UK & World News

  • 28 August 2013, 12:46

North Korea Sees 'Bright Future' In Tourism

North Korea claims it has a "bright future" in tourism as it looks to open up the sector to foreign travellers and investors.

The impoverished country is making "big efforts" to develop tourism as one of its major industries, said Jo Song Gyu, director of the state-owned tourism bureau International Travel Company.

"Abundant in tourism resources, the (North) has a bright future to develop tourism," Mr Jo told the state news agency.

Direct links with other countries is limited, with China the main entry point for most tourists heading to Pyongyang.

But that could change as the new tourism plan includes flights from China, Southeast Asia and Europe to the capital Pyongyang, according to Mr Jo.

Hotels were also being renovated "at the world's level" and new fitness centres and duty-free shops would be built, Mr Jo said.

Foreigners would also be allowed to run independent business or joint ventures in projects such as resorts, hotels and shops.

They would also look to get people from overseas with particular expertise to run tourism businesses, Mr Jo said.

But foreign tourists are constantly accompanied by government minders and rarely allowed to speak to ordinary citizens on their own, or to mingle with them.

North Korea is also far from a cheap tourist destination.

The nation, which is strapped for hard currency, charges high prices for everything from beer to accommodation.

And tourists will not be allowed to use the local won currency - payments must be made in euros.   

North Korea is desperate to stimulate its flailing economy, damaged by mismanagement and international sanctions.