Published : 2013-08-24 15:34
Updated : 2013-08-25 10:50
North Korea has decided to allow foreign tourists to visit the reclusive country "all year round," according to a British-run travel company which specializes in tours to the North on Saturday.
The Beijing-based Koryo Tours said North Korea had previously closed its borders to foreign tourists from mid-December to mid-January every year.
"However, we have just heard from our partners that this is no longer the case and the country will stay open to tourists all year round," the travel agency said in a statement posted on its website.
The company said, "This exciting news means that you can now spend Christmas and New Year's Eve in the DPRK (North Korea)."
Officials at Koryo Tours were not immediately available for comment on Saturday.
A North Korean expert in Seoul said the North's move appears to be aimed at earning hard currency by attracting more foreign tourists.
"North Korea's Kim Jong-un regime appears to be easing restrictions on foreign tourists to promote its tourism industry,"
said Cho Bong-hyun, a researcher at Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute.
The North's young leader Kim took office in December 2011, following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.
Later in the day, the North's official media Korean Central News Agency said in its English-language report that the state-run travel agency held a meeting with representatives of overseas travel companies from China, Britain, Germany and other countries in Pyongyang to explain the country's new tourism policy.
Jo Song-gyu, head of the International Travel Company, said that the country's tourist spots including Mts. Paektu, Kumgang and Chilbo and Wonsan "will be run in the form of special zone for tourism and all the management activities such as passage through boundaries, customs, taxes, communications and investment protection will go by the DPRK's relevant law on special zones as well as the international rules," according to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
DPRK is short for the Democratic People's Republick of Korea, the North's official name.
Jo said that North Korea will welcome businessmen and investors from any countries who are interested in the North's tourism industry and give favor to "private and joint-venture and collaboration businesses," according to the KCNA report.
The North has "a plan to invite foreign experts needed for the development and management of the tourist resorts in various parts of the country including Wonsan and Mt. Chilbo," Jo said in the KCNA report. (Yonhap news)