NORTH KOREA’S TOURISM agency has launched a website offering holiday options ranging from surfing to rice planting, despite strong US warnings to avoid travel to a nation where several trips have ended in jail.
Sixteen Americans have been detained in the past decade in North Korea, including 22-year-old student Otto Warmbier who was given a long prison term for stealing a hotel propaganda banner. He was sent home in a coma in June but died several days later.
The “DPR Korea Tour” website, run by the North’s National Tourism Administration, depicts the country – which is subject to stiff sanctions over its weapons programmes – as just another tourist destination.
It introduces package trips to various parts of the country including the capital Pyongyang, and offers various “theme tours” for travellers seeking something more unusual.
Visitors are invited to check out beaches on the east coast, including the Majon Bathing Beach, where “surfing has come into vogue among tourists” for its favourable conditions and clean water.
The website also provides basic travel information like air and train routes and ways to get around Pyongyang using public transport such as cabs and buses.
However, it does not allow users to book tours directly and does not list the handful of foreign agencies that arrange trips to the isolated state.
The site is available in Korean, English, Chinese, Russian and Japanese and can be found at tourismdprk.gov.kp. The country’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The US State Department strongly warns Americans against travelling to North Korea, citing “serious risk of arrest and long-term detention”.
Canada, Australia and New Zealand are among other nations giving similar warnings.