January 10th, 2012
02:11 PM GMT
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.
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