The Korea Herald


N. Korea to open border 'very soon' after yearslong closure: travel agency

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Aug. 11, 2023 - 16:11

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People walk on Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Tuesday. (Photo - AP) People walk on Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Tuesday. (Photo - AP)

North Korea is expected to officially reopen its border "very soon" after years of lockdown, a travel agency specializing in tourism to North Korea announced on Friday.

But the opening of the North Korean border would initially be for North Korean citizens only, Koryo Tours, headquartered in Beijing, said on its website, citing multiple unnamed North Korean sources.

"No official date has been given," the agency added.

If North Korea were to reopen its border, it would be the first instance since January 2020 when it initiated a draconian border shutdown in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, with whom it shares a border.

North Korean workers, students, professionals, diplomats, and those residing in China and other countries since the COVID-19 pandemic will have the opportunity to return to their homeland.

They will likely to make their way back home by train, as international commercial flights to and from Pyongyang have yet to resume, according to the travel agency.

Koryo Tours also said that North Korea could soon allow entry for significant individuals like diplomats and personnel from international nongovernmental organizations such as the UN.

Starting from 2020, international and humanitarian organizations such as the FAO and UNICEF, along with European embassies, in North Korea have had to suspend operations, resulting in the departure of their staff.

In response to the travel agency's statement, South Korea's Unification Ministry announced on Friday that it will closely monitor the potential reopening of the border, considering North Korea's policy change of easing mandatory quarantine measures overall.

Reports from North Korean state media indicate that the country has lifted its nationwide COVID-19 mask requirement, starting in July. These reports depict individuals at factories and in their daily routines without masks, suggesting a shift in the mandate.

The entry of Wang Yajun, the Chinese Ambassador to North Korea, into Pyongyang this March has also ignited anticipation for the border's reopening. Wang's arrival was initially postponed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic following his appointment.

It was the first official confirmation of a foreign national's entry since the imposition of the border closure.

Then, high-level delegations from China and Russia visited Pyongyang on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the July 27 armistice agreement. This was also the first visit by foreign representatives for a national gathering since 2020.

Additionally, North Korea has incrementally reopened border entry points with China and resumed its participation in international sports events.

North Korea plans to dispatch a team of 100 athletes to the International Taekwon-Do Federation World Championships, which will be held in Kazakhstan from Aug. 19 to 27.

North Korea has also announced its intention to participate in the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, scheduled for September.