Plodding Chollima, Tourism Workhorse of a Closed Regime: North Korea’s Relations with Europe

North Korea’s engagement with the outside world has taken a few rather interesting turns of late.  In the wake of last year’s partial push to normalize diplomatic relations with France, North Korea has been hosting delegations of German parliamentarians as well as a high-profile visit by the American head of Associated Press.  A group of American academics led by Charles Armstrong will visit North Korea this June (8-18) and North Korean performers and athletes continue their foreign peregrinations.

One of the best guideposts to the pro-German turn in Pyongyang has been the enchantingly erudite Nordkorea-info, a German-language North Korea blog whose author, of late, is just simply pouring it on.

This entry on North Korea’s tourism strategy is particularly interesting.

Even if you don’t read German, or if you love the language but still find that it melts your eyes, the blog’s links are quite often to English material, the abundance and quality of which alone has value.  Unlike many other Korea blogs, the author takes the time to synthesize material in a painstaking fashion; he is careful with his conclusions and scrupulous with his documentation.  Nordkorea-info isn’t as flashy or as self-aggrandizing as some other North Korea blogs, but it just may be one of the best out there at the moment in a Western language.

In other North Korea-Europe news:

– the British Ambassador blogged a recent trip to Pyongyang in mid-March,

– a new and highly useful North Korean website list is growing, and includes a link to a German communications joint venture in Pyongyang whose motto is “Secrecy, Skills, Dedication”,

North Korean exports to Europe nearly doubled in 2010, while imports rose just slightly

– the DPRK’s forceful rhetorical rejection of US/European military action in Libya is getting play in French circles, but is even more influential on the Chinese internet

– CanKor, a Canadian resource focusing on EU and Canadian relations with North Korea, carries an interesting piece on possible Paektu volcanic cooperation between the Koreas,

North Korean beer, at least Taedonggang, can be imported and sold legally in the USA since 30 September 2010,

– Le Monde carries a look at a Swiss soccer/football coach working with the DPRK men’s team

And oh yes! I read an article about a recent visit by a German delegation to Pyongyang here on YouTube.


  1. Not trusting the intentions of the human agencies directing the trajectory of technological development discussed above, I’m erring on the conservative side of things and going for digital closure when I turn into fertiliser.

    And this will not only include financial info, but also my digital opinions, enthusiasms and baser prejudices.

    If the internet is little more than a massively magnified reflection of the world as we know it today, I suggest that we should all forgo our personal vanities/our so called contributions to this trans-human artificial itelligence and go for total digital closure upon our passing.

    1. Kiing! I think the phrase coined by someone who presented at the Berlin transmediale I recently attended called this idea of total closure, as you say, “digital suicide” or “Facebook seppaku.” And I like “so-called contributions,” this whole thing could be about as significant at the end of time as a few hundred moths flitting around a screen door in June.

    2. Just checked out the undertakers, that is really something else! At least someone is thinking of everything…

  2. Hello Adam,

    Thank you for this invaluable list of recent events/ writings on North Korea and middle tier country relations (including, but not restricted to, a pingback to CanKor ). I find especially interesting the artistic/ musical exchanges.

    Here’s to beginning a meaningful exchange. 🙂

    1. Absolutely, Miranda, great to connect, and thanks for the shout-out on CanKor. I very much like your list of ongoing projects on your own page (which is really rather worthy of emulation in form, if impossible to imitate in terms of content), and have found CanKor to be a very helpful reference point; will be checking it frequently from here out.

  3. Thanks for posting the link from the British Ambassador to S. Korea. It’s quite interesting to get somewhat of an idea of how foreign embassies operate in the DPRK and a diplomat’s view of life in Pyongyang.

    1. How about those Germans? Also, should read Erik Cornell (former Swedish Ambassador to DPRK), his recent book has much content along the same lines…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s