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North Korea tourism: A rare glimpse history of restrictions, current promotions

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Tourism in North Korea is organized by the government-owned New Korea Tours. All visitors while in North Korea, are escorted in all of their activities at all times, by one or two tour guides who usually speak the tourist's native language. Tourism increased over the years by visitors from select countries. Tourists visiting from Western countries are few.

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Most visitors come from China, Russia, and Japan. For citizens of South Korea, it is almost impossible to get a visa to North Korea; they can get entry permits to special tourist areas designated for South Koreans, such as Kaesong.

United States citizens were also subject to visa restrictions, allowed to visit only during the yearly Arirang Festival; these restrictions were lifted in January 2010. Fewer than 2,500 United States citizens have visited North Korea in the last 60 years.

The company Hyundai has ties to North Korea. In the area of Mount Kumgang, the company established and operates a special tourist attraction. Travel to this area is possible for South Koreans and United States citizens, but only in organized groups from South Korea.

The Mount Kumgang Tourist Region is a special administrative region of North Korea. It was established in 2002 to handle South Korean tourist traffic to Mount Kumgang (Diamond Mountain).

Since 1998, South Korean and other foreign tourists have been allowed to visit Mount Kumgang, traveling at first by cruise ship, and then by bus on a newly built road through the Korean Demilitarized Zone. In 2002, the area around the mountain was separated from Kangwon-do and organized as a separately administered Tourist Region, covering 204.6 square miles.

For 2014 North Korea tour information, see NewKoreaTours.com

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