Ep. 15 – Alek Sigley on North Korea Tourism, Literature, and Beach Parties

Alek Sigley

Alek Sigley is a founding partner of Tongil Tours, an Australia-based organization specializing in educational tourism to North Korea founded while he was a student at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific. He is a regular traveler to the DPRK, and has lived in China, Japan, and South Korea, near-fluent in all three languages. Alek’s research interests revolve around North Korean film and literature. You can connect with Alek and Tongil Tours at www.tongiltours.comFacebook, Twitter, and Instragram.

Show Notes

01:24 Getting into the business / living in China / interaction with North Koreans
06:43 on visiting North Korea the first time
08:48 first impressions
11:53 on starting a North Korea tour agency
13:13 setting Tongil Tours apart
15:26 on doing business in North Korea
16:50 changes in North Korea / economic growth under Kim Jong-un
22:43 what do these changes mean
23:30 Korean archetypes
25:25 what people get wrong about North Korea
27:25 on appropriation of tourism dollars / general safety
28:57 how South Koreans react to the job
30:13 on similarities between the Koreas / gender roles
36:23 why we shouldn’t be worried about fire and fury
37:48 on the future of Tongil Tours / biggest accomplishment
40:43 on the implications of human-level interaction with North Korea
45:06 funniest misunderstanding about the outside world
46:21 best investment under $100
52:06 bad ideas about North Korea

People, Places, Things Mentioned in the Show

“Women are Flowers” (녀성은 꽃이라네)

“Friend” (백남룡 벗)

“Oh, Youth!”

Andrei Lankov


Beijing Language and Cultural University

Book Stands

Chilbosan (칠보산)

Choson Exchange

Crisps and Coffee Shops: North Korea’s New Consumerism

Fudan University

Ivan Sen

Jolly Pong (죠리퐁)

Koreans in Japan

Lankov, Andrei: The Real North Korea (2014)

Mirim Horse Riding Club in Pyongyang

Moranbong Band

Moranbong Park

Mount Kumgang (금강산)

Munsu Water Park

Myers, B.R.: The Cleanest Race (2011)

Mystery Road (2013)

North Korean Literature

Onion Flavored Rings (양파링)

Pyongyang International Film Festival

Pyongyang Summer Language Program

Rason (라선시)

Ryang, Sonia: Reading North Korea (2012)


Sogang University Korean Language Program

The Rocket (2013)

Tongil Tours

Wonsan (원산시)

Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture (연변주)

이명자: 북한영화와 근대성 (2005) (North Korean Film and Its Modernity – Lee Myeong-ja)