The Korea International Travel Company say, "in connection with the recent measures taken by UK government not to allow DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] citizens to enter the UK we also will not receive any UK citizens as tourists to DPRK for the time being." Peter Hughes, the UK Ambassador in the restrictive state, has replied saying, "as far as I'm aware, the UK has not refused visas for any DPRK citizens so this decision is hard to understand." However, Nick Bonner - who is head of Koryo Tours, the British-owned firm responsible for taking around half of all Western tourists to North Korea annually, believes that the moves are likely to be in response to tough new sanctions proposed by the United Nations in the wake of last month's nuclear test. So far, the ban extends only to UK citizens and not to those from other UN countries - why this should be remains unclear; but Kim Jong-Il, the nation's leader, is most definitey not a man known for acting in a logical way.
Kim Jong-Il - not known for acting in a logical way.
Very well-known for being a bit of an evil dictator.
Very well-known for being a bit of an evil dictator.
Pyongyang, the nation's capital - where only the most politically reliable and healthy citizens are permitted to live - receives just 300 visitors from the UK each year; so you might be forgiven for thinking none of the above matters very much. It does, though, not least of all because although the majority of those people are likely to have been immigrants to Britain visiting family members, some will be tourists.
Tourists who, by visiting North Korea, contribute to the economy of a state declared by the UN to be guilty of widespread human rights violations and which has been declared by Freedom House to be "a totalitarian dictatorship and one of the most restrictive countries in the world" which "subjects tens of thousands of political prisoners to brutal conditions."
According to defectors, refugees who convert to Christianity in China but who are subsequantly repatriated to North Korea routinely end up in prison camps or are executed. Similarly, criticism of the government - though a right protected under the nation's constitution - is likely to lead to arrest and confinement in a so-called "re-education" facility. Ri Kwang-chol, a doctor who defected, claims that babies born with physical defects are commonly killed soon after birth. The state is known to force girls aged just 14 to work in kippumjo prostitution teams until they are 25, at which age they are married off to Kim Jong-Il's guards. The UN says that the physically disabled are sent to what it calls "special camps."
Public executions take place, leading the UN to express "very serious concern" and the US Department of State reports that:
"Methods of torture and other abuse reportedly included severe beatings; electric shock; prolonged periods of exposure to the elements; humiliations such as public nakedness; confinement for up to several weeks in small "punishment cells" in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down; being forced to kneel or sit immobilized for long periods; being hung by the wrists; being forced to stand up and sit down to the point of collapse; and forcing mothers recently repatriated from China to watch the infanticide of their newborn infants."
It also says that:
"Officials prohibited live births in prison and ordered forced abortions, particularly in detention centers holding women repatriated from China, according to refugee reports. In some cases of live birth, there were reports that prison guards killed the infant or left it for dead. In addition guards reportedly sexually abused female prisoners."
Amnesty International has accused the country of discriminating against the lower classes when distributing necessities such as food. Fancy a nice holiday in sunny North Korea? Sounds like a lovely place, doesn't it? And just think, the money you spend while you're there will help Kim Jong-Il's government.
Beats me why anyone would want to go there. But then, 195,000 UK tourists visited Dubai in the first quarter of 2009, obviously unaware or not caring that the country recently carried out the mass imprisonment of immigrant labourers who had the temerity to complain about their poor wages and living conditions (Dubai being well-known for appalling treatment of foreign labour, especially Indians) or that British national Keith Brown was sentenced to a draconian four years in prison after authorities found a .003g (according to the Daily Mail) speck of cannabis stuck to the bottom of his shoe. Or Tracy Wilkinson, who spent two months in a cell when a drugs test turned up codeine in her bloodstream - after she'd been injected with the drug in a Dubai hospital. And then there's Dubai's sex industry, with many workers being the victims of human trafficking and exploitation.
Dubai - a place to feel pretty, and witty...but most definitely not gay...it is not a good place to be gay.
Bear in mind too that Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates which, says the US Department of State, violate human rights with numerous fundamental practices and policies - but then, the UAE has not signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the Convention Against Torture. Though their constitution protects the right to free speech, all publications must be licensed by the Ministry of Information and edited by government-approved figures, and negative comments about Islam are punishable by imprisonment. What's more, homosexual relationships - and indeed, all sexual relations other than traditional, married, heterosexual relationships - are punishable by fines, imprisonment, deportation and even the death penalty. Dubai's Penal Code imposes a punishment of ten years imprisonment (Article 177) for consensual sodomy.
I know what I'd bugger - any chance of me having a holiday in Dubai anytime soon; I prefer places where people can live free of oppression. Brighton again for me this year, I think.