Around 3,000 Western tourists, and many more Chinese tourists, visited North Korea in 2010. Now media coverage of Kim Jong-Il’s death has sparked a renewed interest in visiting the country.
North Korea closes to tourists during part of December and January every year, the managing director of Koryo Group – a Beijing-based travel agency that organises tours to the North – told AFP.
When Kim’s father Kim Il-Sung died in 1994, North Korea closed to tourists for 100 days, however the country does not look set to follow the same protocol for Kim Jong-Il’s death.
“We have just been informed by our Korean partners that the DPRK (North Korea) will open to tourists from January 10th,” Koryo Group said in a statement.
According to The Telegraph, Korea Konsult, a company that specialises in tours to North Korea, said a planned visit to coincide with Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday celebrations in February is still taking place despite the dictator’s death on December 18.
“This tour will definitely take place and we have had a lot of more interest for it than usual. We have only a few places left.”
It has been suggested that the recent media coverage, which included footage of North Koreans weeping hysterically at a carefully orchestrated military funeral, has boosted interest in the country.
Carl Meadows, who has been leading tours of North Korea for seven years, told The Telegraph: “We’ve had an awful lot of interest over Christmas and New Year as a result of North Korea being thrust into the limelight again.”