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Tourism in North Korea

travel and tourism in north korea, american tourism in north korea
Tourism in North Korea is organized by one of several state-owned tourism bureaus, including Korea International Travel Company KITC, Korean International Sports Travel Company KISTC, Korean International Taekwondo Tourism Company KITTC and Korean International Youth Travel Company KIYTC Tourism in North Korea is highly controlled by the government, and only about 4,000 to 6,000 Western tourists visit North Korea each year1


  • 1 Restrictions and warnings
  • 2 Guided tours
    • 21 Tourists from Western Countries
    • 22 Tours from South Korea
    • 23 Tours from China
  • 3 Visa
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links

Restrictions and warningsedit

Interactions with local people have historically been tightly controlled;2 however, from photos seen around the internet and evidence from travelers to North Korea, those restrictions seem to have been relaxed slightly in the past few years3 As of January 2013update, foreigners are allowed to buy SIM cards at Pyongyang airport,4 providing access to international calling5

The Swedish diplomatic mission to North Korea emphasizes that disrespect against the North Korean nation, its leaders and its symbols are regarded as very offensive The tolerance level for disruptive behavior is minimal and such can lead to imprisonment6 The United States Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by US citizens to North Korea, arguing that US citizens have been subject to arrest and long-term detention with at least one death reported for actions that would not be cause for arrest in the United States or other countries The US Department of State also states that it has received reports of North Korean authorities detaining US citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country North Korea has detained US citizens who were part of organized tours7 On 01 February 2017 the United States released a travel warning to United States citizens, warning would-be travelers of previous encounters and dangers in the country

Guided toursedit

Tourists must go on guided tours As of June 2011update, the northern border to China has been opened and Chinese citizens are free to drive their own vehicles to Luo, a small North Korean northeast border region where they are free to explore, mingle, and photograph This is seen as a first step toward expanded tourism and development in that regioncitation needed

Since December 2013update, North Korea has been open to tourists during the winter The Masikryong Ski Resort outside Wonsan City in Kangwon Province opened in early 2014 While tourists have historically been restricted to Pyongyang, some tours8 have recently been able to expand to other parts of the country such as Rajin and the market there and Chongjin

Tourists can take the plane to Pyongyang from Beijing, Shenyang, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Vladivostok, and train services to Pyongyang from Beijing, Dandong and Moscow9

Tourists from Western Countriesedit

For Westerners, there are a handful of private tour operators that help provide access to North Korea There has been a recent incident though where a 21-year-old American student named Otto Warmbier was arrested at the airport before departure, allegedly for removing a propaganda poster from a wall in his hotel Otto was at the time traveling with Chinese tour operator Young Pioneer Tours for a 5-day tourist trip to North Korea He was convicted of "committing hostile acts" against the state after allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from the restricted floor of his hotel and sentenced to 15 years hard labor10 He was later released and returned for humanitarian reasons but was in a coma which led to his death on June 19, 201711 As a result the tour group stated that they would stop taking United States citizens to North Korea as the "risk is too high" Koryo Tours known for its North Korean-related films such as Comrade Kim Goes Flying and strong history in the region are also looking into their positions on the matter12 It is unknown how this will affect tourism from other western countries

Those groups that still offer access to all western nations include; Uri Tours known for its role in the Dennis Rodman and Eric Schmidt trips to North Korea13, Lupine Travel UK based budget travel agency known for its DPRK Amateur Golf Open14, Tongil Tours with a focus on college tours and special delegations15, and KTG known for their small sized groups and affordable tours16 FarRail Tours also takes tours to see operating steam railways and the Pyongyang metro17

Tours from South Koreaedit

Touring the Koryo Museum at Songgyungwan in Kaesong

In 2002, the area around Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain close to the South Korea border, was designated as a special tourist destination: Mount Kumgang Tourist Region Tours run by private companies brought thousands of South Koreans to Mount Kŭmgang every year18 before the suspension of tours in late 2008 due to the shooting of a South Korean tourist19 When tours had not resumed by May 2010, North Korea unilaterally announced that it would seize South Korean real estate assets in the region20

In July 2005, the South Korean company Hyundai Group came to an agreement with the North Korean government to open up more areas to tourism, including Baekdu Mountain and Kaesong Kaesong was opened to daily tours for South Korean and foreign tourists in December 2007; North Korea charged US $180 for a one-day trip The city received several hundred tourists each week, mostly South Koreans21

The tours to Kaesong were suspended in December 2008 due to a political conflict between North and South Korean relating to propaganda balloons The balloons, filled with information critical of Kim Jong-il and the North Korean regime, were sent into North Korea from just south of the border in South Korea When South Korea did not respond to North Korean demands to stop the propaganda balloons, North Korea suspended the Kaesong tours22 The tours to Kaesong resumed in April 2010, but were again suspended in May 2010 following the ROKS Cheonan sinkingcitation needed

Tours from Chinaedit

Mount Kumgang

In April 2010, the first tourist trains from Dandong, China brought visitors to North Korea for a four-day tour23 Before that, the international train from Beijing to Pyongyang was used as tourist train

In June 2011, Chinese citizens were allowed on a self-driven tour in North Korea for the first time in history24

As of January 2013, tourists are now able to bring their own mobile phones into North Korea,25 although without a North Korean SIM card which became available to foreigners the phone will not be able to make or receive calls Previously foreigners had to surrender their phones at the border or airport before entering the country

The number of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea fell 70 percent from 2010 to 2011 One Chinese travel agency cited the limited number of packages and restrictions on where foreign tourists can travel as the main reasons for the lack of interest Only the capital Pyongyang and Mount Kumgang are available on Chinese itineraries26

Various places are accessible from the Chinese side, such as Namyang and monasteries in Chilbosan from Tumen, China In 2011, a Tumen-Korean train service was scheduled to start27

Though gambling is prohibited for North Korean citizens,28 two casinos exist in North Korea for the Chinese tourist market - the Emperor Hotel & Casino in Rason28 and the Pyongyang Casino in the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang29


Further information: Visa policy of North Korea Entry into North Korea through Pyongyang Sunan International Airport

In principle, any person is allowed to travel to North Korea; only South Koreans and journalists are routinely denied, although there have been some exceptions to the journalists For instance, Croatian journalists had a special access in June 2012, although their phones were confiscated and returned as they departed and had a special tour guide, and after several days of touring, wrote a newspaper story of life in North Korea Special travel agents can help potential visitors through the bureaucratic process Visitors are not allowed to travel outside designated tour areas without their Korean guides2

Before 2010,30 tourists holding United States passports were not granted visas, except during the Arirang Festival mass games31 US citizens, journalists and citizens from other nations have also been given special permission to enter as members of the Korean Friendship Association and Choson Exchange32 Citizens of South Korea require special permission from both governments to enter North Korea and are typically not granted such permission for regular tourism except in special tourist areas designated for South Koreans

Only citizens of Singapore and Malaysia were allowed to enter North Korea on normal passports without a visa, although the exemption for Malaysian citizens was revoked in February 20173334dead link

See alsoedit

  • Society portal
  • North Korea portal
  • List of hotels in North Korea
  • Pyongyang
  • Masikryong Ski Resort
  • Munsu Water Park
  • Korea Central Zoo
  • Propaganda in North Korea


  1. ^ http://wwwlatimescom/world/asia/la-fg-north-korea-tourists-20140912-storyhtml
  2. ^ a b McGeown, Kate 2003-09-17 "On holiday in North Korea" BBC News Retrieved 2008-01-04 
  3. ^ "Travel Highlights - The Global Odyssey" The Global Odyssey Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  4. ^ "North Korea Loosens Cell Phone Restrictions For Visiting Foreigners" The Huffington Post Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  5. ^ Uri Tours Inc "3G Internet and SIM Card in North Korea: Prices, Nuts and Bolts - North Korea DPRK Tours and Travel - Uri Tours" Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  6. ^ "Reseinformation Nordkorea travel information North Korea" Retrieved 2016-03-22  Last updated: 2016-03-15 Translated from Swedish: "Respektlöshet mot värdlandet och dess symboler, i vid bemärkelse, tas mycket illa upp Toleransnivån för störande beteende är minimal och sådant kan leda till fängelsestraff"
  7. ^ "North Korea Travel Warning" The United States Department of State Retrieved 2016-03-22  Last updated: November 20, 2015
  8. ^ "Pioneering North Korea Group Tour | Book North Korea Tours" wwwregent-holidayscouk Retrieved 2016-06-09 
  9. ^ http://wwwnaenaracomkp/en/tourism/inoutphp2
  10. ^ Ramzy, Austin 2016-01-22 "North Korea Says It’s Holding US Student for ‘Hostile Act’" The New York Times ISSN 0362-4331 Retrieved 2017-06-16 
  11. ^ "Otto Warmbier has severe brain injury and is unresponsive, doctors say" The Guardian 15 June 2017 Retrieved 16 June 2017 
  12. ^ Maeve Shearlaw "Tour firm used by Otto Warmbier stops taking US citizens to North Korea" The Guardian Retrieved June 20, 2017 
  13. ^ "She sent Dennis Rodman to North Korea" Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  14. ^ "Did golfers 'blag' their way into N Korea" BBC News 2016-11-04 Retrieved 2017-02-23 
  15. ^ "North Korean film in perspective" Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  16. ^ "North Korea Travel offered by KTG - budget tours to North Korea DPRK & North Korea Information" Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  17. ^ "North Korea Steam Railways and the Pyongyang metro" Retrieved 12 March 2017 
  18. ^ "Tourism boost to North in works" Joongang Ilbo 2008-02-06 Retrieved 2008-09-16 
  19. ^ "S Korea hopes DPRK to begin dialogue over S Korean tourist shot dead" chinaviewcn Archived from the original on November 6, 2009 Retrieved 2009-07-12 
  20. ^ "The Chosun Ilbo English Edition: Daily News from Korea - NKorea Seizes SKorean Property in Mt Kumgang" Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  21. ^ Onishi, Norimitsu 2008-01-04 "Eager South Koreans Tour a Semi-Open City in the North" The New York Times Retrieved 2008-01-04 
  22. ^ "Propaganda posted in helium balloons sparks border closure from N Korea" France24 Daily 2008-11-24 Retrieved 2009-03-22 
  23. ^ Mu, Xuequan 2010-04-25 "China's first tourist train to DPRK starts 4-day tour" Xinhua 
  24. ^ Nick Rowlands, Reuterscom "Chinese motorists tour North Korea" Published 15 June 2011 https://wwwreuterscom/video/2011/06/15/chinese-motorists-tour-north-koreavideoId=215962520&videoChannel=1
  25. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Foreigners Now Permitted To Carry Mobile Phones In North Korea" Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  26. ^ "Chinese Tourists to NKorea Dwindling" The Chosunilbo 2011-10-10 Retrieved 2011-10-09 
  27. ^ "图们至朝鲜
    开通旅游线 - 京华时报·京华网" Retrieved 11 June 2015 
  28. ^ a b "North Korea Opening Gasp! a Casino" New York Times July 31, 1999 Retrieved October 28, 2015 
  29. ^ "An inside look at North Korea’s luxury hotel industry" NKNewsorg August 23, 2013 Retrieved October 28, 2015 
  30. ^ Anderson, Chris 2010-01-15 "Visit anytime! North Korea lifts restrictions on US tourists" CNNGo Retrieved 2010-01-21 
  31. ^ "US tourists can visit DPRK for mass games" People's Daily Online 2005-09-23 Retrieved 2008-09-16 
  32. ^ "Choson Exchange FAQ" 
  33. ^ "North Korea bans Malaysians " 12 March 2017 
  34. ^ "Visa Information" Timatic IATA Retrieved 17 December 2013 

Further readingedit

  • Willoughby, Robert 2014 North Korea: The Bradt Travel Guide Third ed Chalfront: Bradt Travel Guides ISBN 978-1-84162-476-1 

External linksedit

  • Photos and 360 panoramas of North Korea
  • Inside North Korea: the ultimate package tour - Carole Cadwalladr, The Observer, 14 February 2010
  • Departures episode guide Departures season 3, episode 12-13
  • Traveling North Korea - North Korean travel and photography blog
  • Tourism in Korea at Naenara
  • Visit North Korea- DPRK tourism advice and guide website

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