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North Korea avoids official ‘do not visit’ tourism status

September 7, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

As tension runs high over North Korean missile and nuclear bomb tests, several Australian tour operators continue to offer trips to the “hermit kingdom”.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) updated its advisory on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, commonly known as North Korea) yesterday but decided not to change the status from the current “reconsider your need to travel”. That’s one below the highest level “do not travel”, which is reserved for countries like Syria and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Travel Masters of Queensland is advertising online a 13-day tour of North Korea, departing Brisbane next year.

“North Korea is by no means an ordinary tourist destination!” the company’s website says.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

“Unless there is a major change in the country’s circumstances under the new leadership of the youthful Kim Jong-un, visiting North Korea will remain something rarely available, and only for the fortunate few.”

Other companies, such as Koryo Tours and Arirang Tours, also offer trips to North Korea.

DFAT’s advisories are not binding on Australian travellers. The US takes a heavier stance. It last week banned Americans from visiting North Korea from now on. It announced the ban after the death of Otto Warmbier, a young American college student who tried to “souvenir” a political poster during a visit to North Korea, presumably as a high-spirited prank. North Korea sentenced Warmbier, 22, to 15-years imprisonment with hard labour, later releasing him in a coma. He died in June, shortly after his return home to the US and without ever regaining consciousness.

In its latest update, DFAT advises Australians considering a visit to North Korea to reconsider their need to do so, which “may mean deferring non-essential travel or choosing a less risky destination.”

“If you decide to travel, stay as short a time as possible, eliminate unnecessary activities, and review your security arrangements.”

DFAT said yesterday: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to conduct nuclear tests and ballistic missile tests, further aggravating the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. Further provocations by the DPRK or reactions by other countries cannot be ruled out.”

DFAT adds: “Travel by Australians to the DPRK is uncommon and foreign visitors have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention. Foreigners may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that would not be considered crimes in Australia, including unsanctioned religious and political activities, unauthorised travel, perceived disrespectful behaviour to the country, or current and former leaders, or unwarranted interaction with local nationals.

“Take particular care to ensure that you do not bring anything into the country that may be perceived by DPRK officials as religious, pornographic or political in nature. Mobile devices will be monitored and electronic devices searched by DPRK authorities.

“Historically, there has been heightened rhetoric from the DPRK during annual Republic of Korea (ROK) [South Korea]/US military exercises, in which Australia also participates. These routine and scheduled military exercises usually take place in February/March and August/September.”

Written by Peter Needham

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