There has recently been lots of speculation about an imminent North. Korea reopening, but alas as with most rumors about the country, journalists have managed to get half of the information right at best.
Photo by CR
Why the gossip about North Korea reopening?
The gossip about North Korea reopening has not come from nowhere and there are reasons to be excited. Firstly Pyongyang Airport recently received flights for the first time in 3 years, via Chinese and Russian delegations for Victory Day.
Said delegations were also the first people to be allowed in country without quarantine since before the pandemic, although celebrations with regards to this might have been a tad premature.
The main excitement though has come via aviation enthusiasts.
North Korea Reopening – What do the aviation experts say?
Two main points have been reported, firstly North Korea’s Tupolev jets have been seen getting refurbished, as well as their “C Check” a prerequisite for travel into China.
Secondly Air China have essentially filed “dibs” on the Beijing – Pyongyang – Beijing route again.
Young Pioneer Tours, who specialize in tours to North Korea quoted leading Aviation blogger and vlogger Josh Cahill as saying the following;
“For all intents, flight movements tell us a lot about what is going on in the world, from Premier League transfers to the dying Queen or even the start of the war in Ukraine. Tracking flights and monitoring aviation can at times be the beginning of a bigger development. Aviation Enthusiast all around the world are eagerly waiting to fly Air Koryo again, one of the world’s most unique airlines says Josh Cahill, the Internet’s most watched flight reviewers”
So, this means North Korea reopening?
China and North Korea recently announced a resumption of “full trade”, while Russian and North Korean relations have blossomed since the war in Ukraine. In this context we can see any reopening as being much related to business than tourism.
Sadly it does not, but it does mean at least that the country is veering in that direction. Fixing up planes costs money, so this would not be done without good reason, but when it comes to tourism in North Korea people drastically overestimate its importance to the North Korean economy.
There will likely still be restrictions
The other key elephant in the room is that there will likely still be restrictions. Previously it had been erroneously reported that quarantine for foreign embassies had been withdrawn, only for the Russian embassy to be put on a 7 day lockdown following the leaving of the Victory Day delegation.
To read about the Russian diplomats in Pyongyang check this link.
So, again while positive strides have been made we have to judge on the races it has run and therefore it is unlikely that North Korea will open the floodgates any time soon.
When will the North Korean Tourism reopening occur?
The one constant about North Korea any expert will tell you is just how unpredictable the country is.
The management of the country is very top down, meaning that even having contacts there often counts for very little with regards to big news – at least until the last possible minute.
With this in mind the country could open quite literally tomorrow and without notice.. What is more likely though and something I have often stated is that a slow approach will likely be taken.
Firstly people doing business will be allowed in, if they have been vaccinated and test negative for Covid-19. Should this go well we move to the next phase.
Next we might see the resumption of Chinese tours to designated areas, such as Sinuiju, Rason, or even the new Wonsan beach resort.
You can read about the Wonsan Beach Resort here.
Should this go ok, then we might see regular Chinese tourists, as well as “foreigners” being allowed back in.
North Korea though are unlikely to open the floodgates in winter when the risk of infection is at its height. With us already being in August that means the country either opening up very quickly, or in April of next year. In my humble opinion at least, it is the later which is more likely.