Reason.tv just ran a fun interview with Contributing Editor Michael C. Moynihan on the less-fun subject of totalitarian-apologia in travel guides to places like Cuba, Afghanistan, and North Korea. As if to advertise the piece, here is one of the most remarkably terrible things you'll read all year: New America Foundation fellow Parag Khanna's enthusiastic Hermit-Kingdom travel recommendation at CNN.com, which actually begins with the sentence, "There's never been a better time to visit North Korea." Further excerpts:
If you're willing to part with your mobile phone at Pyongyang customs (hint: you have no choice, but they'll give it back to you on departure), you'll clear the airport with an efficiency that puts New York's JFK to shame. […]
Most of those labeled defectors into China are actually economic migrants […]
As one wanders through lively street arcades full of roller-skaters and volleyball games, one has to hope that Confucian communism can make enough space for capitalism such that the burden of isolation falls on the regime rather than society. More tourism, mobile phones, and industrial joint ventures all help. One of the most promising is the Chinese funded special economic zone of Rason at the intersection of Russia and China, a warm water port that would serve all three countries. A decade from now, it could be North Korea's Shenzhen. […]
The nation's capital, the largest of its half-dozen large cities, feels like an Asian Kiev. Like Ukraine's capital, it has broad avenues with revolutionary monuments and fountains, but also a laid-back, leafy feel. […]
Jong-Un has an opportunity now his failed Arab counterparts missed: to lead the rehabilitation of his country and enjoy his remaining decades not as a pariah but a statesman, not feared by his people but admired by them. Rather than being banned from most international travel he could enjoy basketball games in Europe as he did during high school in Switzerland. […]
So come to North Korea, and come soon: the Pyongyang International Film Festival takes place in September with documentaries and avant garde movies being screened from a dozen countries.
Now wash that foul sauce down with the Kennedy/Moynihan exchange below: