal parts sad and happy, interacting and questioning – the latter a treacherous activity north of the 38th parallel.

We come and we come in peace. We come as friends and as fellow human beings. I have to believe that this means something, even in the most depraved and perverse hellhole. I have to, no, I must believe this if I am going to directly pay for the continuation of Kim Jong-Un’s wantonly violent regime.

So, am I going to go?

I don’t know. I keep coming back to this question – “What good can I hope to achieve?” I think when my answer to this is concrete and, to me, makes complete sense, then the time will be just.

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