The following are hints for a smooth and productive business trip to North Korea.
RESPECT: As in any country treat your hosts with respect and they will do the same to you, more importantly if hosted by a government body.
DON’T: Make remarks about the former or current leaders, tackle a middle ranking cadre on the nuclear issue or make fun of the countries economic system backwardness. Many things are obvious to the educated, internationally travelled men and women who are your guides and hosts.
HEALTH: There is fly-out medical cover from Pyongyang covered by SOS Asia. If caught sick in Pyongyang the foreignerâ€™s clinic in the Munsudong embassy district has doctors and nurses who speak English, with the pharmacy in the Koryo Hotel having most basic medicines.
CRIME: Pyongyang is probably the safest city in the world.
MONEY: ATMs aren’t available and getting a quick inbound T/T via Trade Bank is not easy, so take cash but not US dollars, and credit cards not issued in the USA. And remember to have enough money for the MPV or Benz you have been riding around in all week.
TORCH: Blackouts are less frequent now but still happen during business meetings in the evening.
CAMERA: You can take photos of almost anything, but always ask first, and try to avoid taking photos of things old, broken, and obviously embarrassing. The street market traders may not appreciate being photographed handling bundles of money.
MOBILE: Foreign visitors must temporarily surrender mobile phones at customs on arrival in DPRK, stored in numbered velvet bags unmolested.
IDD: Outbound phone calls can be made to most countries, although expensive. AT&T and similar phone cards don’t work, so faxes save cost. The best solution is send the office a fax on arrival with the room number and ask them to call the room at a fixed time every day.
LAPTOP: Business centres are limited, so rely on your laptop (power-point presentations), ideally with a small portable printer and all necessary computing accessories.
DINING: Pyongyang now many hard currency restaurants, mainly Korean-Japanese fare. Try the Stamp Restaurant near the Koryo, and the Japanese restaurant behind the ice-rink. The old diplomatic club offers cold Russian salads and Arab music, while the Minjok Shiktang provides dancing and singing. The 3rd Floor Koryo Hotel restaurant has a large menu of exotic delegation foods including British shepherd’s pie, which is pre-ordered.
STIR-CRAZY: Even a short stay in Pyongyang can be wearing for those used to freedom, convenience, and the normality or other Asian Capitals. A book, an mpeg player, or asking your guide for a trip to the golf course, park, Karaoke place or the new diplomatic club or circus can help. Also note that most people leave Pyongyang feeling drained, and in need of a day off.