Still planning your summer vacation, and not sure about the destination spot yet? Why not think North Korea?
Off the cusp of an 18-month ban that saw the country close their doors off to all foreigners (in fear of spreading the Ebola virus), North Korea has decided to re-open borders and re-vamp their tourism.
The renewed focus on tourism has been approved by leader Kim Jong Un, and as such, official have set some incredible goals. Kim Sang Hak, senior economist at the Academy of Social Sciences was quoted as saying the country aims to hit 2 million in tourists, by 2020. While this may seem like a a big figure, especially since the country has desperately tried to shelter itself from the rest of the world; Kim states the push, which was officially approved in March 2013 by Kim Jong Un, is seen as a rich revenue idea for the country, and a way to help break-down stereotypes that have plagued North Korea in the past. In a recent interview published by the Huffington Post, Kim also noted the beauty in the scenic mountains, beaches, and the variety of museums and monuments that create a unique tourism experience one can only see in North Korea.
Opposing Western views argue that those visiting the country are essentially aiding North Korea in filling coffers of a rogue regime and going against efforts to place pressure on Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons and work on its human rights. The State Department also strongly recommends, for safety reasons, that American citizens do not visit North Korea. However, that unfortunately has not stopped U.S. and European tourists from travelling to the country, and these concerns don’t seem to be an issue for tourists in China, Southeast Asian, and Russia; countries that North Korea are targeting when it comes to tourism.
There has also been an effort to build tourist sites across the country, to help with these efforts of boosting tourism. Some of the popular sites to check out in and around Pyongyang include:
• A high-tech shooting range where visitors can go on a hunting excursion, trying to find animated tigers, using laser guns. Live ammo is also available to hunt real pheasants, which can be cooked and eaten on site.
• New equestrian center.
• Large Water Park.
• New ‘fun fairs’ stocked with fast-food stands, roller coasters, as well as a 5-D theater.
• A luxurious ski resort outside of the capital, in Wonsan
• A variety of new restaurants along the beachfront; which provides great views and outdoor fun for picnics, BBQs, or swimming.
However, be warned that there are tremendous repercussions for tourists should they not follow the rules set out in North Korea. Mount Kumgang tours were popular for over ten years; until an incident in 2008. A South Korean housewife ended up walking into a restricted area; where she was shot and killed by a North Korean guard. Additionally, a U.S. tourist left a Bible in a provincial nightclub recently, and was held in North Korea for six months. The Pentagon finally sent a plane to Pyongyang, and brought him back to the U.S.A.