North Korea, the world’s most isolated and secretive country, has opened its doors to the first known tourists since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.
A group of 20 Russians, accompanied by two guides from a Vladivostok-based agency, embarked on a four-day tour of Pyongyang and a ski resort on February 9, 2024. The trip was arranged by the governor of Russia’s Primorsky Krai, who visited North Korea for talks in December 2023.
The tourists, who had to undergo a 48-hour quarantine and multiple COVID-19 tests before entering North Korea, were subject to strict rules and regulations during their stay. They were not allowed to wander freely, take photos without permission, or talk to locals without the presence of their guides.
They were also required to follow the itinerary and the schedule set by the North Korean authorities, which included visits to monuments, museums, and propaganda sites. They were also prohibited from bringing any books, magazines, or electronic devices that could contain information deemed hostile or harmful to North Korea.
The tourists, who paid about $2,000 each for the tour, had mixed impressions of their experience. Some tourists said they enjoyed the trip, as they were able to see a different and unique side of North Korea, such as its culture, history, and scenery. They also said they were impressed by the hospitality and friendliness of their guides and the people they met. They also said they felt safe and comfortable throughout the trip.
However, some tourists said they were disappointed by the trip, as they were not able to see the real and authentic life of North Koreans, who live under a repressive and oppressive regime. They also said they were disturbed by the propaganda and indoctrination that they witnessed, such as the mass rallies, the portraits of the leaders, and the slogans and songs. They also said they felt restricted and controlled by the rules and regulations that limited their freedom and curiosity.