In an effort to attract more foreign tourists, North Korea is introducing a number of new tour packages, including camping trips in the scenic mountains of Myohyang and Kumgang.
Koryo Tours, which organized the first 10-day camping trip last month, claims this is the first time anyone has been allowed to set up a tent and stay in the mountains.
“This was as much a treat for the guides as they had never done this before either,” its website reads.
The group of about 10 westerners hiked 79 kilometers during the entire tour, or about 28 kilometers per day. The travelers also got to visit landmarks on both mountains, such as the Kumgang Waterfall and Lake Sam Il Po.
For the cash-strapped North, more foreign tourists equals more foreign currency.
Trips to the famed Mt. Kumgang were first introduced by South Korea’s Hyundai Asan, an arm of the conglomerate Hyundai Group. Hyundai Asan shut down its Mt. Kumgamg Tourist Region in 2008, but Pyongyang was able to utilize what was left of it to resume the area’s tourism business.
Koryo is not alone in churning out camping trips to the North’s unspoiled mountains.
New Jersey-based Uri Tours is planning a 13-day trip to a number of mountains including Mt. Kumgang and Mt. Myohyang. The company hopes to get at least seven travelers together by early next month.
The pro-Pyongyang Chosun Shinbo, which is published by ethnic Koreans living in Japan, says the North Korean government is trying to draw in more tourists by varying its tourism products.
Tourism products by Pyongyang include various fruit-picking activities at local farms and orchards, traveling via train, and even one where visitors can compete with North Korean athletes in the traditional martial arts of Taekwondo.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.