January 10th, 2012
02:11 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China – Looking for a Communist-inspired adrenaline rush? Does it need to be in one of the most reclusive countries in the world? Then North Korea may be just the place for your next vacation destination.

On Tuesday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the North’s official name) re-opened to tourists after its annual month-long winter hiatus. It’s the first time foreigners can access the country since the death of its leader Kim Jong Il last month.

And as it turns out, that grim event sparked a bit of traveler interest in the isolated nation.

According to Simon Cockerell, General Manager of Koryo Tours based in Beijing: “We received two or three times as many inquiries as we would have expected over that period – several dozen applications and only one cancellation.”

It seems even the demise of a dictator proves there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Still, Cockerell is quick to point out few foreigners really do ever visit North Korea. He estimates his tour group, the biggest outfit for Western visitors to the country, only took in about 1500 visitors in 2011. Just twice that number of foreigners visited North Korea in total.

So are you eligible to set foot on North Korean soil?

The short answer is yes. Anyone can go join a tour and go to North Korea - as long as you’re not South Korean or a journalist. Other than that, you can score a tourist visa and head for the hermit nation. One reminder: You have to stay with your group the whole entire time.

According to Koryo Tour’s website, a four day excursion from Beijing will set you back about $1600. In addition to visas, that price includes all guides, food, lodging and transport. Highlights include a trip to Mount Paektu, the mythical birthplace of the Korean people, a visit to the northern side of the demilitarized zone with South Korea and a seat at the Mass Games, a highly choreographed song and dance performance involving tens of thousands of dancers.

And despite North Korea’s 2010 artillery shelling of a South Korean island, the North’s alleged sinking of a South Korean warship earlier that same year and of course its nuclear saber-rattling, more people are interested in seeing the nation with their own eyes.

Over the last ten years, there’s been a large increase of tourists going to North Korea, adds Cockerell. “In that ten years, almost no good news has come out of North Korea. It’s been more or less non-stop “axis of evil”, “nuclear weapons”, “belligerence” and so on.”

But that doesn’t seem to have stemmed the slowly flowing tide of visitors headed to the North. If you don’t have a hammer and sickle to pack, that’s okay. There are many to find in the DPRK.

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. SmarterthanU

    Travelling is about the adventure – it would be interesting to see this country. Despite the 'guided tours' you'd get to feel the atmosphere and understand a bit about an unknown land.

    January 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  2. Rodney C

    I went 18 months ago, go with Koryo, Simon and the crew are great.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  3. Bwin1

    Very true. It would be interesting to visit this country. Besides, it's the perfect opportunity for this country to begin opening up to many more outsiders. It would be healthy for everyone.

    January 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  4. Studly

    My mother in law is Korean (south) and went two years ago. She said it was a joke because it was so tightly controlled and they were not allowed to speak to anyone outside the tour group. She said that most of the people providing the tours were Chinese speakers to make sure that they didn't communicate with her tour. She didn't do a tour with Koryo but one with a south korean organization that is no longer going to N. Korea.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  5. Ceeber

    Are there any concerns about having (at least some portion of) your money go to such a brutal regime?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  6. Loops

    Its much better to go and see for yourself, especially if you are a "truth seeker", that to ingest the contents of our very balanced news regarding any country.... By the way have you not heard that in North Korea people are so hungry that Somalia is actually paradise?? So much for news.....
    Humanity suffers everywhere, yeah EVERYWHERE. It doesn't have to be exaggerated to satisfy any ends....
    That's my opinion.....and i could be wrong....always.

    January 11, 2012 at 4:54 am |
  7. suzanne

    Go to Cuba instead, you will get the same feeling. It is closer and cheaper. In the island, doctors prescribe you a BLD which translates in breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  8. yomama

    hell no

    January 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  9. Crassus

    If not for the sanctions it would be a fairly rich country like the south. Both Koreas are known for being the "Hermit" nation. Both think they are superior to outsiders and keep to themselves. Anyone who has lived in SK would know. I hate propaganda. That is all. Eat pie.

    January 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  10. Alex Povolotski

    N. Korea is a magnificent country with majestic monuments, lavish shows, very cautious but welcoming and open-hearted people and a number of peculiar landmarks, such as a nuclear bomb that is a must see.

    January 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. rob

    Yeah, until they decide you look like you would make a great hostage.

    January 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  12. Gorman and Faie

    We went and had a great time. North Korea is perhaps one of the most fascinating and memorable places we have ever visited.

    January 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  13. Bela Kun

    Can't be any worse than Detroit. Or Newark.

    January 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  14. ready

    At interesting as i find novels like 1984 and being in pretend communist society i think being in the real oppressive communist society would not be interesting at all but just sad. who would want to go these spending thousands when people there are dying because they simply do not have food. disgusting people would definately like to go i guess

    January 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  15. Edmond Dantès

    Actually an interesting proposition. Have you guys noticed that no matter how hard reporters try, there is little or no hard evidence of the often mentioned famine and wide spread poverty? You should be able to see it in the edges of even the best crafted propaganda photos. Try to do the same in Lagos , Rio or even in NY, Paris or London. The traces of poverty are always obvious even when government officials try to hide it. Maybe NK is a completely fictional country or could it be there is something else going on that has escaped CNN through the years?

    January 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  16. Steve

    From what I hear, it's a lot like N Jersey, only without the extra glitz.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  17. popcorn's expensive

    Any local trailer park is about the same. Can't go there without rottweilers chasing you or everyone watching you through the windows. There's even a Confederate flag in the middle.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  18. sam

    Here we go again...WAR MONGERING.....Look out for CHINA

    January 11, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  19. Guest

    Is it cool if I'm drunk in public?

    January 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  20. Guest

    I heard that in North Korea everyone is happy and employed.


    January 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  21. peterr

    The information I have is that in the capital people are quite well fed and clothed. But in the villages they are not. Do these tours go to the countryside? Do they visit the factories? Do they show the collective farms? Do they show what is on sale in the stores outside Pyongyang for the people to buy? Do they show the urban markets? Do they show the people laughing and being happy as they toil away at work? Can you request that the tours deviate to other towns and villages? I think all the answers will be NO. Take the risk and go there, if they let you in.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  22. Bryan Micon

    I guess if you want to visit it, now's your time. Pretty soon it will be nuked off the map. Axis of Evil...goosebumps.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  23. thespiritguy

    3000 total visitors in 2011. Wow, business is picking up. That's approximately the same amount of people who visit the local KFC down the road from me, every week. Or, roughly, the same amount of people who drive by my house, each day. The next time I want to do something really extraordinary, I think I'll visit N. Korea, either that or climb Mount McKinley, they get the same amount of traffic.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  24. Aleenik

    North Korea is communist in name only. They are nowhere close to what communism actually is. You won't find a single real communist who supports North Korea. Communism is a classless and stateless ideology based on common ownership of the means of production. North Korea obviously does not fit that definition at all.

    Of course, the media helping to degrade the name of communism is nothing new and it will continue to go on for the foreseeable future.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  25. mazking

    Recently Iran condemned an American citizen to a death sentence for visiting his grandparents. I hope people learn a true lesson here that these regimes will condemn anybody to death for any reason without due process. It would not be fun for your friends and families to see your face on TV/newspaper in North Korea.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  26. Jack Welch

    I hope Havard and other fine American business schools recognize the opportunity in North Korea to outsource yet more Americal jobs and technology to a country which employs slave labor. Do this in the name of statesmanship, and put the cash in the pockets of the CEOs.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:27 am |
  27. zorbatron

    Then again it just might be true that these people fought for this revolution and many died to get what they have today. With the US constantly badgering them with war games and propaganda. Nukes pointed at them for 60 years .They miraculously have been able to keep their borders closed to the imperialist dogs. Even developing nuclear capabilities of their own . No wonder most of the money goes to the military. I think it's time to bring our troops home South Korea can defend itself.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:47 am |
  28. Safety Guy

    Didn't anyone see "Die Another Day" ?
    Not a good idea to visit a brutal regime where you could end up a prisoner or worse and little to no chance of rescue.
    Stick to the fun countries on the planet and avoid the risky places and stay safe.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  29. renjikuchiki1

    CNN, please stop perpetuating the stereotype that North Korea is a communist nation, it is in no way communist and has not been for a long long time. This country is an absolute monarchy if ever there was one.

    January 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  30. Mike Welch

    If you are an American and decide to go there, then please take responsibility for your actions. If you get caught talking to the "wrong" people, officials there may decide you are a spy and throw you in prison. Please don't expect the U.S. government to rescue you because you decided to be edgy with your travel plans.

    January 18, 2012 at 2:46 am |
  31. eman

    The most powerful horror film in the history of world cinema


    January 27, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  32. Semko

    Greg, your piiotson is just like the one leftists had under Reagan. They were afraid Reagan's efforts to protect America were provoking the Russians. I love the lack of logic. That crazy guy with the gun who has already attacked his neighbors might get nervous if we give guns to his neighbors to protect themselves. The liberal preemptive surrender response strikes again. You would rather gamble with the lives of innocents, hoping that the lunatic doesn't slaughter them. I am all for giving them the means to defend themselves. What is really interesting is that on the one hand you call them paranoid, which is indicitive of irrational behavior. Yet you still think they will react rationally to non-aggression or talk. Frankly, I'm not sure you understand them at all. As it is, you don't even understand yourself.Not long ago I had a friend that was being stalked by a deranged ex-employee. I didn't try to talk to him, I simply spent some time at my friend's house with a shotgun and a few pistols until things were straightened out. If he had seen that as a provocation, it couldn't be helped. I sure as hell wasn't going to do nothing and risk my friend being murdered because the stalker might get upset at my armed presence.Reply

    February 29, 2012 at 7:32 am |
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