Fantasy but highly profitable soft power. From Pyongyang

Fantasy Trip Into Darkness “Tourism in North Korea: the exploration of dark tourism? AbstractIt’s widely acknowledged that North Korea is slowly opening up, people from all over the world are becoming desirous to visit. Tourism in North Korea is mainly considered a form of moral political tourism that is associated with dark tourism.While South Korea is becoming one of the most visited destinations, a trip to North Korea often face restrictions in terms of visa and its highly strict itineraries. Being judged as one of the most dangerous, mysterious and even peculiar countries on the planet, North Korea leave people outside of the country little to know and discover. Despite that, people from all over the world seem to be piqued by this unique country as they all started to visit. And mass media has described the tourism in North Korea as ” pure dark tourism”. Thus, this paper will discuss whether the tourism in North Korea is dark tourism or not by looking at its main targeted tourist types. Tourism is steadily growing in North Korea, since it’s considered as an easy but highly profitable soft power. From Pyongyang city to its new developing tourist city Wonsan, North Korean government is putting effort into developing tourism. Technically, citizens of most countries are permitted to visit except for the citizens of South Korea. Of interest is that amongall these international visitors, Chinese visitors account for approximately 80% (China News, 2011).The relationship between China and North Korea is quite historical. From Korean War to the formation of ” blood alliance “, it’s shown that the growing tourism from China to North Korea is predictable (Lee, 2012). As a result, the number of Chinese tourists increased dramatically within these years. Thus, as the visitors from other countries are either absent or few, China has become the biggest and most important inbound tourism market for North Korea. More importantly, Chinese citizens are even permitted to drive their own cars to a small town in North Korea called Luo from June 2011. What’s intriguing is the motivations of chinese tourists to travel to North Korea. Firstly, the historical forces and the nature of the state. After the Korean War, Chinese citizens are more willing to visit North Korea to see the site of the war, but the amount is very few due to the fact of the fading awareness of the new generation. Of significance is that the untouched nature of North Korea also attracts a huge amount of Chinese tourists. Secondly, North Korea is often perceived as what China used to be like. Thus, many Chinese tourists are attracted by the nostalgia to go visit North Korea since they consider North Korea as a sample of “old China “. Last but not least, most of the tourists go for the political status of North Korea. North Korea has always been described as a mysterious and dangerous nation that is detached from any other countries in the world. However, it maintains a state of nation that interacts with China a lot. Thus, people go to visit North Korea for the desire to discover the real status of North Korea and find out if it’s really what the others described.However, even all the motivations of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea shown above, none of these motivations are related to the desire of Chinese tourists to experience dark tourism, which shows that the fantasy of darkness does not play a part in the motivations of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea at all. Apart from the Chinese tourists, Western tourists also play an important role in North Korean tourism. Many people used what Winston Churchill said about Russia to perceive North Korea, ” a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma “. North Korea is widely described as a dangerous, mysterious and dark place by the Western media, which serves as nothing but a bedrock for the tourism in North Korea (Buda, 2015). Buda and Shim believe that the tourism in North Korea is only dark tourism. And this assertion is exaggerated by them. They state that people travel to North Korea to experience ‘out of enticement with danger and darkness'( Buda, 2015). However, the truth is completely opposite. Even though there are possibilities that North Korea has already been imbued with tremendous negative characteristics, tourists seek to look for normality but not “darkness” ,which is missing in Western media’s depictions. Dark tourism is a kind of tourism that always has something to do with death, violence and tragedy, including the sites of battlefields, disasters and monuments (Hughes, 2008). There is no denying that North Korea has a huge number of monuments and sites due to the Korean War and the fact that it used to be occupied by Japan. However, this array of events is mostly absent from the Western history course. Thus, very few Western tourists are actually interested in this, and the monuments tour organized by the government seems very tedious to the Western tourists. For them, of interest is to interact with local people to get to know the real North Korea. Again, what the Western tourists are seeking is not the darkness contained in North Korea’s monuments, but the normality in the society of North Korea or a fact they might obtain to challenge the media images, which seem extremely shocking and one-sided.From all these Western tourists, most are well-educated males, and half of them are repeat visitors(Connell, 2015). Since the whole tour in North Korea is extremely carefully controlled, many tourists don’t fully get what they are looking for. Accordingly, many of them decide to come back again. ” I wanted to see more. I wanted to see a different side. I wanted a rougher version, to see for myself whether Pyongyang was just a sample of an aspiring country struggling for success or if it was the exception, a Potemkin village to fool visitors” said a german tourist (Seidel, 2014). Clearly, the objectivities for those Western travelers is to see something worthy enough for them to change the opinion about this unique country, but not ” darkness” itself is the main motivation behind the trip.