North Korea respect · Courtesy in North Korea
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Courtesy in North Korea
Courtesy in North Korea
It is important to emphasize that the government of the DPRK -- in particular the leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il -- are, at least publically, very highly revered in North Korean culture. While slavish devotion is not expected from tourists, especially given that the Juche philosophy of the DPRK is specifically aimed at the Korean people only and is not applicable to foreigners, insulting them in any way is highly offensive and illegal, and will get you and (much more so) your guides into trouble. It is not worth inadvertently threatening their lives by insulting their leaders.
To prepare yourself to understanding the North Korean Government mindset; you may want to read George Orwell's classic 1984. Think of the North Korean Government as Big Brother watching you.
Bringing gifts like cigarettes or scotch for the men, both guides and the driver, and chocolate or skin cream for female guides, is a nice gesture. Please be respectful toward your guides, especially since North Korean guides are known to occasionally take tourists whom they trust well enough to see other places and events in North Korea that they wouldn't ordinarily go to.
Most, if not all, tour groups to the DPRK are asked to solemnly bow and lay flowers on one or two occasions in front of statues of Kim Il Sung when visiting monuments of national importance. If you're not prepared to do this, do not even try to enter North Korea. Just be sure you always act in a respectful manner around images of the two leaders. This includes taking respectful photos of any image of them. When photographing statues, especially Mansudae, be sure to get the entire statue in the photo
Any trouble you cause as a tourist will likely be blamed on your tour guide's inability to control you, and he or she will bear the brunt of the penalties. Additionally, future tourists will be allowed less freedom and will face increased restriction on where they can visit and what they can photograph.
Other than your tour guide, you will likely not meet anyone else in your trip who speaks English; a few Korean words and phrases are a nice internationalist gesture.
Despite the sharp political differences, North and South Koreans generally share a common culture; the various tips in the South Korea article under respect (such as using two hands to pour drinks) will also help here.
The Most Frequently Asked Travel Questions about North Korea
Where To Stay & Best Hotels in North Korea - updated Apr 2020
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North Korea Travel Guide from Wikitravel. Many thanks to all Wikitravel contributors. Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, images are available under various licenses, see each image for details.