Idea of the week: Rawlsian tourism

Courtesy of Marcus Noland at Witness to Transformation:

It’s really hard blogging on North Korea: reality outstrips any attempt at satire. But even with that knowledge, the Calvinist inside of me is impelled to put my shoulder to the wheel, serene in the certitude that it will all end in tears. Swift be damned, here goes.

First up, Matthew Todd Miller. When I coined the term dystopian tourism, little did I know that someone would actually take me up on it, intentionally getting arrested so that he could know the real North Korea. While I cannot endorse the method, I do appreciate the impulse. Which got me to thinking (I know, a dangerous thing). How about Rawlsian tourism? Here’s how it would work: one of these visit-the-DPRK outfits like Koryo Tours could put together a delegation of visitors. Then you draw straws to see what kind of tour you get:

  • The Kim Jong-un package features his legendary “7-star lifestyle” complete with visits to fun parks and unlimited supplies of Viagra, cognac and exotic Swiss cheeses. Note: performances by the Moranbong Band and other entertainers are scheduled regularly, but participation by the Pleasure Squad must be contracted separately. Please understand that only one tourist per delegation gets to play Kim Jong-un for a day.
  • The Pyongyang apparatchik package includes visits to hard currency restaurants and exposure to North Korean electronic gadgetry.
  • The midlevel wage-slave package breaks you out of the gilded cage of Pyongyang. Visiting a provincial city, you get to stay in the home of a typical white-collar worker trying to get by. Rest assured, you are not expected to contribute financially to the children’s education.
  • On the Hamgyong down-and-out package you bunk with a rust belt semi-employed SOE worker and his (it’s a “he”—the women were shed years ago) family. If you’re adroit he may even actually ask you to pitch in on his side hustle, and if you are an appropriately aged female, you may even get invited to hawk some goods with his wife! This is the real North Korea that Mr. Miller was so desperately seeking!
  • The Gulag guard package allows you –yes, you!—to be a kwaliso guard for a day! The food is lousy but you get to exercise virtually total control over other human beings (nudge nudge, wink wink), a mix of actual prisoners and your unfortunate tour-mates who drew the…

  • Kwaliso prisoner package. Yes, you are a kwaliso prisoner! With the kwaliso prisoner option you get to scavenge for food and are beaten regularly! And the amazing thing about this option is that unlike the other packages which are time delimited, the kwaliso prisoner package comes with no fixed termination date! Just think: you could be on tour for the rest of your life!I should probably copyright this idea before Uri Tours puts it into action…

Read more here.


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