Here is a bit of wisdom you won't find in Mao's Little Red Book: The embalmed bodies of former communist leaders make great tourist attractions, bringing in the the big money carried by capitalist running dogs. Lenin's body is still a Red Square attraction despite the fall of the Soviet Union and Mao's brittle carapace brings in Tianeman hordes. The newest member of this fraternity of relics is Kim Jong-Il, North Korea's dictator and champion golfer who has been laid out in a state mausoleum.
Last week, the first group of western tourists entered Kim's unliving room and the Times of London wrangled an interview with one of the tourists, who said the North Korean's had "done a good job" preserving their now definitely fearless leader.
Unfortunately, the opening of this peculiar attraction -- certainly intended as a tribute despite being a geo-political rubbernecker's dream -- doesn't mean that travel to North Korea is likely to get any easier any time soon. Though several tour companies, including Koryo Tours, offer trips into the country, independent travel doesn't appear to be a looming possibility. The issue appears to be the desire of the North Korean government to keep its citizens from interacting with the outside world.
As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, tourists are now allowed to bring phones into the country but are still banned from making local calls. Last year a bus driver made international headlines when he accidentally turned off a government planned route, offering the traveling press core a quick glimpse of one of Pyongyang's impoverished neighborhoods.
When the country does open more, it is likely that Kim will remain the starring attraction. As HuffPost Travel blogger Richard Bangs experienced on his recent trip to the Hermit Kingdom, local guides have an encyclopedic knowledge of Kim's life and are eager to point out important places like where he was born, a "birth foretold by a swallow and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow across the sky."
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