Koryo Tours | About Koryo Tours, the Experts in Travel to North Korea (DPRK)

I think North Korea’s the kind of place that
fascinates a lot of people, and the simple reason that I find it fascinating is because
so many people spend a lot of time focusing on North Korea but yet still we know so little
about it. As soon as you learn one thing, it brings
up 10 more questions about something else. There’s a lot we know about it from the outside
world from our media of how we perceive North Korea, but I also think that as a traveller,
it is necessary also to go and see. The reason what our company specialises in
is not just tourism, but also responsible tourism. So as well as taking you there, you’re
either being part of or supporting various other projects that we do, from sport and
culture exchanges to humanitarian projects. We set up a company in 1993. I’m a landscape
architect by training. I came to China and had a fascination in North Korea. At that
time, they’d only opened to tourism in 1987 so very few people had visited. To keep on
visiting the country, you needed a visa. That’s how we set up a travel company. It was unintentional. And now, we are taking just under 2000 people
a year. I joined the company in April 2002 when I
knew of Nick through an amateur football league in Beijing, and I arranged to go on a trip
with him. I was interested in what he did, and what the company did. We started working
together from there. Since that first trip in April 2002, I’ve visited the country over
150 times – 10/15 times a year. For a variety of reasons – mostly for tour leading, for
the tours we arrange. But also for work trips, to arrange sports trips, school groups. For
a range of things really. I think that’s the most rewarding part of the job, actually. We arrange a number of cultural projects in
North Korea, ranging from working with the Pyongyang International Film Festival and
facilitating international submissions to the film festival, to working with foreign
artists helping them go to the country and producing new photographic works, films, different
cultural events. Then there are personal projects that we run ourselves in the office. We have
a history of working with North Koreans and bringing their work out of the country to
share them with an international audience. So the engagement process goes both ways,
with foreigners coming into the country and producing work, and also helping North Korean
artists’ work reach a wide audience. We’re a company that don’t just practice tourism
there, I mean that wouldn’t be enough for any of us. There are very few of our staff
– in fact there’s no one – who’s trained in tourism. Our interest is in North Korea
primarily and we’ve learned tourism because that’s what we do. And through that, we do
cultural projects and various other things to follow engagement. We’ve established ourselves as the experts
in tourism in North Korea and therefore we’re often approached by different organisations
who want to be able to produce projects in North Korea. Because we have such strong relationships
with different agencies inside the country, we are able to make those things happen. Koryo has always been a-political company
and of course we are aware of the controversies and political issues that surround the countries
we choose to work in. People are genuinely concerned about supporting
the North Korean system, but that’s not what tourism does. That’s not what we do. The government
is not in power because of tourism. The government is not supported by tourism. What tourism
brings to the country, is the opportunity for a small and increasing amount of interaction
between ordinary people there and ordinary tourists visiting. Which would not exist if
people didn’t go there. So it’s a way not only for visitors to learn a bit about North
Korea, but for North Koreans too to learn a little bit about foreigners.

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