Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


Partying in Pyongyang

When it comes to quarantines, maybe Chris Christie should take lessons from Kim Jong-un. Citing the Ebola crisis, North Korea’s supreme leader banned all tourists and closed his country’s borders. This came as something of a surprise to North Korea’s 25 million inhabitants, who had no idea the borders were ever open. “If I’d known this,” said an anonymous man in a non-descript gray leisure suit, “I’d be so outta here [그래서 여기에 중].” Since North Korea is not on my bucket list – there never seemed much to do there except hard labor – I checked it out.

Until this week, the country attracted about 6,000 tourists annually, slightly fewer than New York’s 54.3 million. It allowed most of them to leave. According to The Lonely Planet, many stay at the Hyangsan Hotel, “a 15-storey pyramidal building with a fake waterfall attended by plastic deer in the lobby.” Sightseeing highlights include visits to the DMZ and the Tomb of Tan'gun, long thought the country’s mythical founder – until archeologists unearthed his bones and “North Korean historians made the incredible discovery that Tan'gun was in fact a member of the Kim clan.” After hours, “karaoke and pool will remain your guide's preferred evening activities for you.” And if your room has a television, be careful. Several party officials were recently shot for watching South Korean soap operas.

Perhaps closing the country is a wily plan to make visiting more desirable – like Bernie Madoff making people beg to invest in his Ponzi scheme.

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