Russian tourists first to visit North Korea after stringent pandemic lockdowns

Russian tourists prepare for a visit to North Korea, potentially marking the first instance of tourists allowed in North Korea since strict pandemic border lockdowns.

A noteworthy development on the diplomatic and travel front emerges as a group from Russia prepares to embark on a journey to North Korea. If successful, this would mark the first instance of tourists being allowed into the reclusive nation since the imposition of stringent anti-pandemic border lockdowns in early 2020.

The four-day tour, scheduled to commence on February 9, has been orchestrated by a Vladivostok-based agency. The announcement comes after a visit by the governor of Russia’s far eastern region, Primorsky Krai, which shares a border with North Korea, to Pyongyang. The regional government disclosed these details via a post on Telegram, shedding light on the carefully arranged nature of the trip.

The itinerary, outlined online, reveals that the tour will encompass key destinations such as Pyongyang and a ski resort. Simon Cockerell, the general manager at Beijing-based Koryo Tours, though not directly involved in this particular expedition, confirmed that his contacts in North Korea verified the Russian visit under special circumstances. Cockerell expressed cautious optimism, noting that while it is a positive development, it may not necessarily signify a broader opening given the unique circumstances surrounding this singular trip.

This rare venture into North Korea’s tourism landscape is significant, considering its strict border controls, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation, known for implementing some of the most stringent measures globally, has yet to fully reopen its borders to foreigners.

The commencement of this journey can be attributed to a summit held in September, during which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin committed to enhancing collaboration in economic, political, and military domains, despite encountering international sanctions.

The prospect of Russian tourists entering North Korea underlines a potential thaw in North Korea’s approach to international engagement. While Simon Cockerell cautiously welcomed this development, he emphasized that it might not necessarily translate into a broader opening for tourism. Nonetheless, the mere occurrence of a tourist visit after a hiatus of over four years could be viewed as a positive step forward. As the world watches this unfolding diplomatic saga, the outcome of the Russian tourist expedition to North Korea could hold broader implications for the reclusive nation’s stance on international engagement in the post-pandemic era.