Yet another American has been detained in North Korea. So why do they go? | Monisha Rajesh

6 months, 1 day ago

I wanted to witness first hand what North Korea was like and finally went last year. I understand intrepid travelers who visit the closed-off country

Otto Frederick Warmbier, a 21 -year-old student from the University of Virginia, has been detained in North Korea for the past two months. On Monday, he appeared on North Korean state television and said he had been trying to steal a propaganda banner from a Pyongyang hotel. Its not clear if that admission was constructed freely. Since March 2009, 12 Americans have been detained in North Korea, accused of crimes ranging from illegally intersecting Chinese perimeters to leaving a Bible in a bin at a health club. That raises the question: why do tourists continue to travel there?

I expended 10 days in North Korea, or the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea( DPRK ), last year. It was purely out of curiosity that I chose to visit. Our world is a small place. Every sea has been crossed, every mountain has been climbed and every jungle investigated. Even the closed-off, secretive North Korea has been filmed, photographed and written about but I dont believe everything I watch, read or hear, and as a travelling writer I couldnt ignore this anomalous pocket in the heart of east Asia existing with such shocking defiance. I wanted to witness first hand what North Korea was like.

Since the 1980 s, North Korea has been admitting foreign tourists through coordinated, supervised tour groups and more than 5,000 tourists travel there every year. Anyone but reporters can visit, as long as its through an approved tour operator such as the Beijing-based Koryo Tours. North Korea has a habit of openness and closing its borders on a caprice, so I booked myself on a chartered develop tour along with 15 other tourists, including two Americans.

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