Tourism in North Korea on a positive drive

Published on : Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North KoreaAlek Sigley, an Australian student, has been showing interested visitors the sights of North Korea for years, but he can still remember his first trip to the country. According to Sigley, “It was pretty overwhelming. I’ve travelled a bit and I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world quite like it.” Sigley described North Korea as an industrialized country that had no advertising, no McDonald’s, no internet, with a world of its own. But the country captivated him nonetheless. Within a year, he started Australia’s first and only specialist Tour Company operating in the enigmatic country of 25 million people. Since then, he has been to North Korea several times, leading a number of tour groups there each year with his business Tongil Tours.

Whatever its reputation, North Korea is on a tourism drive and Dictator Kim Jong Un has set an ambitious goal of growing foreign visitors from just over 100,000 annually to two million by 2020. Several special tourism zones have been established over the past few years and along with traditional tours of state sites and monuments, visitors can now enjoy snowboarding, surfing and will soon get to stay in an underwater hotel. But facing sanctions for its nuclear weapons program and incapable to shake allegations of enslavement, torture and public executions, boosting tourism numbers will be a challenge. Sigley, who is from Perth but currently based in Seoul, says it was surprisingly easy to establish his tour business. He sees the country’s tourism plans as a positive sign. Still, a holiday in North Korea is unlike any other. Independent travel is out of the question, and foreigners can easily find themselves in trouble for seemingly innocent crimes. Sigley, however, says if one uses common sense and obeys local laws the country is actually very safe. There are just a few fundamental rules that all visitors need to follow.

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