North Korea border disorder and other trivia

It’s surprising; I know. There are competing accounts of how open North Korea is to outside tourists right now. Koryo Tours, as usual, is cutting through the rumor and gossip to give travelers as real a sense of possible of how, where and when you can go to North Korea.

Border Closings?
Stories have circulated that at least parts of the borders that North Korea shares with China and South Korea have been closed. According to Koryo Tours, the “facts that appear to be established now include [I hate caveats but understand why they need to do it]” Hyundai Asan’s day trips from South to North have been suspended, and the Mount Kumgang resort is still closed. Movement to and from the Kaesong industrial park is limited-hardly surprising since the daily train was canceled.

No Trains for China
On the North Korea/China border, travel by Chinese tour groups into North Korea by train has been restricted. Koryo Tours reports, “this is an easier one for us to clear up.” Apparently, this happens every year in mid-November. The authorities don’t give a reason for this annual decision. The only implication is that tourists from China need to travel by air. For non-Chinese tourists traveling by train … business as usual.

Egyptian to Finish North Korean Pyramid
The Ryugyong Hotel, which was left in disarray 16 years ago, is back under construction. Construction efforts resumed back in May, with Orascom (an Egypt-based company) engaged to finish the 105-storey structure. The property is expected to open on April 15, 2012-the day on which the current (and not exactly alive) president, Kim Il Sung, will not be around to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Hotels and Cell Phones?
Cellular News reports that, in addition to finishing the never-ending hotel, Orascom is developing a 3G network for North Korea-a country famous for limiting communication both within its borders and with outsiders. The network is expected to be finished sometime before the end of the year (if it isn’t already) with an initial cost of US$200 million.

Scatch your itch for North Korea