In the alternate reality, no one escapes North Korea. In fact, no one wants to. On the contrary, people around the world want to immigrate to North Korea.

North Korea is a non-democratic state ruled by an ill-tempered Paramount Leader, there are pompous parades featuring nuclear-tipped missiles, no communications with the rest of the world and 10 approved hair styles for men. Yet folks study the Northern dialect of Korean and discuss the ways to get in on the Internet. A few talented ones win the immigration lottery. Brave people risk attempting to cross the mine fields of the DMZ, bribe border guards or sneak in via boat.

Why would anyone want to live in the Hermit Kingdom?

  • I don't want a solution that worsens the world e.g. NK is the bulwark of civilization against zombie apocalypse.
  • It shouldn't be something too supernatural e.g. a portal to heaven on the Mt Paektu summit; the more mundane the better.
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    $\begingroup$ What are the limits on "too supernatural"? Are all other parameters as per the real world, for example food shortages in NK, heavy restrictions on communications with people outside NK etc? $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2022 at 22:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No taxes?.... $\endgroup$
    – ermanen
    Jul 28, 2022 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ How about an extremist religion and effective propaganda for it? Worked, too, with the Daesh-occupied territories in Syria and Iraq to some extend, having people want to get into that area. Doesn’t fit the “not worsening the world” requirement, though. $\endgroup$
    – Boldewyn
    Jul 28, 2022 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ Nothing in your question strongly suggests that it sucks to live there on a day-to-day basis, so ... does it? Or do people want to live there despite day-to-day life sucking there. The temper of the leader, pompous parades, no communication with the rest of the world and how many approved hair styles there are aren't hugely impactful on quality of life. The last one is perhaps the exception, because it suggests that people would be punished for something as trivial as hair style ... but not-terrible schools and companies have rules on that too, so it may not necessarily be awful either. $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Jul 28, 2022 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ @NotThatGuy you're correct, you are free to tinker with their society, but the first view should give to a reader the vibes IRL NK gives. $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2022 at 17:40

9 Answers 9


North Korea has developed a effective new therapy for a terminal disease or anti-aging treatment. However, the government is not sharing the specifics and the therapy can only be administered at certain state-run clinics, making North Korea a new hotbed of medical tourism. The clinics are free to citizens, but exorbitantly expensive for foreigners. Some immigration is allowed for skilled workers as this burnishes the image of the country but the number is tightly controlled, especially for westerners, as the regime sees a large influx of outsiders as a threat to its ideological base.

The large amount of cash flowing into the country creates much higher demand for goods and services on the growing (but still regulated) open market but North Korea's Juche philosophy prioritizes the growth of internal industries to meet these needs. This results in a labor shortage and a number of newly-prosperous officials and business owners who are hungry for workers, holding out the possibility of citizenship (falsified or maybe through a sponsored visa program) and the otherwise-impossible-to-obtain treatment to foreigners who otherwise wouldn't be eligible.


It's happened multiple times.

It's called a 'Gold Rush', but has been for many different resources such as diamonds etc.,

Find an enriching and easily accessible resource that only exists there and people will quit their jobs and scramble and die trying to reach it.

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    $\begingroup$ That works for Wild West like societies. In North Korea the resource would belong to Paramount Leader, who might permit some favoured people to access it while the rest of the population starves. $\endgroup$
    – ojs
    Jul 28, 2022 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ @ojs the wild west is just a change of clothes away on many people. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Jul 28, 2022 at 9:41

People move from bad positions to good positions

Clearly NK is better than the rest of the world so if the rest of the world isn't worse, NK has to be better.

Meet Wakanda, a fictional hermit kingdom from Marvel enter image description here

Wakanda has advanced tech and medicine plus huge wealth.

North Korea needs something that makes it attractive to the rest of the world. I'd suggest that NK isn't the target but the gateway to what people want.

Space travel and colonization seems the best bet. Kim has whipped his scientists until they invent cheap, safe and fast space travel. NK starts mining the asteroid belt and building space habitats. They're also building sleeper ships to terraform other star system. Currently they're 50 years ahead of China and America.

People wanting a better life would be trying to break in.


Power, knowledge and a future planning.

In your universe, it has long been decided by economists and popular opinion of the day, that North Korea is well on its way to becoming the next world superpower. They have avoided or dealt with sanctions the rest of the world has put on them (most likely by subterfuge - I point you to the excellent book The Lazarus Heist for inspiration thereon) and can be slowed no longer; they are on the precipice of apotheosis (at least in their eyes).

Who is travelling there?

More than likely it would not be those from other world superpowers and very well developed countries, but those who are in a lesser position. A father, struggling to feed his family in a poor part of India. An African tradesman who has seen the bitter end of governments and political rife in his own country is willing to risk it all and start again to make a name for himself (he's 48 after all and doesn't have all the time in the world - (high risk high reward)).

Why do they have to go now?

North Korea will have to open up before it becomes said world superpower (probably, but I'm willing to have my mind changed on that); this could be to control the trade of goods or flow of money etc. The problem is, that this forecast desirable place of the future, is simply not very big. You have to get in now and quick, before everyone else gets there first. It's not like the vast areas covered by the other forecast future #1 superpowers like China and Russia.

Even if you can't get a job as an illegal on day 1, get in now, and be as close to the epicentre as possible when they finally become the dominant player on the planet, that everyone is trying to take a piece of.

Whether or not that day ever comes, is another story entirely. If they don't, I pray for the poor souls who walked into Aladdin's cave to find they can't escape the lions jaws.


"Freedom" and Order

I believe it was Loki, in some Marvel movie, who said people don't really want to be free, but rather want someone to take decisions and tell them what to do. Being freed from having to make your own choices and having to worry about their consequences, could be considered very relaxing.

On principle, he's not wrong -to an extent.

With people being told what to do (and actually doing it), life gets simpler. As long as you follow the rules, it also gets safer. No crime, no people breaking the rules of society, and so on...

Kind of like we trade privacy for security or entertainment, some people might trade some of their freedom for peace of mind or security.

History is full of examples of people who willingly gave themselves into absolute servitude (slaves / thralls) for the most different reasons. So it's not so crazy to think someone would want to move to NK.

Ignorance is bliss

I guess someone fed up with everything that is happening in the world might find that the only way for them to relax and "disconnect" from the online world is to go in a place where you actually CAN'T connect or listen to the world news.


Not perfect because it's more that people want to visit North Korea than move there, but....

A crazy tourist fad

(aka Because it's there)

It's become fashionable for people, bored with lazing in the relative comfort of the West / South to want to go to North Korea. All these years of isolation has greatly increased the mystique and attractiveness of the place for people into "Extreme" experiences.

Food shortages? Government oppression? Limited hair styles? The possibility of jail time or worse for capture? This is all part of going there, not just the risks! We've read all these titbits of information about the place which has piqued our curiosity, fascinated us, and now we want to experience it for ourselves! Find out if the reports are true! Know what it's like to live like a North Korean! Challenge ourselves! Can we get in? Can we bear life there? Can we escape again in a year's time?

We could compete in what we can get away with while there!

"I wore an unapproved hair style!"

"Oh yeah? I got a steak!"

Granted, non-Asians would stick out like a sore thumb, but we could hand-wave that by saying that North Korea is many things, but it's not racist.

The same thing that drives us to run desert ultra marathons, to climb K2, go into space - we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard!



Right now (IRL), North Korea is in a really bad state. Having closed of pretty much all forms of communication to the outside. To make this world as realistic as possible, we want to only use NK’s one strength: Propaganda.

How does it work?

NK has spent years perfecting its ability to control peoples’ minds with words. Recently, with test subjects, they found a perfect image that is 99.9999% guaranteed to make people want to leave wherever they are, and move to North Korea by changing their emotions. By sending spies to post such posters around the world, billions flock to North Korea and try to immigrate. Who’s going to remove the posters? All the police officers, soldiers, and civilians changed their mind about the world and decided that the posters (and North Korea) are good! Soon, everybody wants to go to NK. Mass emigration from every country ensues, NK’s airports are jammed, partly because there’s only one commercial international airport, plus 6 other domestic ones which I guess they could sacrifice to account for the ~7 billion people trying to enter North Korea. In total, NK has 78 airports. If NK decided that since there are only a few thousand people available to attack it, they could give up them all.

Whatever the case is, the final result is the same. Everybody except the 0.0001% that isn’t affected by this revolutionary poster is in (or trying to enter) North Korea.

(Note: This isn’t supernatural because it exists and is exactly what advertisers do. They make our brains decide to click the ad with a poster. All that’s happening here is NK officials are scaling up this effect to make it more powerful and widespread.)


Access to Alien Knowledge and Technology
Scientists in the country have discovered a new physical principle that has led to first contact with an alien species significantly advanced in many areas compared to human technology.

The new physical principle is a closely guarded secret and the only access others have is the ability to exchange printed messages with the aliens. The only people allowed to do this are citizens of North Korea with advanced degrees.

As a result, North Korea is becoming the next silicon valley, gene-tech valley, you-name-it tech powerhouse. As their dominance grows, everyone who has a shred of greed and entrepreneurship along with scientific ability becomes desperate to move there.

All others have to content themselves with being distributors of the goods flowing from North Korea or suppliers of raw materials to them.


NK foreign legion

A kind of civil and military service lasting few years offered to anyone in exchange for a new identity, no question asked.
Criminals, people trapped in an enormous debt, people persecuted for other reason, all looking for a safe haven want to get there.


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