Send me a postcard, drop me a line (if you don’t mind someone reading it first)

Whenever I travel I like to send postcards. Correction: whenever I travel, I love to send postcards. North Korea is without a doubt a destination that none of my friends have ever received mail from, and already I have had requests from friends to send them postcards. There will be a lot of free time on my hands once my tour group returns to its hotel at the end of the day. In addition to exploring the hotels and their myriad of activities available to foreign guests, I plan to spend some of that time writing to my friends. I will even write some postcards to myself since I would love to receive a card postmarked Pyongyang. 

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the only country I know which does not put adhesive on its stamps. I thus will have to bring my own supply of glue to the North. I have asked myself if I even need to bring glue with me, since I could affix the stamps whenever I go to a post office. Couldn’t I just glue all the stamps on when I am in the post office? Perhaps, if I was writing only a few postcards. I want to spend my limited time in a post office looking at stamps and at things to buy, not gluing dozens of stamps to postcards. There would be no need for my own glue if I knew that I would be able to go to a post office whenever I wanted. This is North Korea, and I won’t have that freedom. I do not want to bring a glue stick since their adhesiveness is unreliable.

There are no mailboxes in the country, as all mail is left either at post offices or at one’s place of work for regular pickup. I always take pictures of mailboxes during my travels and I am disappointed that I will not find any on my trip this time. 

From other traveller web logs I have learned that mail from the North does get to its destinations, a bit slower than what one might be used to in international mail delivery, but delivered all the same. There are rules to follow (in day-to-day North Korean life, there are rules for everything) to ensure that any mail I send gets to you. 

All mail leaving North Korea is monitored. In other words, it’s read before it goes out, and anything that doesn’t meet with official approval is simply thrown away. Postcards are favoured over letters, but I won’t have to worry about that since I only write postcards anyway. If I want any of my correspondence to get through, I must ensure that it is: 

1) brief;
2) in a language that officials can translate easily (English, Russian, Chinese), so no postcards written in Finnish or Romansch;
3) glorifying the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and her Great Eternal Leader Kim Il Sung and Dear Leader Kim Jong Il. 

Those who write postcards in obscure languages or in their own code find that their mail does not get delivered. If the officials can’t read it, they toss it. You now have an idea what I’m going to write about. I just hope there is a decent selection of postcards to choose from. Let’s hope everyone doesn’t receive the same card!

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