More and more foreigners are seeking to travel to North Korea as the likelihood of a war on the Korean Peninsula has disappeared after the U.S.-North Korea summit in June.
“We’ve signed about 60-70 new contracts only in three months from March and the number of tourists has increased by more than 25 percent compared to last summer,” said Edouard George, president of Phoenix Voyages, which has been selling North Korean tourism products in France since 2005. “We’ve had an average of 400 tourists to North Korea ever year except for last year (when tensions were high), and are expecting more tourists this year.”
The French tourism agency suspended selling North Korean tourism products last year, when the relations between the United States and North Korea soured after a series of nuclear and missile tests by North Korea, for fear of endangering tourists. But it resumed business in March, when a reconciliatory mood was developed between the two thanks to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. “North Korea was a surreal country when I visited there six years ago,” said Letizia, 55, who is living in Paris. “I’m planning to visit there once again and see what has been changed in the meantime.”
North Korea is aggressively attracting foreign tourists as well. It is particularly counting on the Arirang Festival scheduled to begin from September 9. North Korea notified tourism agencies that it is extending the festival period from late September to October 10, according to reports from the NK News. The price of seats ranges from 100 euros (approximately 130,000 won) to 800 euros (1 million won), providing North Korea with 1.5 million euros (1.95 billion won) in profit. Furthermore, North Korea is actively exploring tourism products and destinations, allowing foreign tourists, for the first time, to go trekking and camping at Baekdusan Mountain.
But obstacles still remain. The United States extended ban on citizens’ travel to North Korea by one year last week and there is possibility that the U.S.-North Korea relations can worsen again. “I’m not going to expand my business or anything because there are concerns that President Trump would decide to shut the doors again,” said Mr. George.
Jung-Min Dong email@example.com