For those brave enough to visit North Korea, the only way to visit is with a tour operator. You fly to China, and then your visa for North Korea will be issued there, and then you’ll be accompanied on your trip, as the country doesn’t allow independent tourism.
It goes without saying that there has been a lot of “excitement” surrounding North Korea lately, especially following the summit between Trump and Kim. I’m not sure what to make of all of this, though it seems that stuff isn’t quite as tense as it used to be (for example, Air China discontinued flights to Pyongyang, presumably due to pressure from the US, but they’ve since reinstated them).
That’s why I find it interesting that North Korea has suspended the issuance of tourist visas through September 9, 2018. This is according to one of the largest tour operators for North Korea, which wrote the following on their website:
Koryo Tours were informed on 13 August by our partners in Pyongyang that they had been instructed from above that all tourist visa applications currently underway are to be frozen. This freeze applies to all tourists visas currently being processed. This follows a similar temporary halt to all tour groups visiting Korea with Chinese tour companies.
The reason(s) for this freeze has (have) not given (frustrating we know, our partners are in the dark about it as well) but it is expected that at the end of this month the situation will be clear, applications will be unfrozen, and visas will be issued very quickly after that. This suggests to us that this is an issue with the general capacity of the country to receive visitors in September and as various high-level state delegations are expected to go to Pyongyang in September that a higher power in the country is simply pressing pause on tourism until it is clear to them who is coming in such delegations and how many people. This seems the most likely and characteristic reason for this unusual act.
So it’s not entirely clear whether this is due to political reasons, whether it’s because they don’t have the capacity to handle the current demand for tourism, or what. This is something to keep an eye on, though, as I’m curious to see how quickly they reinstate visa issuance.