Adventure Travel Abroad

An American Tourist in North Korea: Exploring the DPRK and running the Pyongyang Marathon

An American Tourist in North Korea: Exploring the DPRK and running the Pyongyang Marathon


I’m here at the Beijing International Airport Beijing China about to board my air core you like uh yang North Korea I’m Geoffrey donenfeld and I’m an adventure travel consultant interactive technology strategist and expedition photographer the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also known as North Korea has always seemed mysterious in April I decided to check it out for myself and to run the 2015 Pyongyang marathon in the process to get into North Korea as a tourist it’s necessary to join a tour group traveled with expert tour operator Yuri tours and specifically did their Pyongyang marathon Beijing departure long tour option our initial median as a group was the night before at a restaurant in Beijing and then most people stayed together that night in Beijing in a hotel the next morning we departed for the DPRK via the country’s official airline Air Koryo on a russian-made antonov an-148 the bride was smooth refreshments included sandwiches and beer and the entertainment consisted of a DVD of The Moron bong ban after landing we were greeted by our guides from the Korean international tour company and boarded a coach bus the capital of the DPRK tell me hello everybody I will be welcome you to this our Democratic People’s Republic Korea DPRK tomorrow you will run a marathon so right now we are going back to you yeah we checked in at a young gakuto hotel in the center of the city on the tatami river party we’re all walking into our hotel for the first night with Korea and also right a fish it’s good right after dinner with our tour group in the hotel’s dining room it was off to bed to get some rest for the Pyongyang marathon marathon day waking up early rathia the main stadium here in Pyongyang kind of staging outside with all the foreign runners in a minute we’re going to go into the stadium you can’t start the starting line five hours and that all the North Korean tackle or enter nice day over here we’re going to go in now we we killed inside we go it’s on haha Oh great marathon with a lot of fun I’d be full laps of young angles how can we experience I’m getting a finish in the stadium so cool look at this it was quite an emotional experience and the local people especially the kids have boys and girls check my hands that it was amazing very fun and intriguing people are really nice they’re waving there’s a lot of good energy out there the experience that keep for the rest of your life running through the streets of Pyongyang it doesn’t get better than that after the marathon my group returned to the hotel to clean up and have lunch in the rotating restaurant atop the yanggakdo hotel the view from the top is spectacular with Pyongyang stretching into the distance at the monsoon hill grand monument with huge statues of leaders Kim jong-il and Kim il-sung’s dominates surrounded by memorials to the Japanese occupation of Korea and the Korean War then now what holds up the pool slice of Max’s movie that is Mach seasons and then man that guy who is that the book that is to say philosophy should say I’m here at the Pyongyang victorious War Museum our tour guide war military uniform showed her group relics from the Korean War and took us aboard the USS Pueblo a captured Navy ship so today we are going to see some of the capture the wafers first and then paranoia and some parts in the museum education here are the crew sculptures of the monument merely shows most significant and fierce battles of the world all the passages to the weapons exhibition are made off to the trenches we use during the war considering the war of US Army they fought bravely and they capture the plots of the enemy’s weapons when he kept the ship workshop finishing weird afterward we had dinner at a restaurant on the other side of town a traditional Korean hotpot and of course lots of beer next we checked into the koryo hotel second largest hotel on the DPRK the lobby was grand and with leader Kim il-sung’s birthday approaching it was full of kim jong ilya and kim ill sung yeah the rooms are Soviet style kitsch replete with the smoking lounge comfortable beds and a TV with three channels running your favorite DPRK music videos and soap operas Hey the next morning we had breakfast and headed south to Kaesong a city right on the border with South Korea as we approached the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ there were giant colorful posters promoting unification of North and South Korea we were bused down a long isolated road and entered the joint security area we’re entering the dmz area now from the North Korean side honey feels in my abilities before you Mali broke out would you gently drop money to the building where they had the original armistice talks before they signed an agreement we were also shown the armistice agreements won in Korean the other in English preserved under glass our kPa guide led us to the actual military demarcation line the feeling was light and jovial but with the undertone that it could turn serious quickly good funny people get on clues often in between yeah in between the seven parts so that’s the military demarcation line so the Korean nations 70 million Korean nation that has been divided into two for over half a century so we going into the the blue buildings from the north to the north so it was about two weeks ago that I was actually in this exact same room coming from the South Korean side and now I’m in the same room coming from the North Korean side of North Korea interesting to be back in the same technically I’m back in South Korea now just for a minute we look out the window here’s the other line again there’s the line over there exiting the JSA we visited the Chorio History Museum which is located in the city’s former confucian academy and contains priceless Goryeo relics and cultural artifacts next to the museum is the Chorio stamp shop where you can purchase DPRK themed posters along with postcards and stamps so you can send a one-of-a-kind keepsake to your friends back home before leaving we enjoyed traditional Kaesong cuisine at the John Masson hotel this traditional chicken ginseng soup that’s indigenous he’s on region of the southern part of Korea I’ve been taught this is the entrance to one of the stations Pyongyang Metro we’re going to go in there ride the Metro a little bit so let’s check it this is the first station of metro trains we’re going to go get on one of those trains in just a second the subway cars are soviet-built and though vintage they run well the pyongyang metro stations are grand with each one having his own artistic motif and elaborate mosaics depicting the leadership as well as life in North Korea in the station there are central displays with the day’s newspaper talking about the marathon that we had just run a day or two prior welcome to the Pyongyang Flower Show it’s beautiful here the annual kim il sung yet Flower Show is held in honor of Kim il-sung’s birthday and featured an entire hall filled with some of the most intensely arranged and ornate flowers I’ve ever seen that night we enjoyed some of the best beer in town at the Tate Hong Kong craft brewery bar there are 7 different beers available conveniently numbered 1 through 7 from lightest to darkest of course the bar also has a healthy supply of Korea’s most popular liqueur so drew the next morning we checked out of the Chorio hotel and head Southwest to mountain yella Hong Hong it’s a beautiful mountain and I had a great time hiking with the group we’re up on the mountain just outside of Pyongyang you’re looking at young hang off in the distance the view from the top of the mountain was spectacular and we got to see a wide expanse of Southwest North Korea after a hike we enjoyed seafood and fresh clams at a restaurant in the port city of nan PO after serving the food the staff change into costumes and performed an entertaining song and dance routine Oh after lunch we chartered a private boat increased 15 kilometers down the Taedong River to the west sea barrage a sprawling 8 kilometer long system of dams which blocks off the Teton River from the Yellow Sea after day on the water we arrived at the remote Ryan Gong Hot Springs Resort in unshod outside of Nampo the bathtubs in a room filled up with water from the hospitals which was advertised as healing and therapeutic going to sleep in this massive room it’s it’s all like dark wood it feels very old worldly there’s North Korean TV on in the corner it’s never a dull moment here in the DPRK good morning from Western North Korea just woke up in the morning in our crazy weird hotel room over here and it’s like 6:00 a.m. we’re going to get up and and go back into Pyongyang we took a beautiful early morning ride through on Shan passing many cooperative farms we pass through Nam PO and arrived back in Pyongyang where citizens were enjoying the day of the Sun birthday of the country’s founder Kim il-sung in the biggest holiday in North Korea first we visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun mausoleum where leaders Kim il-sung and Kim jong-il died in state preserved here behind me in the middle Cong yang North Korea are the bodies of Kim il-sung and Kim jong-il who just went in there so their bodies that are on display as well as a few of their vehicles and other personal effects and items we went across the town to mein Jung Dae Kim il-sung’s birthplace and toward a nostalgic recreation of the hut where he lived as a boy under Japanese occupation we toured the site alongside a large group of boys who looked to be DPRK s version of the Boy Scouts after lunch that consisted of North Korea’s signature dish cold noodle soup one member of our group jumped into a soccer game with the locals while I made some new friends nice to meet you as well next we took a stroll through the iconic Moore Ambala Park where we were greeted by the locals and even invited to dance with them all week we had seen the locals practicing dancer teams and finally get to see what they’ve been working on and extravagant choreographed dance routine in the center of Pyongyang it’s a time oh yeah okay and we’re going to go see the fireworks Oh the DPRK is a place like no other an enigmatic socialist time work filled with beauty and intrigue I’ve traveled extensively but my trip to North Korea with URI tours will remain by far one of my most amazing travel experiences Thursday April 16th the the final day of my time here in DPRK North Korea I mean Kim il-sung square just a few quick final thoughts on my time here in North Korea the countryside is beautiful pretty Ikes and it’s been good it has to go so Oh you


Reader Comments

  1. All the BGM's your using and only positive comments. Almost makes this video as if you are a part of the DPRK's propaganda machine or your afraid of your life if you say anything negative.

  2. 9:27 OMG what's Jackie Chan doing there? 😀 Great video. Also, aren't North Koreans taught to hate Americans? Was there any hostility towards you?

  3. Pyongyang is the show city of the DPRK. It's like a show house in a housing sub-division. They make excuses why you can't visit the countryside but the real reason is, they don't want you to film the bad points of North Korea.

    If the country was so fare, they would not require citizens from other towns to have permits to enter the capital city. You should go visit a DPRK work camp. You should go visit the lost tombs of multi-generation families who were murdered recently for one member trying to defect from the country. You should visit the people in the country of the DPRK. You should find luck in talking to a family who lost a loved one because they spoke out against their government. You should read the list of crimes that are met with capital punishment there.

    So yes. Pyongyang is nice, but that's the end of the story.

  4. I know im going to sound stupid for asking this but as someone who has never left america when you buy one of the tours on uritour does it pay for your plane ride there and back?

  5. See, I'd heard as much as the idea that locals weren't allowed to talk to outsiders unless they had government clearance to. Those children don't look like they had such clearance, and they look fairly sincere. It's nice to see another side of the nation like this.

  6. I saw other documentaries showing starving children in the countryside. The city is a show case and heard it doesn't depict the reality elsewhere in that country. Were you able to interview the locals without the interference of minders?

  7. They would have to physically make me go on the Pueblo the way they lied about it and treated our men

  8. Thank you for funding the regime that oppresses its people. Hope you can sleep well every night knowing that you have a conscience because a lot of their people will be sleeping without lights and food.

  9. The skies in DPRK are so clean and nice , beautiful and natural, no dirty lines of chemical death laid by UN aircraft because the great leader Kim Jong Un would have them shot down and the pilots killed , also have the UN nuked if they dare try it . Long live the great leader Kim Jong Un of DPRK

  10. …and the winner gets to chose his preferred method of execution; Starvation, Botulism, asphyxiation, firing squad or torture. See you at the finish line !

  11. a lot of brainwashed commenters ranting and raving about how the North Koreans are the ones that are brainwashed.

  12. they have prison camps!! they have prison camps!!! ignore the fact the the US incarcerates a shit ton of people every year and uses them as slave labor. NORTH KOREA HAS PRIZON CAMPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. American leader's are fuckedUp whenever they don't like a country ,they spread hatred all over the world Like Syria, Iraq, Iran Etc

  14. Many here don't have the slightest idea that South Korean border guards shoot and kill people if they want to enter DPRK. Many of the deferctors are now disillusioned and want to go back, but are unable. South Korean authority have strict eyes on them so that they can't go back or talk something else other than the imperialist version.
    And to the fuckers who are howling "shithole", "hell on earth" etc. rubbish; just go to Hong Kong and see how poor people are living there. The Hong Kong authority for a long time keep rents of apartments too high so that poor people have to work long just to get a roof above their head. There are many documentaries available on this matter in youtube.
    People of DPRK are intelligent enough and they don't want the whole country become another Hong Kong or something like the South East Asian (paper) tigers.

  15. Good work it's ashame we are going to deal with the Marshall very soon. But that dumb S.O.B deserves it

  16. Every time I see tourist videos of Nort Korea they show the marathon. Is this because that's the only time you can visit the country?

  17. Jeffrey, dude… With all due respect, this is a nice video you made but on the other hand you have to be honest: you have just seen the upside of NK. So, are you fully aware of the downside or have you ever seen the downside of NK???

  18. I would have loved had you shared some of your real feelings that seems like a propaganda piece nothing shock to you or made you think absolutely nothing just bubbling music and you smiling what a waste.

  19. This video seems to show happy people but hey this is not the true north korea…….the real korea is completely different……they live in a sort of big brother and they can' t be able to think or act with their own mind

  20. Wonderful report Jeffrey, you put a lot of work into making this video, you were lucky to spend so much time in the DPRK. The marathon as well as the Arirang Games pull in large numbers of westerners. Like yourself, I also did the MAC Building from the Republic two years ago. One day, I hope to be as fortunate as you and visit the DPRK. Thanks for the upload.

  21. The subway car you where riding is NOT soviet made. It's a Berlin Type D car (search Wikipedia: BVG Class D). They where sold to the DPRK in 1998 and 1999. The Type D cars are made by O&K, DWM, AEG and Siemens.

  22. Amazing! All you need to do: Spend some money and travel to the DPRK, join the Pyongyang marathon, wake up early, stand a lot of noise, crowds, run a few miles… and then, a smiling, cute little squirrel-like woman in a red dress will bring you a blue towel – at 04:24 – possibly wish you good luck, maybe give you some water too, remaining friendly and caring the whole few seconds. That's something one would NEVER get in the "metoo" west. Here, we get "make your own fucking sandwiches!" even without ever even ASKING for one.

  23. Why north korean women are usually dressed in traditional clothes but men don't? It would be nice if they wore it too, at least in their festivals. they're always with that executive look

  24. WOW, I didn't know anything about life in North Korea, all videos available are of rocket launches and such lol. Watched it while drinking my coffee, was fun, thanks dude.

    My dream is to one day be able to freely fly/sail/drive across the world and visit everywhere without any restriction. The earth is our home, we owe it to ourselves to see as much of it as we can before we leave haha

  25. BREAKING NEWS: Kim Jong Un assassinated by his sister for being a dud in the sack. A rumor spread by his close advisers ..But I suspect this is a CIA plot. after their power play failed.

  26. BREAKING NEWS: Kim Jong Un assassinated by his sister for being a dud in the sack. A rumor spread by his close advisers ..But I suspect this is a CIA plot. after their power play failed.

  27. Watch one video and you have watched them all… The same propagandistic crap regurgitated to infinity. Always some sort of leader oriented party going on… Same location, never any criticism,,, like some bizarre freak show

  28. Very nice video and you had a good attitude throughout and were one of the positive examples of American tourists (unlike so many others that paint a much different picture).

  29. And because of our President Trump – they may see each other again. You know the guy that everybody hates! Who is single handily changing the world and making it a safer place for BILLIONS OF PEOPLE!

  30. 남한은 북한방문을 국가보안법 으로 막고 있는데.. 미국넘들은 북한에 왜 가죠? 지들이 분단 시킨 나라를..

  31. South korea is converting into communist nations. Because of moon jae in, commie leader. Most korean doesn't know how miserable communism is

  32. I wish you unification and happiness north and south korea
    You korea have suffered to long
    Be one again
    Bless you korea 🤔😄🤗

  33. These people look beautiful. Even U.S.A. is world largest economy, but I'm still see many homeless people live under the bridges and begging for money on the stop signs.

  34. Why did he not just buy a damn poster? Why put your life at risk for something they will be more than willing to sell you!!

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