Neighbor Noah Invites You on a Trip to Stylish North Korea


Neighbor Noah Lang lives in Precitaville, and he runs the wonderful Electric Works fine art press in SoMa. He’s a terrific fellow with superb taste, and I suspect he’d be a great travel companion. That’s important, because Neighbor Noah would like you to join him on a tour of North Korea.

Yes, just imagine the surreal sensation you will feel as you compare notes with Neighbor Noah about your favorite Cortland Avenue boutiques while taking in the art and architecture of exotic Pyongyang!

There’s an informational meeting about the trip happening at Electric Works (1360 Mission St., first floor) on Thursday, January 30  at 6:30 pm. Until then, Neighbor Noah writes:

I took my first trip to North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2008 as a side trip from Beijing while attending the Olympics. It was an amazing, eye-opening trip.

The DPRK is perhaps the least-well understood country of our times.  And while relations between the US and the DPRK are strained, travel there is relatively quite safe.

While traveling in the DPRK, we will be under auspices of Koryo Tours. They are by far the most experienced, most trusted company that offers travel to the DPRK.  Their connections go back over 20 years and they offer access to this secretive country that no one else can or does. During this art and architecture tour, we will gain access to buildings and sites that have previously remained closed to all other Western travelers.

The people behind Koryo Tours are responsible for, among other things, several interesting films on the DPRK.  Several of these films, including “A State of Mind,” “Crossing the Line,” and “The Game of Their Lives” offer a look into this mysterious country. I highly suggest watching what you can before the tour. All are available through Netflix.

But I’m inviting you to travel with me on a once-in-a-lifetime tour to a country like no other.

The sights in the DPRK are unlike those in any part of the world.  Many people who have traveled there have compared it to stepping into a time machine.  Pyongyang is an amazingly clean, modern showcase city: the jewel of the DPRK.  During the tour you’ll find a sparkling city, lined with trees, fountains and parks.  The architecture is what caused me to take a second look while traveling there. These were not your typical Stalinist-era concrete monstrosities. That’s when I first thought of a trip devised to have a focused look at its idiosyncratic design and often surprisingly playful nature.  The public art, while all supporting the vision of the DPRK’s founders, is quite powerful; the mosaics, statues and painting all impressive.

Dates are April 12—19, 2014. Travel is from Beijing to Pyongyang and back. Please visit the itinerary page for a detailed description of the tour.  We need to be in Beijing on the 10, and flights can be scheduled home as early as the the evening of the 19th.

PHOTO: via Noah Lang

10 thoughts on “Neighbor Noah Invites You on a Trip to Stylish North Korea

  1. Dictatorships ALWAYS keep the streets clean. I understand that in North Korea you can be flogged if you drop a cigarette butt on the street. Few things shock me, but I’m shocked that someone would GO to North Korea. I feel sorry for the people who think USA=Bad; Dictatorships=Good. Talk about the idle rich living fantasy lives…

  2. Bon voyage, Noah. Please take a lot of pictures, if possible. I would be very interested if you hold an exhibition or a talk about your trip after your return. Once in a lifetime, indeed!

  3. “Relatively quite safe”? I invite any potential visitors to Google the name “Merrill Newman.” I would also question the ethics of bringing foreign tourism dollars to a country that laughs in the face of global humanitarian norms. I’m really rather surprised that Bernalwood would post this with almost zero context on the situation in North Korea.

    If Bernal residents want to learn about North Korea, a better way would be to read the recently-released “Nothing to Envy” by Barbara Deming, or “Escape from Camp 14” by Blaine Harden.

    • Bernalwood readers are generally very well informed, so is my assumption that the despotism of North Korea is well known. Perhaps I should have alluded to this explicitly, but there is no naiveté about the country on either Noah’s part or Bernalwood’s.

      • Fair enough, I’m not sure that it read the way it was intended, though. I’m consistently surprised by how little the general public knows about the situation there.

  4. I doubt most Bernal-dwellers are aware of US citizen Ken Bae, who was running similar tours and has been imprisoned there. I fear these days that North Korea has become an easy punchline and abstract curiosity that is as troubling as it is dehumanizing to all those living under its regime. People also forget the US’ s and other country’s role in the Korean War that contributed to the creation of this stalemate in the first place. Don’t underestimate Americans ignorance of history or current events, even on our smug and comfy Bernal bubble.

  5. Hello Bernalwood, I am an avid Bernalwood-follower, living on Folsom in Bernal Heights.

    I wondered if you might mention something about another exciting travel adventure. I will be teaching Fundamental Drawing at an Art Retreat in Vittorio Veneto, Northern Italy. Two classes are being offered through http://WWW.ARTANDTRAVELITALY.COM, June 16-22 and then another June 23-29th, 2014. In addition to learning how to draw, travelers will have the opportunity to participate in drawing excursions to sites in this beautiful region of Italy. At the end of the workshop, drawers will transfer one of there completed drawings onto a tile, using a fresco technique, called graffito. For more information about my drawings, please visit

    I would greatly appreciate a mention of this trip in the Bernalwood blog, as it will be a fun-filled adventure for those who might join! Many Thanks, Sheila Ghidini 4002 Folsom St. SF

  6. If it’s not naïveté, then this post is even more offensive to me. The second paragraph reads like a parody…at best.

    I’m sure his tour’s access to the country depends on a positive depiction, but reading the descriptions as well as this post makes me ill. As someone whose home fell to a repressive regime, I can’t even begin to tell you how gross this makes me feel. The shiny side of propagandistic urban planning touted here hides the devasting reality of the vast majority of people living there.

    Tourists as vultures.

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