What is it like to visit North Korea?

Rick Meehan (right) and a fellow tourist with a North Korean soldier.
Rick Meehan (right) and a fellow tourist with a North Korean soldier.

US President Donald Trump’s latest outburst that North Korea will feel “fire and fury” has sparked concern around the world.

Kim Jong-un has struck back claiming they could attack Guam.

It has the rest of the world on edge as to which of the leaders will blink first.

Rick Meehan, who visited North Korea for 12 days in 2013, said it was a waiting game.

“It is a big waiting game to see who buckles first,” he said.

“I would like to think both sides aren’t that stupid. I hope Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un, is not as silly to start something. He can’t be that naive but then maybe he is and that’s the problem.

“He is a little boy playing with the big toys with no idea what the outcome might be.”

Mr Meehan believes the latest war of words has the potential to be serious.

“Neither the US or Koreans will want to back down and Kim Jong-un has already shown he doesn't respect United Nations resolutions,” Mr Meehan said.

Asked if he would travel to North Korea again his answer was simple and quick “No”.

One of the expansive North Korean highways, 14 lanes wide, which virtually has no traffic.

One of the expansive North Korean highways, 14 lanes wide, which virtually has no traffic.

“It’s definitely not a tourist spot,” he said.

“I was fortunate to be able to travel there in 2013, I had the opportunity to do that and I’m grateful.

“I doubt the Australian government would allow you to travel there now anyway.”

He said the country was “beautiful and extremely clean”.

“I’ve travelled the world extensively and to nearly every known Asian country,” he said. “North Korea would be the cleanest Asian country I’ve ever been too.

“But under its dictatorship I doubt the people would even be allowed to leave it dirty. They wouldn’t dare.

“It was interesting but also very restricted in where you could go, what you could do and see.

“We travelled extensively in the north, south, east and west of North Korea. All our accommodation was organised but once you checked into your motel you weren’t allowed to leave or just venture out.

“Even if you wanted to, there was nowhere to go. There was nothing there, it was all closed down, there were no street lights, it was bland and dark.

“You didn’t leave until the guide escorted us to the bus the next day.

“We never saw any people. There was 12 of us on the tour and no matter if we went to a restaurant for a meal, to a bar, a shopping centre there was no one there.

The demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

The demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

“Quite often we were the only people in the places we were taken.

“Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, was like a ghost town.

“The most people we saw were in the subways.

“We went on highways that were six lanes wide in each direction and we were the only car on the road.”

He said he would like to visit South Korea to see the comparison.

“South Korea is so westernised. They have all the mod cons. I don’t think the North Korean people have any idea of the lifestyle they have,” he said.

“On the scale from one to 100, South Korea is 100 and North Korea is one. There is no contest.

“The people we did speak to in North Korea told us they would like to see a unification with South Korea -  I can’t see that happening.”

He said Kim Jong-un controlled everything from the state run television, even through to what his people can do.

“The TV was all propaganda, it just showed the leader talking, it was all anti-US and Western. All the films, movies and commercials were the same,” he said.

“In this latest instance the people are probably being told it is the US or the West that are being provocative and that’s why they need a nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”


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