A little over two years ago, I had the chance to visit Cuba. The largest island nation in the Caribbean is a far cry from North Korea. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s opened itself to tourism – principally from Europe and Canada – and is slowly allowing citizens to open their own restaurants (paladares) and entertain foreign investment. Still, the impact of the United States’ decades-long trade embargo on Cuba cannot be overstated. From a dual currency (which I still don’t fully understand), to the inability to use credit cards of any kind, as a tourist I felt the very real effects of the chasm between Cuba and the United States. Still, I came back with a refreshed view of the Cuban people that transcended the political rhetoric and the diplomatic fissures between our two countries. But again, Cuba isn’t North Korea.
The Hermit Kingdom remains one of the most reclusive nations in the world. And if you’re mulling over a visit, here’s what the U.S. State Department says about it: “The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). U.S. citizens in the DPRK are at serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement. This system imposes unduly-harsh sentences for actions that would not be considered crimes in the United States and threatens U.S. citizen detainees with being treated in accordance with ‘wartime law of the DPRK.’ Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea… At least 16 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past ten years.”
Not super appealing, to say the least.
For some time we’ve known that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un built a super-luxurious ski resort in Masikryong. But this may be the first footage of a pro snowboarder kicking the tires we’ve ever seen. Jamie Barrow, known as Britain’s fastest snowboarder, traveled to Pyongyang then on to Masikryong as part of a tour for this short film courtesy of National Geographic. And while it looks nice, Barrow does mention in his commentary that they could only film what their guides allowed them to film. Honestly, I cringed a bit at 11:09 when Barrow decides to jump a fence and go off-piste. But as far as we know, he didn’t suffer any punitive consequences.