North Korea is Currently Imploding: is Peaceful Reform Finished?

otto warmbler

There’s long been an idea that North Korea’s erratic behaviors are part of a mad genius-strategy that involves gaining political leverage and controlling the population. Every faux nuclear threat and publicity stunt is designed to maintain a system of control. Given recent circumstances, however, we must now consider that these strategies are more about madness than genius.

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North Korea Photos: Living and Working in the Urban Centers

These North Korea photos were taken around April, 2013. Those in urban city centers enjoy a higher standard of living than others. Most go home to large residential developments and condominiums; often with limited water and electricity, with several family members to each room. North Koreans often work six days per week. The meandering tourism industry (primarily from China) represents many urban jobs in hospitality, as well as a constant need for civic short-term employment, such as construction and infrastructure. Markets exist in unvisited sectors of Pyongyang; where tourists have never been allowed to go. During a stay in a city like Pyongyang; you are required to be accompanied by a government approved guide at all hours, except when you are in your hotel. – Cyrus

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On Interacting With North Koreans


Unfortunately, going into North Korea sometimes yields the impression that you’re entering a giant theatrical display; and those who are not designated actors are off-limits.

However, this act of theater is actually very thin. If you happen to get a bad group of guides (it’s never happened to me), then you might find your access to the general public is off limits. However, by establishing trust with your supervisors and demonstrating that you’re not some kind of loose canon, you’ll find that you’ll suddenly be given permission to meet, greet, and hang out with various locals.

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Pyongyang, the City of Secrets

All photos were taken in April 2013 and are copyright to Cyrus Kirkpatrick, all rights reserved.

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The spirit of Pyongyang (“city in the flat-land”) has endured for thousands of years, and despite being continually shattered by warfare, it always springs from the ashes in some unique way. The form the city has taken in the last century is perhaps the most peculiar in its 5000 year history; it is now a city of forbidden sights – a showcase capitol of a socialist utopia that never quite achieved its promise. It is a city filled with lights, grandiose monuments, amazing breweries, high-quality restaurants, hard-working people, and dark secrets.

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Interview With Cyrus Kirkpatrick on KVOA Channel 4

This current upload suffers from some problems. I was hoping KVOA would have better people scripting their website because I’m cut off toward the end in mid sentence! Nonetheless special thanks to Ryan at KVOA for making this really cool package about the North Korea trip that was featured this morning on Channel 4.

Select Images from the April 2013 North Korea Trip

Presenting 15 (+1.. 16!) of the more interesting photos I pulled out of my huge archive of pictures from the 2013 North Korea trip. There’s a lot more pictures left to post, but these are just a few of the ones that seemed to jump out at me. Please wait while this page loads.
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A waitress serves DPRK party members in a busy restaurant.

New buildings in Pyongyang.

Our government guides take photos of us.

An upscale North Korean watches people with a cigarette.

A girl from the industrial city of Kaesong poses for me.

A Pyongyang traffic girl and a rundown truck.

Members of a wedding party.

Myself posing with two guards on the DMZ.

A woman at the Pyongyang bowling alley around 8 PM at night.

Farmers somewhere to the north

A man attends a class in the Great People’s Study Hall

A woman attends a class in the Great People’s Study Hall

A military cycle on the streets of Pyongyang

A crowd assembles in Kim il-Sung Square

Juche Tower rises above the city.

The Pyongyang skyline.

CNN Features Our North Korea Group

Americans vacation in North Korea

CNN caught up with three of the guys from our group in Beijing after returning from this year’s trip into the DPRK. Featured on the video are several of my buddies: Josh, Patrick and Joseph. The segment does a great job expressing our feelings about the trip and the contradictory nature of going into this country.

There are pictures of me and the rest of us featured in the group shots that are shown during the segment.

This is must watch!

Was Oprah Winfrey, Captain Picard and James Bond in North Korea?

Was Oprah Winfrey once in North Korea at the town of Nampo? Was she really hanging out with Patrick Stewart and “Bond”?

Could “Bond” be Sir Sean Connery?

That would be barrels of awesome.

(Edit; Some have pointed out that “Bond” is “Bono” which makes more sense. The “o” is curved inward a little bit, so I thought it was a “D”. Here’s to hoping it was Sean Connery).

I found this guestbook signature at a rural hotel in the depths of the DPRK this week. It could be a prank by another wandering adventurer, or it could be the real deal. Either way, this unusual guestbook entry gave me and my group a double-take.

What do you think? Is there any information out there about Oprah Winfrey coming into the DPRK? Does the handwriting match her own?

If so, it wouldn’t be the first surprising signature found in the country. Another member of our group, Michael Bassett, signed a book near Kim Jong-Il’s mausoleum with Dennis Rodman’s signature right above it (no pics were allowed in this place unfortunately).

For those who arrived at this page for the first time and do not believe I was in North Korea this week (March 30th – April-6th 2013) in the height of all these tensions, here’s my pic. I’m an American.


Back from Incredible DPRK Expedition

Hot in the middle of the latest tensions, our group set sail for the secret country. Included in the crew was Captain Joe Ferris of an American in North Korea fame, Jordan Harbinger from The Art of Charm and Rebel Tribe Tours  and plenty of new faces as well. Everyone thought we were crazy to go into the reclusive country smack dab in the middle of what the media is portraying as the gradual buildup to nuclear war.

There is a lot to post, and a lot to talk about, with countless really amazing photos. The most memorable experiences, in my mind, was hanging out with some top-brass in the DPRK army, including one regiment commander near the DMZ who frequently meets up with groups like ours, and remained very friendly and nice even a group of what some would believe to be his sworn enemies – Americans.

The mood in the country was much more tense than before, with many more restrictions in place, yet at the same time the tensions were nothing that overwhelmed anybody. In fact, it was more-or-less background noise; the North Koreans were as friendly as they ever are. In addition, I got to see many new places including the pastoral area of Kaesong, the former capitol of the Chosun Dynasty and now a city of disused skyscrapers and poverty.

To top it all off, Joe Ferris our trip organizer was interviewed by CNN after he returned to Beijing. Reference to the few tourists who were bold enough to venture into North Korea in the height of media-induced tensions was mentioned on the front-page of CNN the same day I returned.

Stay tuned to this blog page with plenty more updates coming out of the DPRK, including editorials and photographic tours.


My return to North Korea – Post Your Requests

Playing bumper cars with North Koreans

As some may know, I am returning to North Korea in just over six weeks from the date of this post.

It’s admittedly an unusual time to go, given their nuclear detonation this week. Some elements of the DPRK government remain completely outside the realm of logic and reason. I wonder how much the latest sanctions and provocation will affect their tourism industry.

That being said, aside from the strange political time to enter Pyongyang, this trip is going to be very interesting for a lot of reasons. The first reason is because we will be accompanied by a very well-known TV channel. That is all of the details I can disclose about this, but there’s going to be some very interesting material being produced about the country very soon, in particular during our trip.

The trip is also bound to be memorable as I am again going with famous dating coach Jordan Harbinger from The Art of Charm, and renown North Korean photographer Joseph Ferris from An American in North Korea. Odds are, it will be another crazy and eccentric good time.

Post Your Requests

All that being said, if you found this page from Reddit or elsewhere, I wanted to provide an opportunity for people to post requests (within reason) and I’ll see if I can fulfill some of them.

This may include pictures of specific things in the country, or how you’d like to see me interacting with locals.

For space reasons, I cannot make large purchases for you. But, if there’s a specific item like a North Korean magazine or one of their many souvenir books about their eccentric Juche philosophy, then contact me ahead of time at the below e-mail. I would need payment ahead of time to make the purchase after I am in North Korea, plus shipping after I return to America.

If you want North Korean shampoo, I may be able to smuggle one or two little bottles out of the Yangakkdo hotel for you. It’s surprisingly high quality.

I won’t be able to fulfill every request, but I can definitely handle a few. Don’t be angry if I can’t or am unable to complete a request.

You can reply to this comment to make a request, or find my post on the North Korea reddit page. Or you can e-mail me at






Why Are These North Korean Soldiers So Happy?

Something has these North Korean army men jubilant as they perform what looks like some type of chicken dance. Suddenly, they seem a little bit less intimidating. Courtesy the North Korea Official Flickr Account.

Insane North Korea Military Photos

I recently discovered a host of crazy looking military photos on the official North Korea Flickr account. Some of these photos look straight from some type of Warhammer 40,000 concept art. It’s interesting how different the army appears compared to modern militaries. Their communist outfits make them appear as if they’re ready to take on the Nazis alongside the Soviet Union–but how well would they fare against the technological prowess of the modern Republic of Korea to the south?