Who Visits North Korea

Background Information

North Korea is officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It has been described as one of the most isolated countries in the world, but in recent years, it seems to be gradually opening to the outside world. Despite its international isolation, North Korea does host a few visitors each year and there are still a few opportunities for travelers to visit the Hermit Kingdom.

Relevant Data and Perspectives from Experts

According to figures released by the DPRK’s state-run Korean International Tourism Company (KITC), the number of visitors to the country has been steadily increasing over the past few years. In 2017, there were more than 6,500 visitors to North Korea, up from over 5,000 in 2016. Most of the visitors came from China and a few other countries in the region, but there were also visitors from Europe and North America.
Experts have noted a shift in the way North Korea is perceived by the outside world, with increased media attention and more people traveling there for tourism and other business interests. Professor Richard Smith, a leading expert on the DPRK, believes this is partly due to an effort by the North Korean government to project a more positive image of the country to the international community.

Own Insights and Analysis

The North Korean government has sought to increase the number of tourists by creating several special “tourist zones” that allow travelers access to certain areas of the country. Moreover, the government has sought to attract foreign investment by providing special economic zones with access to tax breaks and other incentives.
There are also opportunities for foreign businesses to operate in the DPRK, such as joint ventures between North Korean and foreign companies.
Despite the growth in the number of visitors to the DPRK, most are still discouraged from visiting due to security concerns, the lack of infrastructure, political tensions and other issues. Therefore, the majority of visitors tend to be tourists and business travelers who are looking to experience the unique culture, history and attractions of North Korea.

Economy and Infrastructure

North Korea has a largely state-controlled economy, and the government has sought to improve infrastructure and make the country more attractive to tourists. This includes the construction of new roads, the expansion of telecommunications and the introduction of limited access to the internet.
However, the infrastructure remains limited, and the currency is not convertible to other currencies. This makes it difficult for visitors to access goods and services, and travel between cities and across the country.
Despite these limitations, foreign investments have helped support the development of new industries and services. This includes hospitality, entertainment and transportation services.

Political and Social Issues

North Korea is well-known for its human rights abuses and political repression. However, the government has made some progress in the areas of human rights and economic development in recent years.
There has been a gradual improvement in the living conditions of many citizens, which is supported by increased foreign investment. However, there is still much to be done to improve the economic and social conditions of the country.
The political situation in the DPRK remains tense, with the nation facing international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program and other issues. This has had a significant impact on the country’s ability to attract foreign investment and visitors.

The Impact of International Sanctions

International sanctions, particularly those imposed by the United Nations Security Council, have had an impact on the DPRK’s ability to attract foreign investment and visitors. These sanctions, which include an embargo on North Korean goods, restrictions on Pyongyang’s access to financial services, and other measures, have had an especially large impact on the tourism sector.
The sanctions have made it difficult for foreign companies to do business in the DPRK, and for individuals to travel there for tourism or other purposes. As a result, the number of visitors to the country has decreased, and the number of foreign investments has also declined.

Tourist Opportunities

Despite the restrictions imposed by international sanctions, there are still some opportunities for travelers to visit the DPRK. Tourists from around the globe travel to North Korea each year, either on organized tours, or independently.
Most tourists come from China and a few other countries in the region, but there have also been visitors from Europe and North America. Tourists have the opportunity to explore the nation and experience its unique culture, history, and attractions.
However, there are still very strict limits and restrictions on what tourists can do and where they can go, so it’s important to be aware of the rules before traveling there.

Changing Perceptions

In recent years, the perception of North Korea by the outside world has been slowly changing. The country has received increased media attention, and more people are traveling there either for business or tourism.
This is partly due to the efforts of the North Korean government to project a more positive image of the country to the international community. It is also a result of the work of a few brave individuals who have challenged perceptions of the country and provided an insight into what life is really like there.
It remains to be seen whether North Korea will continue to open up to the outside world and become a more visible member of the international community.

Human Rights

Human rights issues have long been a concern in the DPRK, and there continue to be reports of serious abuses. North Korea has been widely criticized by the international community for its human rights record, particularly over the brutal treatment of political dissidents and the use of forced labor.
Despite the government’s efforts at economic reform and improved infrastructure, these efforts have not been matched by an improvement in human rights conditions.
The United Nations has called on the DPRK to improve its human rights record, and many international organizations have highlighted the need for progress. However, it remains to be seen if the North Korean government will take any meaningful steps to address these issues.

Security and Safety

Due to the volatile political situation in the DPRK, security remains a major concern for visitors. Although the government has sought to improve its relations with the outside world, North Korea is still a highly militarized and dangerous country.
There have been reports of abductions of foreign nationals, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and other activities by state security forces. This has caused many travelers to be wary of visiting the country, and it is important for potential visitors to be aware of the risks.


Despite the difficulties and risks associated with visiting North Korea, there are still a few opportunities for travelers to experience the unique culture, history, and attractions of the country. But it is important to be aware of the risks and to carefully research the country before embarking on any journey to the DPRK.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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