After the brief news of North Korea opening to Russian guests hit the news, we were as always inundated by enquiries for people wishing to visit the DPRK.
You can read that story here.
Sadly though, this did and does not mean that the country was opening to the western world. Although this did not, as always, stop people trying to correct us because they had “read it somewhere”.
What is happening with the Russian tourists to the DPRK?
We have heard from our partners at the Korean International Travel Company (KITC) that a few small Russian groups will be arranged by them in February.
These are a mixture of tourists, as well as press junkets, with Russia now keen to promote tourism in North Korea following the visit of the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
So far, this has not meant an opening to the wider world, nor even to the neighbours and purported allies China.
Cancelling of the Pyongyang Marathon
It has also tellingly been confirmed over the last few weeks that the Pyongyang Marathon has been cancelled, or at best delayed, with this being confirmed by KT.
The Pyongyang Marathon was previously one of the biggest sporting events within the country, with those of us in the tourist industry previously having been hopeful that this would be part of the slow opening up of the country.
Should the official marathon not take place, we are still hopeful that the Autumn Marathon indeed will.
What does this mean for opening in April?
According to our partners in Pyongyang and Beijing, an April opening of the country is still what they are hopeful of and indeed what those of us in the industry are planning for. But in reality, not only do we not know what will happen, but there are a number of variables still.
Firstly, the small number of Russians that have been allowed in are for all intents being used as guinea pigs with regards to a resumption of tourism. Should this go well, then further openings will likely arise. Said further opening might well start with Chinese, or at best a quota for the amount of people that are allowed into the country.
It should also not be forgotten that the DPRK recently took down the Arch of Reunification. Now while this might be related to South Korea rather than the West, it is also indicative of the closer ties North Korea now holds with China and more specifically Russia.
Should Russians step in to fully fill the breach, then any opening to the West cannot be guaranteed.
We are though still hopeful, hence why we have our 2024 program ready to go.