Social Question

jca's avatar

Why would any American want to visit a country like North Korea?

Asked by jca (36046points) June 20th, 2017

I am thinking of Otto Warmbier, who did something very stupid in trying to steal the poster in North Korea, but he paid a very big price for his foolish act.

I know there are tours of North Korea marketed to Americans.

With a whole world full of places to visit and North Korea having the reputation for being a cruel dictatorship, why would any American want to visit there?

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39 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Espionage, or collusion.
This Warmbier spy, now more fittingly to be called Kaltbier, was lucky he got to die outside of Best Korea.

chyna's avatar

Following. I wondered the same thing.

PullMyFinger's avatar

Yeah, visiting North Korea in the first place seems like a numbskull move, and trying to steal that poster a double-numbskull move.

I feel bad for his family, but this episode has Darwinism written all over it….

rojo's avatar

I have asked this numerous times with regards to several places in the world.

There is always somewhere else just as interesting to visit that have a much lower chance of me becoming a sacrificial pawn in the political chess match.

It is not the climate or the wildlife I am leery of, it is other human beings. Some are good, Some are bad and the vast majority are essentially neutral until circumstances force them to make a choice.

josie's avatar

Otto Warmbier’s naivete notwithstanding, I am entertaining one of my occasional urges to kill, similar to what happened to me after 9–11.
Back then, I could do something about it. This time I am sort of frustrated.
But the answer to your question is, I would love to have the opportunity to go to Pyongyang and lase the Ryongsong Residence for a smart bomb with a nuke.

funkdaddy's avatar

If I didn’t have responsibilities, I’d like to go.

It’s kind of a truth test. Almost everything we know about North Korea is filtered through the lens that they’re the enemy and near failure. It would be interesting to see how true that is as it pertains to millions of people rather than just the very few at the very top we hear about through the media and press releases. I mean, how much do you really know about North Korea, beyond politics and basics like climate? How do the people live?

Not everyone goes on vacation to relax. We expect kids to expand their horizons, get off the couch, and out in the real world, especially once they’re done with school. Sometimes the real world isn’t safe. I’m sorry for what happened to him specifically, that’s horrible, but I can see the thinking of an invincible college kid heading somewhere with no travel brochure.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I’d go out of curiosity. Or I would have, before this incident.

PullMyFinger's avatar

Many people already know this, but this is how young children are taught arithmetic in North Korea (and this is not a joke):

“If 50 evil American devils are walking by, and you shoot and kill 25 of them….how many evil American devils remain left to be killed ?”

I have read more than one article….in legitimate magazines (Time, Newsweek) that the above is true (and not…you know…some “alternate fact”)

canidmajor's avatar

If I was a Cultural Anthrpologist or a Sociologist or a Futurist (covering projections of economies, urban developments, agriculture and so on) I would be fascinated to go.

rojo's avatar

@PullMyFinger Trick question, the answer is 35 because the American devils breed like sewer rats on Viagra.

PullMyFinger's avatar

Point taken.

si3tech's avatar

@jca There is no logical reason to visit North Korea knowing the risks.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Here is what I read somewhere. In China they set up tours to visit “The top places your Mother would never want you to go.”
It is supposed to be for daring people.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s perfectly understandable that people will stand in line for hours and fork over a fortune for an opportunity to view an aberration. The more extreme the anomaly, the greater the satisfaction in “I saw it”. I would volunteer to look, all expenses paid. But I would neither pay nor stand in line for the privilege.

PullMyFinger's avatar

Kim Jong-Un’s father, the late (and former North Korean president) Kim Jong-IL once wrote an autobiography, which I think is still required reading for North Korean schoolchildren.

In it (among many screws-so-loose-they’re-gone revelations), the much-revered president said that he….

- never defecated once in his entire life.
– had 11 holes-in-one the first time he played golf on a regulation 18-hole course.

I guess he gets a pass, under the ‘Alternate Facts’ Rule.

…......................Any questions…..??

Zaku's avatar

Curiosity doesn’t occur to you?

That was the motive of the people I’ve met who have gone.

kritiper's avatar

Mindless masochistic tendencies.

PullMyFinger's avatar

Well, as we all know….curiosity killed the cat…...AND, in this case, the 22-year-old college ‘adventurer’.....

But I’m pretty sure that if his ‘curiosity’ led him to, say, Indonesia, or the Cook Islands, young Mr. Warmbier would still be with us today….

Dutchess_III's avatar

Curiosity about what @Zaku? I mean, you could visit South Korea safely, and get a sense of the culture. What else is there to be curious about? Like, “Let’s see how hard it is to get back out?” Hotel California.

@PullMyFinger happen to have links to the math articles you mentioned above?

PullMyFinger's avatar

@Dutchess_III Sorry, I read the article 2 or 3 years ago in an ‘old-school’ paper magazine.

It shouldn’t be at all difficult for our friend Mr.Google to locate it for you, however…..

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ok. Go look then!

PullMyFinger's avatar

And I am expected to do that you you because…..

Dutchess_III's avatar

Because…you want us to believe you? I think you just made it up.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m always interested to read people’s responses to questions such as this, which question another’s sanity for doing something strange, unusual or dangerous. But in the spirit of responding to the question, here are a few reasons I can think of off the top of my head:

- because it’s there
– because it’s “not here”
– to see if it’s really as bad as has been reported
– because he “thought he could make a difference”
– because the chance presented itself
– because it was on his bucket list for some reason
– because he was dared to
– because he lost a bet
– because it would piss off the ‘rents
– because he could
– just because
– boredom
– excitement
– drunk or on drugs
– because he thought it would be fun
– because he didn’t know any better

I think too many people spend too much time questioning others’ motives for doing things that shouldn’t matter a damn to them or to the rest of the world. And people make mistakes and bad choices all the time; it’s only fortunate that they don’t sink to this level of tragedy more frequently.

jca's avatar

I just saw an article online that the tour company that sent Mr. Warmbier to North Korea is no longer going to take people there because it’s too dangerous.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Boy, they’re quick, aren’t they @jca! Can’t get nothin’ past them!

jca's avatar

@CWOTUS: I’m not questioning Mr. Warmbier’s sanity and I’m not spending a lot of time questioning his motives at all.

I think that there are many dangerous things we can do but the option would be ours (for example, mountain climbing), whereas something like North Korea seems dangerous in a different way.

canidmajor's avatar

FWIW @PullMyFinger, I don’t disbelieve you. :-)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah. No control @jca. If you go mountian climbing you know the dangers. But many of us have the idea that no human could ever really be that bad. Well, yes they can.
I saw a 60 Minutes segment. It was filmed in South Korea. They took the reporter to this building that straddled the border. Walk in the front door and at the far wall was another door. If you go through that far door you’re in another room but in North Korea. Do not go through that door.

Yellowdog's avatar

If I had invincible magical powers I might go there

Patty_Melt's avatar

Going is one thing, but stealing something? That takes a serious lack of common sense.

PullMyFinger's avatar

@Dutchess_III Somehow you imagine that I care whether or not you (or anyone else) believes what I might say. My statement regarding the anti-U.S. indoctrination of young North Koreans (almost since birth) comes from documented (and easily-verifiable) historical facts.

If truly interested, all you would have to do is Google anything like “Anti-U.S. brainwashing of North Korean school children”, and BINGO…..pages and pages of links to legitimate news sources will appear, educating you on exactly what I said here, or about many similar pathetic North Korean government mind-control tactics used on its citizens.

Anyway, for decades I have tried to continually educate myself every day regarding current events via books, newspapers, magazines, and all other forms of available information.

For many people who can’t be bothered doing that, I guess it is far easier to just say “I don’t believe you” (and that kind of lazy ignorance is what brought us the orange-haired dumpster fire who occupies The White House today)..

In any case, I can assure you that I don’t wake up each morning thinking…..

“Gee, I sure hope that, if I say something today, Dutchess III will believe it….”

Zaku's avatar

@Dutchess_III The people I spoke to were curious about to experience what it is like in North Korea specifically, not South Korea. Yes they come from the same culture originally, but the experience of the people, places, rules, the guided tourist rituals, etc. of North not South Korea was what they were curious about, and they were very thrilled to get that experience and to share it in photos and stories. South Korea is certainly interesting, but it is one of many modernized capitalist countries. North Korea is a pretty unique and starkly different experience. And it’s not unsafe to be a foreign tourist there if you don’t break the rules.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would not be curious enough to actually go into such a country. I’d stay at home and Google it.
I realize he was an idiot for trying to steal something, though.

Zaku's avatar

I probably wouldn’t choose to go, either (I have a hard enough time with the attitudes of US Customs Agents and TSA), but I do understand the curiosity, and I’m glad people have gone and shared. The pictures and stories were quite interesting.

They clearly take their rules very seriously, and are quite willing to imprison and kill people who violate them. For someone to steal things, they must have been very ignorant and/or foolhardy.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^ Kid. Hadn’t lived long enough to understand that there are worlds horribly different from the one he’s known all of his life.

Lawn's avatar

The tour group he went with has a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor with 513 reviews. It is the #3 rated tour group in Xi’an which has a population over 8 million.

Young Pioneer Tours
The FAQ page for Young Pioneer Tours changed. According to, here is content from the FAQ page about the time he signed up:
How safe is it? Extremely safe! Despite what you may hear, North Korea is probably one of the safest places on Earth to visit. Tourism is very welcomed in North Korea, thus tourists are cherished and well taken care of. We have never felt suspicious or threatened at any time. In fact, North Korean’s are super friendly and accommodating, if you let them into your world. Even during tense political moments tourism to the DPRK is never affected.”

Two of the tour guides are American: Amanda Moore and Phillip Gorny – they had been traveling to NK for years.

Matt Harding
Matt Harding is an American internet celebrity. He was hired by Visa to star in their Travel Happy campaign. His YouTube videos feature him dancing with people all over the world. At 29 seconds into the following video, he is dancing in North Korea. The video has over 18 million views with 99% favorable.

“Wanderlust may reflect an intense urge for self-development by experiencing the unknown, confronting unforeseen challenges, getting to know unfamiliar cultures, ways of life and behaviours or may be driven by the desire to escape and leave behind depressive feelings of guilt, and has been linked to bipolar disorder in the periodicity of the attacks. In adolescence, dissatisfaction with the restrictions of home and locality may also fuel the desire to travel.” – Wikipedia

chyna's avatar

Good research @Lawn !

Patty_Melt's avatar

Wow. Eye opener.

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