Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Posts Tagged ‘North Korean tourism

An update on North Korea: the costs of freelancing from the Hermit Kingdom

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So I traveled in late April to North Korea for a week. I wrote about it on this blog here. The trip, all inclusive, was through a Beijing-based tour company (tourism to NK is only permissible via these tour operators), and it cost me 1100 euros.

A North Korean greeter from the port of Nampo. Copyright: Lu-Hai Liang (2014).

A North Korean greeter from the port of Nampo. Copyright: Lu-Hai Liang (2014).

It was a significant outlay. 1100 euros (875 British pounds or 1448 US dollars)  is a lot of money and I dug into my overdraft to stump up the cash. Yes, I did want to go anyway, but I knew I would have to find ways to recoup the costs. How would I do that? By selling stories based on my trip of course. I am a freelance foreign correspondent after all.

However, at the time, I hadn’t been commissioned for anything. No editor at any newspaper, website or magazine was expecting Korea-related copy from me. This is, in short, not the way to do things.

A freelance should really have stories already booked in before s/he travels. And then he does more research and maybe pitches one or two more. After he comes back from said travel and has filed his commissioned stories, he digs around his head and thinks up further angles.

At the least, you should recoup what it cost; all the expenses that it took to go. For North Korea, I have not yet done that. I have in fact paid off 79% of the 1100 euros I spent.

This comes from three sources: a profile of a manager of one of these NK tour companies; an investigative feature on the growth of North Korean tourism; and a photo gallery.

The profile was published online by The Telegraph, and fetched me 150 pounds. Al Jazeera published both the feature and photo gallery, and the two together was worth $900 (both items each making up half that number).

The photo gallery was a useful reminder of how to diversify. If you have video or photos, it always pays to ask your editor if they want an edited together video or a photo gallery. Always ask if they’ll pay for it though – never believe your stuff should be free!

I haven’t yet pitched anything revolving around something like a travel narrative on my experiences traveling in North Korea, but that’s quite hard. It’s already been done quite a bit, so I’ll have to come up with a unique angle. But it’s good practice for next time, and for future trips. Travel + journalism is fun, yo.

Links:

Is North Korea On Your Tourism Bucket List? – Aljazeera  (includes photo gallery)

Bringing the world closer to North Korea – Telegraph

North Korea – a journey in 8 photos

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North Korea: a journey in 8 photos

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I spent eight days in North Korea, so here are eight photos from each of the days…

Day one

With our North Korean guide Ms. Jong and the statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il at Munsudae Hill in Pyongyang.

With our North Korean guide Ms. Jong and the statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il at Munsudae Hill in Pyongyang.

 

 Day two

A street scene taken from our tour bus. We were allowed at times to walk the streets but not often.

A street scene taken from our tour bus. We were allowed at times to walk the streets but not often.

Day three

Another street scene. This was taken in Kaesong, a city close to the South Korean border.

Another street scene. This was taken in Kaesong, a city close to the South Korean border.

 

Day four

A performance by schoolchildren for tourists.

A performance by schoolchildren for tourists.

 Day five

A photo taken while riding the Pyongyang metro. The two North Koreans are flanked by my fellow tourists of our tour group (19 of us).

A photo taken while riding the Pyongyang metro. The North Koreans are flanked by my fellow tourists (19 of us in the tour group).

 Day six

Dancing with the locals in a park in Pyongyang. It was a national holiday (May 1).

Dancing with the locals in a park in Pyongyang. It was a national holiday (May 1).

Day seven

Women in military uniform - not an uncommon sight - at a tourist location.

Women in military uniform – not an uncommon sight – at a tourist location.

 Day eight

The view from my hotel (floor 39, room 19)  at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, in the capital Pyongyang. The colour tint is due to the fact I used my sunglasses as a filter for my camera to cut down on the haze.

The view from my hotel (floor 39, room 19) at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, in the capital Pyongyang. The colour tint is due to the fact I used my sunglasses as a filter for my camera to cut down on the haze.

 

Apologies for not updating this blog for a while. I got back from a trip to North Korea last Sunday. The trip programme packed a tight schedule. I took hundreds of photos and made videos too. It was a great tour. I will write about it in time – sometimes a bit of distance helps. Hope you all enjoy the photos but please do ask permission should you want to re-post or use them, thanks – Lu-Hai Liang.