SMILING, HOLDING HANDS, PLANTING A TREE, sharing dinner, plus lots of chit-chat in the demilitarised zone… when the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, met his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, on the countries’ border back in April, it suggested there might be a new era of harmony between the two traditionally hostile nations. Could this thawing of relations open up the most culturally isolated nation on the planet to the rest of the world?
It’s possible that the North Koreans might welcome more tourism. Currently, fewer than 6,000 Westerners visit each year, all through the state-owned tourism bureaus. Yet the heady mix of propaganda, totalitarian chic, personality cult, behemoth statues and buttoned-up tourist guides is bound to make for a memorable, if surreal holiday in the capital Pyongyang. As one official tour operator states: “This isn’t a regular tourist trip, but a cultural one where visitors are expected to interact and behave accordingly.”