North Korea may soon start turning up in more travel brochures. As reported by Associated Press correspondent Jean H. Lee, the country's state media announced today that the government will open a tourist zone along the east coast of the country with planned skiing facilities, hiking trips and temple tours.
As the country's stuttering economy becomes a bigger problem, Pyongyang is looking for ways to monetize its resources. That seems to include making North Korea a viable holiday destination. The harsh reality of the venture is that North Korea needs more foreign investment in order to feed the population and boost its economy. Amid strained relations with Beijing, trade between the two countries is slowing – but it is the Chinese that Pyongyang are initially targeting as potential holidaymakers.
At the beginning of May, the North Koreans opened its border to bicycle tourists from China for the first time, who will be able to visit North Korea's highest peak, Mount Paektu. The two to three day tour begins on the border of the two countries in the Helong province and ends in the North Korean city of Onsong.
The Hermit Kingdom has also recently finished work on a plush ski resort. While financially out of reach for the majority of North Koreans, the government are hoping that foreign tourists will visit and spend their money at the Masik Pass resort, located on the east coast of the country. According to North Korean media, the pass has been visited by numerous officials from international organisations based within the country. The project is said to be inspired by Kim Jong Un's love for the sport – a passion he picked up during his time as a student at a Swiss school.
It's not just skiing and cycling you can do; fancy getting over to North Korea for a marathon? New Jersey based travel agency Uri Tours offer a deal on a six-day tour package that includes a run, priced at just over $2,000 per entrant. Speaking to Global Post, Uri Tours said: "Over half the applicants are Americans."
Cocktails, cigarettes and beaches it ain't – to us it sounds like this is all an AWFUL lot of exercise to be doing on a holiday, but it's an interesting glimpse into a country that is slowly realising that it may have to join the world. North Korea may not have flung its gates wide, but they're certainly creaking open.
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot
Have some news? Let us know on email@example.com