'Safer than London!' North Korea opens door to Russian tourists

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - North Korea has opened its doors to Russian tourists, issuing a license for the first travel agency in Moscow to promise clients “full immersion” in the nation’s culture and enjoyment “safer than an evening walk in London”.

NKOREAN.RU, a Russian company licensed by North Korea’s government, offers organized tours for groups of up to 10 people or individuals “to show the travelers the multi-faceted life of this most closed of countries”.

Guests to North Korea must necessarily be “checked” before their trip and will always be accompanied by a guide who will monitor the “adequate behavior of the tourist and guarantee his safety.” Pictures of strategic and military facilities are banned and long talks with locals “are not recommended”.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and dozens of missile tests since the beginning of last year, significantly raising tension on the heavily militarized Korean peninsula and in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Two tests of inter-continental ballistic missiles in July triggered a new round of tougher global sanctions. Faced with economic problems made harder by multiple sanctions, the Pyongyang government is keen to develop tourism to earn cash.

The most pricey tour, 15 days “full immersion in the culture of North Korea” costing 118,090 rubles ($1,997), includes visits to a farm, a mineral water factory, a Buddhist temple, walks in the mountains and an introduction to national cuisine. Visits to numerous museums to founding leader Kim Il-Sung are also on offer.

Other less demanding tours include relaxation on a beach, an aviation show and even a beer festival.

It is unclear how popular these trips will be among Russians who have already developed a fondness for visiting Europe and the affordable resorts of Turkey and Thailand.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Ralph Boulton