What makes a great North Korean gift?
You’ve just booked your long awaited tour of North Korea – hurrah! Multiple questions now naturally arise. How much money should I bring? Can I take all my camera equipment? What kind of North Korean gift should I get? Should I bring a gift from home?
The gift culture in North Korea works both ways so let’s take a closer look – what gifts can you get and what you should bring for your hosts.
Gifts for the North Korean Guides
On any of our North Korea tours we will ask you to bring a small gift along for your guides.
It’s extremely difficult for the North Korean tour guides to source quality foreign goods in the country, so any little product from the outside world is greatly appreciated.
This could be anything from Swiss chocolate, American cigarettes to French cosmetics.
The guides typically share these with family and friends.
If you’re not sure what to get just ask us. Sometimes the guides let us know what is currently in shortage in Pyongyang and what they need more of. We’ll be sure to pass on the message.
North Korean Souvenirs
North Korea has quite the unique selection of souvenirs to choose from. The majority of it things that you will never have heard or seen before.
There’s a major disconnect between what the shops offer, and what the tourists typically want. There’s also a big difference between what Chinese tourists are after and what western tourists are looking for.
In any tourist shop, the shelves will usually be stocked with the local liquor – Soju, cigarettes, medicins, Korean stamp collections, wooden & ceramic ornaments, CD’s, DVD’s and ginseng products.
For those not in the know, ginseng is a highly sought after plant root used for medicinal purposes. It is especially popular amongst the Chinese visitors as the root has all but become extinct in China due to demand.
Western visitors on the other hand, are typically after more common tourist fare, such as fridge magnets, posters and t-shirts. Whilst these can be got, they can be quite hard to find sometimes as only a handful of shops stock them.
Your tour leader will inform you when we arrive at a particular shop that specialises in posters or postcards etc.
While ginseng may attract the Chinese tourists, North Korean propaganda posters are by far the biggest draw amongst the western crowd.
These hand painted unique and eye-catching pieces are primarily sold at the DMZ in Panmunjom. Other larger and more premium pices of North Korean art can be bought from the famous Mansudae Art Studios.
What's the best North Korean gift?
There’s not a hell of a lot to choose from but here’s a rundown of our favourites;
- Propaganda poster – Not a tour goes by where we don’t pick up 3 or 4 of these hand crafted beauties. Buy them at the DMZ souvenir store.
- Flags/Pins/books – these make a great cheap and small gift for someone back home. Pick them up at the foreign language bookshop, Kim Il Sung Square.
- Soju – Nothing beats the local rice wine. Can be bought everywhere.
- Postcards/Stamps – send a propaganda postcard to anywhere in the world! (except South Korea). Huge collection at the stamp shop in Kaesong.
- Made in the DPRK goods at Kwangbok Supermarket. Pick up anything in Pyongyang’s best department store. You can even change your money in local North Korean won. (Keep the change as a souvenir 😉 Keep an eye out especially for made in the DPRK watches and bags.
- North Korean Suit – Measure up for your very own tailor made North Korean style suit! Available from the Yanggakdo Hotel.
Travel to North Korea
So besides contacting us to buy our North Korean Propaganda for sale, the only way of actually getting your hands on a North Korean gift is to travel there yourself.
Luckily we can also make this happen!
We run group tours and private North Korea tours all year round. Contact us for more information on traveling to the DPRK today!
When Shane is not endlessly writing award winning content for Rocky Road, he's usually kayaking to and from the beer garden along Berlin's River Spree.