South Bay News
Looking at travel in North Korea for Americans
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- This will be a Thanksgiving filled with worry and sadness for a Palo Alto family. They've still not heard from 85-year-old Merrill Newman, a Korean War vet who was on vacation there when he was suddenly pulled off a plane and not allowed to leave.
Despite what you might think, Americans are allowed to travel to North Korea, so ABC7 News takes a look at what happens when you get there.
While the U.S. State Department warns against all travel to North Korea, you can find pop ups on the Internet offering deals to that country. We spoke to two people who have recently been there. They told us once you get there, there is no deviation from the script given by the North Korean government.
Kumgangsan is the second tallest mountain in North Korea. People enjoy the scenery, the food and shopping. Tourists are allowed to shoot video and take pictures.
"I just want to see the world," said Lynne Faust of San Francisco.
Faust spent two weeks in North Korea on a guided tour. During her entire stay, the group had three minders following them.
"We had breakfast, lunch and dinner together. We toured together, so from morning until evening they were with us," said San Francisco resident Lynne Faust.
Faust and the others were handed a list of dos and don'ts, which included no talking to the local people.
"How to act, what to say, what not to say," said Faust.
Any photo taken had to include the entire monument, meaning no close-ups or cropping allowed. There was no escaping the idols of the ruling family.
Faust is a retired history teacher who often lectures about the countries she's visited. Newman attended one of her lectures.
"He too was a curious person, interested in current affairs, wants to see what the world is like," said Faust.
John Kim of Cupertino was born in South Korea. He's always wanted to visit the north and when the country opened up an amateur golf tournament, Kim says he couldn't resist.
"Get to see a country that hardly anyone gets to go to and also play golf there," said Kim.
Both Kim and Faust agree everything in North Korea is well choreographed, one might even say staged, like the children beautifully dressed visiting a cemetery and a group of elderly people listening to music on the radio and dancing in the street.
"There is a showmanship that they want to make sure that people don't see the other side and just want to protect themselves from that," said Kim.
"When you go to Disneyland and you see a castle, you know it's fake. You may even meet Snow White, but you know she isn't real. There are so many things that are just not real," said Faust.
To get there, you have to fly from China. A trip to North Korea and back can cost as little as $2,000 and as much as $10,000. The one thing that bothers many is that the moment you arrive, they keep your passport. You get it back, when you leave.
palo alto, north korea, veterans, travel, south bay news, lyanne melendez
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