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North Korea opens tourist office in Taipei

North Korea wants Taiwanese tourists to visit the hermit kingdom

Pyongyang skyline. (Flickr user: Jen Morgan)

Pyongyang skyline. (Flickr user: Jen Morgan)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – North Korea in partnership with Taiwan's Chung Hsing Travel Service (創新旅行社) opened a tourism promotion office in Taipei on July 19, in a bid to entice more Taiwanese to visit the hermit kingdom, reported CNA.

Two package tours are available, in which tourists can visit three of North Korea's main attractions during a three or five night visit, valued between NT$30,000 (US$975) and NT$60,000.

Private tourism is banned in North Korea, with sightseers restricted to state-run tours organized by the Korean Heritage International Travel Company (朝鮮民族遺產國際旅行社).

North Korea has shown signs of a change in development priorities this year after Kim Jong-un's 2018 New Year's address, where the North Korean leader signaled a conciliatory tone with the international community and suggested a greater focus on economic development.

Ku Kei-yen (顧克燕), representative for the Korean Heritage International Travel Company said that North Korea is developing its economy following the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last month, reported CNA.

Chien Shih-chiang (簡士強) from the Chung Hsing Travel Service told CNA he has organized tours of North Korea for more than a decade. Fewer than 1,000 Taiwanese tourists visit North Korea each year.

The package tours will visit the "Shibuya Farm" where tourists can speak to government-vetted farmers, the "Shaliyuan Scenic Area" resort where lessons on North Korean culture and heritage are given and lastly, tourists will be treated to the "Paradise Department Store" in the capital Pyongyang.

The U.S. Department of State rates travel to North Korea at its most dangerous level and advises U.S. nationals to "Do not travel to North Korea due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals." The U.K. government advises against all but essential travel to the hermit kingdom.

B.R. Myers, an American academic at Dongseo University, South Korea told the Washington Post that there are ethical problems associated with tourism to North Korea, and that the tourism industry may strengthen the authoritarian regime.

Chung Hsing Travel Service will continue to promote the North Korea travel packages, and they will feature heavily at the Taipei International Travel Fair in November 2018.