Funeral of Kim Jong-il prompts fresh interest in holidays to North Korea
TOUR companies have reported a sharp rise in interest for tours of North Korea, after scenes from the funeral of Kim Jong Il, the country's "supreme leader", were broadcast around the world last month.
Korea Konsult, a company that specialises in tours to North Korea, said a planned visit to coincide with Kim Jong il's 70th birthday celebrations in February is still taking place despite the dictator's death on December 19 – and that the number of inquiries is up.
"This tour will definitely take place and we have had a lot of more interest for it than usual," said Julia Dalard, who works for the Sweden-based tour operator. "We have only a few places left."
Managers at Regent Holidays also suggested that the recent coverage, which included footage of North Koreans weeping hysterically at a carefully orchestrated military funeral, has boosted interest in the country, renowned as one of the world's most closed and secretive.
Carl Meadows, who has been leading tours of North Korea for seven years, said: "We've had an awful lot of interest over Christmas and New Year as a result of North Korea being thrust into the limelight again."
Two of the company's April tours, timed to coincide with the centenary celebrations for Kim II Sung (Kim Jong Il's predecessor), have now sold out.
When asked whether the change in leadership is likely to open tourism in the country, Mr Meadows said: "At the moment, it's very much business as usual.
"We've not had any indications of changes to visa restrictions. I expect that situation is going to be unchanged at least for the short to medium-term."