Is the United States a booming travel market for North Korea?!

North KoreaInternational relations may be strained, but that’s not stopping the tourists. According to Yonhap News Agency, the number of North Koreans visiting the United States in the first half of 2011 surged more than 50 percent from the same period in 2010. The report cites data from the Department of Homeland Security, which puts the number of visitors in the first six months of the year at 139. In the first half of 2010, only 89 people visited the United States from North Korea.

Interestingly, this comes even as official contacts between the two governments fell off, not to mention a “general cooling off in bilateral relations.”

Of course, the visits weren’t strictly recreational. A delegation of scientists came over from North Korea in February, with an economic delegation following in March. In June, 17 martial arts folks visited three states on the east coast.

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Photo by yeowatzup via Flickr