North Korea Summer Camp Is Now Open, Complete With Water Slides And Kim Jong Un
If you could go back and redo your whole childhood, maybe you should beg your parents to let you go to summer camp — in North Korea, that is. Yes, North Korea has reopened its international summer camp on Tuesday, and it offers everything little kids dream of: beaches, water slides and Kim Jong Un. Unfortunately, there's no word yet if the camp has unicorns, which really would make every kid's dream.
The Songdowon International Children's Camp, located in the port city of Wonsan, has operated for nearly 50 years, according to The Associated Press. The camp just reopened its bunks this week to 300 campers — but they're not all from North Korea. Catering to international campers, Songdowon hosts children from neighbors China and Russia to the faraway lands of Ireland and Tanzania for eight days each summer.
Songdowon is an unusual summer camp, and not just because the campers sleep in air-conditioned rooms. (Seriously?) The camp not only features outdoor activities for the kids, but also gives them a glimpse into North Korea's totalitarian lifestyle. It wouldn't be a North Korean establishment without some bronze statues of late dictators, including Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
It also doesn’t look too inviting from its austere exterior:
Its giant water slides, private beaches and boating lakes are much more inviting, trust me. And like most summer camps, it does come with one tried-and-true staple: a talent show. "At the end there is a talent show," one camper from Tanzania told The AP. "We are ready to show them all how to dance."
According to BBC News, Songdowon opened in the 1960s as a way to strengthen the sense of community among the world's Communist nations. However, in 2014, the camp is not just for the children of Communist countries. In fact, North Korea says children from the United States are very welcome.
Still, Songdowon has had some trouble with its attendance over the years. According to the BBC, not many foreigners want to send their kids to North Korea for eight days of boating, water-sliding and politics. "Every year they have to go out and sell the camp," Matthew Reichel, co-founder of the Canadian nonprofit Pyongyang Project, told the BBC in 2013. "And it's becoming a more difficult sell."
Could it be because there's something off about going to summer camp in the same country that subsidizes concentration camps? Actually, Reichel blamed China and South Korea, the latter of which now has its own summer camps to offer.
North Korea may be a tough sell, but current dictator Kim Jong Un is confident he can turn not only Songdowon into a viable summer camp destination again, but also restore the industry of the city of Wonsan. Jong Un reportedly wants to transform Wonsan into a bustling luxury resort city for both the summer and winter seasons. If death camps, poverty and totalitarianism don't make you squeamish, then North Korea might just become your next hot travel spot.