By Kevin Callaghan —

In my final set of comments here I’ll touch on the thorny question of whether or not tourists should support certain regimes by way of travel, exchange of hard currency and the possibility of implicitly condoning certain policies by simply visiting that country. This is a difficult and controversial topic over which reasonable and thoughtful people can genuinely disagree.

Mountain Travel Sobek has a long history of going into countries (or regions) either before they are open to general tourism (by getting special permits) or as soon as tourism is allowed (e.g., Bhutan, China, Libya, Myanmar). Without exception, we have found that personal interaction with local citizens never fails to facilitate the further opening of a country, better understanding of Americans, and further promotion of more open societies. In essence, we feel that we are doing our small bit (no matter how minor) as ambassadors of freedom.

And I think that we found that to be the case in North Korea—whether we were (1) engaging locals in enthusiastic, mutual waving to each other (they were so surprised to see Americans and to see how friendly we were, most couldn’t help but smile and wave back—especially the kids!), or (2) simply letting our North Korean local guides see that we were normal, generous, thoughtful and respectful guests in their country. There were 27 of us in our group and I think that everyone came away feeling that not only was the trip powerfully worthwhile, we were glad to have participated in our own small ambassador program.


This is the last in a 5-part series of posts on Kevin’s North Korea journey. Click here to read from the beginning.
Read more: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
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Photo ©Kevin Callaghan