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Historic Russian tourist group set to break North Korea’s pandemic seal

In a notable development, a Russian group is poised to make history as the first known tourists granted access into North Korea since the initiation of global anti-pandemic border lockdowns in early 2020. This information comes to light from official statements by Russian provincial authorities and confirmation from a Western tour guide.

North Korea, known for imposing some of the world’s most stringent border controls during the COVID-19 pandemic, is yet to fully reopen its doors to foreigners. The upcoming four-day tour, advertised by a Vladivostok-based agency, was arranged following talks in Pyongyang between the governor of Russia’s far eastern Primorsky Krai region, which shares a border with North Korea, and North Korean officials in December, as reported in a recent post on Telegram by the regional government.

The itinerary for the tour, scheduled to commence on February 9, includes stops in Pyongyang and a visit to a ski resort, as detailed in the online itinerary. Simon Cockerell, GM, Beijing-based Koryo Tours, which is not directly involved in this trip, affirmed that his contacts in North Korea have confirmed the Russian visit is proceeding under special circumstances.

Cockerell expressed cautious optimism, stating, “It is a good sign, but I would hesitate to say it necessarily will lead to a broader opening due to the special circumstances for this one trip. But given that no tourists have been for four-plus years, any tourism trip can be viewed as a positive step forward.” The impending visit raises hopes for a potential thaw in North Korea’s tourism sector, marking a significant development after years of strict isolation.

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