Travel to North Korea- Country Gets Ready for Tourist Season By Showing Off Most Popular Spots
North Korea has begun showing off some of its most famous tourist spots in a bid to attract visitors to the scenic, yet secretive and nuclear-armed nation, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
State-run news outlet DPRK Today published an article Sunday advertising a four-day tour program to be held at Mount Kumgang from later this month through late November. The country’s east coast mountain range reaches a peak of some 5,374 feet and Sunday’s report touted such activities as hiking, sightseeing, fishing and hot baths capable of treating heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis.
Known for such sites as Manmulsang cliffs, Kuryong Falls and floating Hotel Haegumgang, Mount Kumgang is located just miles from the heavily-fortified border separating the two Koreas and was once a destination for South Korean tourists as well. A decade-long joint program was suspended by Seoul in 2008, however, after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by North Korean soldiers for allegedly wandering into a restricted area.
Hope for inter-Korean tourism has been reignited by recent peace talks between North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who pledged during third and most recent summit in September to renew cross-border tours at Mount Kumgang. Little news has emerged of the initiative though since Kim and President Donald Trump’s own latest summit ended without any sort of deal in February.
All three men again received one another warmly at their first-ever joint meeting late last month at the demilitarized zone. The Trump administration has sought a deal to denuclearize North Korea in exchange for peace, security and the lifting of international sanctions, but has adopted an unconditional approach calling for the dismantlement of the North’s nuclear program ahead of any concessions on the U.S. side.
Even as Trump recently became the first-ever sitting U.S. president to cross into North Korea, he has made it technically illegal for any other U.S. citizen to do since a September 2017 travel ban. The strict measure was announced after University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was released from North Korean captivity in a comatose state and died shortly after, with his parents blaming the country that arrested him for committing a “hostile act”—allegedly stealing a sign bearing a ruling Korean Workers’ Party slogan. North Korean authorities have denied responsibility and Trump too has defended Kim in saying that the young ruler was not involved in the 22-year-old’s medical condition.
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North Korea has pushed the U.S. to lift the ban and has continued to tout the East Asian nation’s natural and man-made beauty to outsiders, especially those from neighboring China. Ahead of an April conference on bitcoin and cryptocurrency in Pyongyang, North Korea’s official website said it “can be considered the safest country in the world.” “As long as you have a basic common-sense and respect for the culture and belief of other nations,” the site read.
The country has been investing in its tourism sector since the 1990s and the youngest Kim, who succeeded his late father at the end of 2011, has sought to further shed his country’s international reputation as a human rights abuser and police state in order to promote the flow of foreign capital. One U.K. soccer club, the Blyth Spartans, even teamed up earlier this year with a travel company called “Visit North Korea,” one of several such groups offering packages to the country.
North Korea’s media tourism campaign continued through Monday, with DPRK Today following up its Mount Kumgang report with an article detailing other tourist sites such as Kaesong, once a hub of inter-Korean industry and commerce that was paused during tensions in 2016. Moon and Kim have also signaled a desire to reopen the spot, which currently serves as the venue for the inter-Korean liaison office.
The Kaesong region, which was the capital of Korea for nearly half a millennium until the late 14th century, also features Pakyon Falls, as well as mountains such as Songak and Mt. Janam and a number of Cultural Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO.
Elsewhere in North Korea, there is the mystical volcano of Mount Paektu, said to be the birthplace of the revolutionary founder and the current supreme leader’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, as well as many national monuments to him and his son, Kim Jong Il. Though Kim Jong Un appears not to have commissioned any statues for himself, he has invested heavily in hot spots like Pyongyang’s Munsu Water Park and the Wonsan-Kalma resort and nearby Masikryong Ski Resort, both located north of Mt. Kumgang on the east coast.