User:Computron/Wikinews interviews Carl Meadows on North Korean tourism

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Wikinews waves Left.png((WikinewsWikinews waves Right.png)) What is your role/job?

Carl Meadows: I am a “Senior Sales Consultant” at Regent Holidays here in Bristol, UK, a tour operator that specializes in arranging tours to Central/Eastern Europe and Asia. Essentially my role is to manage, arrange / sell and occasionally escort tours to a selection of these countries, including North Korea, where I generally spend 3-5 weeks or so a year.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) North Korea has issued many threats to South Korea over the years, despite these do people continue going there for holiday?

CM: Yes, and the number of visitors increases each year. In the past the common misconception was that the North was just impossible for tourists to visit. Now that people are slowly becoming aware that the DPRK can indeed be visited the interest only continues to rise. Of course the prospect of a holiday in North Korea is not for everyone, it is not a remotely “normal” travel destination in any sense, but most people who contact us are open minded and want to see the country for themselves, and are thus happy to disregard the politics, bluster and rhetoric that clouds over the Korean peninsular.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) How do people feel when they come back from North Korea - is it a strange destination for a holiday?

CM: Readers may find it hard to believe, but our feedback from North Korea is overwhelmingly positive. In fact each year we get many people who return to the country with Regent for a repeat visit. My next scheduled visit, in June, is a tour focusing on remote / lesser visited parts of the country aimed primarily at people who have visited North Korea before. Some of the people on the tour have visited the country three, four, even five times prior. North Korea is so unbelievably different than anywhere else on earth - after visiting North Korea travelling almost anywhere else seems, well, just “normal.”

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Having been to North Korea several times yourself, how would you sum up the NK public's perception of us?

CM: Despite differences between governments, Koreans view normal tourists as welcome guests – of course we do not necessary represent the opinions of our own elected representatives. Despite relations between Korea and the USA being about as bad as they could possibly be, for example, visitors from the USA who want to see the country - are welcomed. Politics aside the average citizen in Korea really has the same fundamental aspirations as anybody in the West and we do really have a lot more in common with each other than difference between each other.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Is North Korea becoming further isolated in the world or is there some knowledge of the 'Western world'?

CM: On the contrary, I think year on year the Koreans are getting a better idea of the outside world, and tourism has helped this just through the increased interaction it has brought. With hours of video now being able to be stored on tiny USB Sticks or Discs there is also a greater awareness, particularly of South Korea, through music / video etc. smuggled into the North via China. Also as mobile phones (only working on a domestic basis) have sprung up in the last five years or so Koreans are better able to communicate with each other – in a country where it is not easy to travel from one city to another this has been extremely significant.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Is there a certain hatred to any foreign countries?

CM: As mentioned, the North Koreans have a particular dislike of certain governments, such as the US and South Korean governments, but always differentiate between governments and citizens. Of course, whilst the do detest the current government in the South the citizens of the South are their own kin - their brothers. Relations with Japan are also poor – the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea is a contentious issue and one heavily propagated in the North in a highly negative light.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Are current problems dissuading British tourists from visiting there?

CM: Most people who travel to the North are open minded and look beyond the rhetoric, thus not put off too much by the current news. Over the last few weeks we have actually seen an increase in demand for our tours to Korea. We normally need a minimum of 6 weeks or so to make a booking to the country, and often people book up a long time in advance, so those booking now may not be travelling until much later in the year.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Category:Computron (Wikinewsie) Category:Computron (WWC2013)