Happy campers? A look at North Korea’s summer camp


Story highlights

North Korean beachside summer camp reopens this week

Over 300 children and teens from around the world are attending the eight-day trip

Highlights include a private beach, water slides and statues of dictators

CNN —  

What might be a good way to get your misbehaving kids to pipe down this summer? Tell them you’ll ship them off to North Korea.

As a host of American kids spend their summers on the shores of lakes, or at Bible or band camps, over 300 children from around the world have headed off to the Songdowon International Children’s Camp in Wonsan, North Korea.

It’s an oasis in the benighted country for attendees, who this year come from Russia, China, Vietnam, Tanzania and Ireland.

Heavily subsidized by the government, camp attendees get the benefit of comforts not afforded to regular North Koreans, such as air-conditioned bedrooms with video games.

Instead of forming a circle around a campfire, homesick kids at Songdowon can take succor from giant bronze statues of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il, surrounded by admiring children.

The camp also boasts a private beach, volleyball courts and water slides.

How you travel to North Korea

Originally opened in the 1960s to foster ties with other communist and non-aligned countries, it was given a major overhaul before reopening this summer.

The revamp included some some personal attention from Kim Jong Un, who “specified instructions for remodeling the camp,” according to North Korean state media KCNA.

For the equivalent of $270, happy campers can spend eight days in the country, getting to know their North Korean peers, and officials reportedly would welcome kids from all over the world, including the U.S.

One ex-camper, Russian Valentina Boltacheva, told last year that she remembers “swimming, boating, and doing morning exercises,” alongside learning traditional Korean dances and “songs about Korean political leaders.”

She also said she came to the conclusion that “Songdowon is a really prestigious camp in North Korea.”

The photos released this week stand in stark contrast to the picture of the country painted by a U.N. report in February, which cataloged a brutal state “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

READ MORE: A runner’s view of the world’s most closed society

READ MORE: The North Korea we rarely see