Kim Jong-un fascination leads to increased demand in holidays to North Korea
But every move is controlled by a compulsory North Korean guide who dictates what visitors can do and see, and who they can meet.
The public's fascination with Kim Jong-un has led to an increase in tourism to the secretive state Photo: AFP
By News agencies
9:41AM GMT 14 Jan 2014
Demand for holidays in the communist state of North Korea has doubled in three years due to British fascination with tyrant leader Kim Jong-un. Travellers desperate to explore the highly secretive country are paying a specialist travel operator £3,125 pounds for a 19 day trip. They can visit capital Pyongyang's main landmarks, including Kim Il-sung Square, and the demilitarised zone on the border with South Korea. And if they time their visit right, they can even attend the Arirang Mass Games - a 100,000-strong spectacle of mass dance and gymnastics.
But their every move is controlled by a compulsory North Korean guide who dictates what visitors can do and see, and who they can meet. The tourists have to show their respect to "The Great Leader", Kim Il-sun, by laying a wreath of flowers at the feet of his 20-metre-high statue. And with no direct flights from Britain, passengers are forced to change planes in Beijing, China. They have no access to the internet or foreign television for the length of their stay, and are effectively cut off from the rest of the world. The number of Brits visiting North Korea has doubled since 2011, when Kim Jong-un came to power, following the death of his dad Kim Jong-il. That year, the state's recommended UK booking agent - Regent Holidays - led just seven group trips to the country. This year they have scheduled 14.
Visitors remain undettered by news reports of the country's savage capital punishment methods, human rights record, and threats of nuclear war. Just one month ago Kim Jong-un had his uncle Jang Song Thaek stripped naked, thrown into a cage, and fed to a pack of 120 starving dogs. He was branded "scum" for allegedly plotting to overthrow the leader, and screamed in agony as the hounds took an hour to tear him to the bone. Tour manager Carl Meadows, 33, from Regent Holidays, said: "North Korea has rarely been out of the news headlines since Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011. "It has led to a renewed interest in the country and a surge in demand for holidays to what is the last truly hard-line communist state. Many people are unaware that you can even visit the country as a tourist, and express an interest in going once they become aware you can. Our trips attract a wide range of people, from those in their 80s with an academic interest, to young families looking for something a little different. However, it is fair to say they are not your typical tourist, looking for a relaxing beach resort." He added: "Visitors do have to adhere to strict rules and will find their every move mapped out for them. But you would have to be wilfully stupid to get into any trouble, and you do get to see all that the country has to offer."
Accommodation varies in quality, but those in the capital are equivalent to a typical three or four star hotel in Europe. Carl, who accompanies guests on many of the tours and first visited North Korea ten years ago, said: "The people that travel with us are aware of on-going tensions with the outside world, and concerns about human rights. We are helping the North Korean economy, and some money will no doubt end up in the government's hands. But tourism keeps thousands of people in jobs and filters down, supporting many businesses. In the years we have been travelling to the country, cultural ties to the UK and outside world have improved. We have a better understanding of them, and North Koreans have a better understanding of us. Tourism to North Korea can only be a positive thing."
The firm also offers shorter, cheaper trips to North Korea, with the shortest lasting just four days and costing 995 pounds. All prices includes a tourist visa, guides, meals, accommodation, transport, and return flights between Beijing, China, and North Korea. The website says: "For travellers looking for a truly unique experience, our tours to North Korea offer a privileged glimpse into a secret and propaganda-filled world. As the leading UK experts on North Korea we have worked closely with the authorities since 1985 to develop tours which push the boundaries for tourism. Part of the fun of a tour to North Korea is to expect the unexpected, so go with the flow and you will be rewarded with an intriguing and memorable holiday."
Kim Jong-un fascination leads to increased demand in holidays to North Korea - Telegraph
i am interested to visit north korea but not if everybody is going home with the same set of photos.