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North Korea Wants to be a Tourist Destination

by Staff

As international travel resumes following the COVID-19 pandemic, one Asian nation is hoping to become a popular tourist destination among foreigners.

North Korea has welcomed tourists in the past. Prior to the pandemic, thousands of tourists visited North Korea each year, the majority hailing from China. However, in the future, it is unlikely that any of those tourists will be American. In addition to the risk to Americans’ safety, U.S. officials worry that tourism money spent in North Korea could fund some of the nation’s weapons programs, CNN reported.

Now, after years of setbacks and delays, North Korea—officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—is allegedly resuming construction on the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone, United Kingdom-based newspaper Metro reported, with hopes that the final product will resemble Benidorm, a popular tourist destination in Spain equipped with beaches, skyscrapers and hotels.

Newsweek reached out to the United Nations office in North Korea by email for comment.

Beach along the coast, Kangwon Province, Wonsan, North Korea, on May 1, 2010, in Wonsan, North Korea. Kim Jong-un has allegedly ordered construction to resume on the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone in Wonsan, North Korea. The project will offer water parks, hotels and an airfield.

The Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone project was originally slated for completion by mid-2018, offering tourists an opportunity to explore water parks, hotels and an airfield near Wonson, a port city on North Korea’s eastern coast. However, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed construction.

Earlier this year, Metro reported that the construction site was inhabited by the homeless population. The site was reportedly covered in human waste and soot from fires, according to a February report by North Korea newspaper Daily NK.

However, Kim has big plans for the site, which could see construction be completed as soon as 2025, Metro reported. The site could serve as a tourist destination for foreign travelers, primarily those in European countries such as the United Kingdom.

Despite the project’s potential, travel bans to North Korea could prevent interested travelers from visiting the tourist destination once opened.

U.S. citizens have long been urged not to travel to North Korea, which poses a “continuing serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals,” according to a travel advisory posted on the U.S. Department of State website in July.

Other nations also are urging their citizens to exercise caution, such as the United Kingdom, which requests residents avoid travel to North Korea unless necessary.

Remaining COVID-19 restrictions in North Korea make travel even more difficult.

“No entry into North Korea is permitted while COVID-19 border restrictions remain in place,” the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) wrote on its website. “The North Korean government continues to temporarily suspend all passenger routes into and out of North Korea. The British Embassy in Pyongyang is temporarily closed due to these restrictions. This means you cannot get consular support from within North Korea.”

Newsweek reached out to the FCDO by email for comment.