Letting go to enjoy The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK)

You really do have to let loose of what you want to do to enjoy North Korea.  Photo: Tom Peddle

WASHINGTON, November 8, 2012 - (This is Part II of of a Two Part Series.  Read Part I here)

The silence during the day is as if you are camping in the darkened forest, where nothing is moving and life is still and the seconds never seem to exist. The van driver looks directly ahead, never making eye contact, honking at every Korean person trying to step in the street. The van drives through the sprawling city of Pyongyang, a city you cannot discover. The city unfolds by the guides telling you how big each monument is and how many Koreans it took to build, followed by how long. Casually you learn to work on their schedule.

The moment of knowing what is next is over. Being completely lost is now the norm, with no bearings and only trying to figure out what is going on. You hear, “Our ‘Great Leader’ guided us to make this, as they point to Monsudae Art Theatre.” Kim Il Sung had a hand in developing every aspect of Korea. Mosaics of him and smiling kids surround the city. The concept of actually being carted around to every portion of the city and country is a bit overwhelming. For twelve days, the schedule is intense. You become emotionally limp trying to understand everything going on around you as you hear the consistency of their message: the only country that is important it North Korea.

After the initial emotional blow the first few days throw at you, the real adventure does begin. You really do have to let loose of what you want to do, realizing the guides are there to “help” you understand such a vastly different concept of how they operate their country. The guides begin to trust you as you are not trying to put down their country and they begin to let you take more photos and speak more freely. All three guides want to give you more leniencies, but you have to earn it. It comes down to respect and you showing respect to their monuments and entire way of life. It is certainly not the easiest idea to have: letting go of your ideology to accept their way of living, especially when the media tells you to think in a different manner.

For those of you who say you are open-minded please go to the DPRK, and find out just how tolerant you are of something this completely opposite to how you were brought up.

Do not think! Do not begin to think about what you experienced. Although, you do not think for far different reasons, since you discover this is the easiest way to get along while you are there.

Take in everything you can. Right or wrong it is a countries ideologies. Take it all in, grow from it, take notes, register what is going on around you, and do not think to digest what you are experiencing. You are going to be doing that long after you return home.

Between the twelve days inside this country, the thoughts and emotions run in extremes. You stop being dismayed by your lack of seeing things when you realize the visit to such a closed off country is the journey itself. Remember the smiles from people who have never seen a person who was not Korean.

As you board Air Koryo flight JS 151, bound for Beijing, you look back at where you had been, wondering what just happened to me in those twelve days? The silence, so foreign only twelve days ago, has become calming. Noise is now disturbing. The questioning faces of the other foreign nationals have disappeared. The eyes are no longer roaming in search of what the DPRK is. Have you discovered the slightest portion of North Korea?


Henry Biernacki

“Global Henry” (Traveler to over 120 plus countries)


Author: No More Heroes

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Henry Biernacki

Henry Biernacki has been traveling with his rucksack since he was 17 years old when he took a Greyhound Bus from Colorado to Mexico. In one year, Henry went around the world, sleeping in the streets, spending only 3700USD. He met Mother Teresa 2 September 1997 (3 days before she passed away) and had a personal audience with her. He has traveled to over 120 countries and continues to travel. 

He earned a BA in Romance Languages (French/Spanish) and International Affairs. He has lived in France, Germany, Taiwan, the West Indies and Mexico before returning to the United States.

Today, Henry is an airline Captain for one of the top airlines in the United States. He has flown Airbus319/320 and Boeing747-400/757/767.



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