North Korea’s state-run travel agency has changed the rules for Americans wishing to visit North Korea: Previously, Americans could only go (with an approved tour operator, of course) during the Arirang Mass Games in August & September (though called “games” it’s really a giant performance thingy — you may have seen video of 70,000 people in a stadium flashing cards that make up pictures of Kim Jong Il not causing the starvation deaths of millions of his own people). Now, Americans can go year-round (though the brutal, brutal winters will likely not be on your itinerary, as the tours begin in April).
For the curious, American-based tour operator Asia Pacific Travel offers 6-day tours of the country (for about $2,500). The tour descriptions read as if there is nothing odd at all about showing up in North Korea.
However, I will give the company full credit for being a bit more blunt in their “Before You Go” section of their site (on when to visit: “This decision is actually pretty easy. If you want to go, you go when they let you go.”) There it is. And they do mention that North Korea is not a resort destination. Who knew?
This is not to say that the North Koreans won’t change their mind, but this is the first time in ages that Americans have been able to go there outside of the mass games — if North Korea has been on your wish list (?) now is the time to go.