I don't know anything at all about traveling in North Korea, but as a professional traveller; I would love to visit, but I believe it is nearly impossible to do so.
I've heard even diplomats have a hard time gaining entry visas (one class of traveller who normally don't even have to apply for visas).
About it being a cruel place to visit? One could only compare it to travelling behind the 'iron-curtain' pre-1989. If you are lucky enough to enter (or sometimes crazy enough, like me! I travelled in Fiji during one of their many uprisings) I doubt you will be given the chance to see any cruelties. I can guarantee you before hand. You will not be given the chance to slip away from your guides either (because they will probably be executed if you do). If you are crazy enough to try 'the slip', they will keep you in your hotel under house arrest until your departing flight (which has even happened to many international news reporters).
So let me answer your question another way....
"Is North Korea a cruel place?"... Ans: from what I've heard, Yes!
"Can I visit North Korea?"... Ans: I don't think it is even possible to obtain a tourist/entry visa... If you can, I know you will raise many red flags when you return home, unless you work for a NGO or news organization almost 7 years ago
One can go twice yearly to the 3 day business Trade Fair in Pyongyang via the European Business Association. It is not so cruel, they are just suspicious and one just has to be careful. It is intriguing you can go with Koryo Tours or even Regent Travel Agency, and if you want to go for business ther eis plenty of opportunity. The only problem is that North Korean is a different language to Korean itself, if one makes an effort then the more the guides trust you. Still one has to be careful. If sending postcards one can send them to anywhere in the world as long as they are sent to yourself and those postcards going to South Korea will not be delivered. It is also custom to pour out a drink with both hands. Strange, but beautiful place, despite what one gets told, that is the strangest thing about it. almost 7 years ago
Hello, it is very possible to visit North Korea as a tourist. In fact, about 4-5,000 western tourists visit the country every year. It's not difficult to obtain a tourist visa, but you will need to go through an authorized travel agent. There are a handful of agencies in the world that offer North Korea tours. It's a safe place to visit, so long as you follow the rules of the tour. You are correct that Korean guides follow you throughout the tour, which admittedly can be a bit suffocating for those who are not used to this kind of travel. But you'll find the guides to be friendly and knowledgeable, and your liaison to the country.
There are always ethical concerns when visiting a country like this, but I think tourism is a great way tool for informal diplomacy and to experience the country for yourself. It also supports local economy in ways that we don't often hear about.
In full disclosure, we're one of the only American providers of North Korea tours (http://uritours.com/) based in the NYC area. We offer tours all-year round and anyone is welcome to join our tours except for South Korean passport holders and journalists, latter needing special permission. about 5 years ago
Yes it is very possible to travel to North Korea. But for traveling to North Korea you have to join in a tour even independent tour you will have to get into the country with travel agency. They will apply traveling visa for you. For applying traveling visa to North Korea do not need to send your original passport just simply fill in the application form then book the transportation get on the tour. It is just as simple as this.
For the tours to North Korea from China there are 3 ways.
Fly from Shenyang - Pyongyang & Beijing - Pyongyang
Train ride tour to North Korea from Danodng the biggest border city of China just next to North Korea which is far more interesting than fly. On the train you can view real North Korea countryside view. The train will take 5 hours from Dandong to Pyongyang the train has sleeping berth which is more comfortable than fly.
http://www.explorenorthkorea.com based in Dandong they offer train ride tour to North Korea from Dandong. almost 4 years ago