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North Korea is officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. It is a country in East Asia that occupies the northern half of the Korean peninsula that lies between the Korea Bay and the East Sea. It is bordered by China in the north, Russia in the northeast, and South Korea in the South. The capital city of North Korea is Pyongyang and has an overall population of about 25 million ethnically homogeneous people. Successive mountain ranges crisscross the peninsula and about 80% of North Korea is composed of mountains and uplands, separated by deep narrow valleys. The highest point in North Korea is the Baekdu Mountain, a volcanic mountain that makes up parts of the Chinese and North Korean border. The country’s climate is generally continental with rainfall concentrated in the summer. Summer days are fairly warm, but winter is extremely cold. The official language in North Korea is Korean.

Note that some government discourage travel to North Korea because of the uncertain security situation brought about by the highly repressive and unpredictable regime. There are few diplomatic offices of other countries found in North Korea, and if such is available, there is very limited assistance due to North Korea’s unpredictable government. However, there are guided tours to the country available, provided that there is a North Korean citizen present with the group. Independent travel is not permitted.

What to see & do

Despite the repressive and unpredictable government situation present in the country, there are plenty of tourist destinations in North Korea. One of which is the Chilbosan or the Seven Treasures Mountain, which is a surreal rock formation accessible via plane from Pyongyang. Keep in mind that all tours should be accompanied by government minder who will decide where to go and where not to. Photography is generally not allowed, however the peace village in Panmunjom may be photographed. The village is famous for its flag pole, considered to be the tallest of its kind. Guided tours to the state museums and monuments are often accompanied by stories about Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il and the things that they have done for the country. Some stories may be deemed weird and bizarre to other, but a straight face is generally advisable. Those who do not like to have their every movement and freedom of speech thoroughly scrutinised and most of the time banned, visiting North Korea is discouraged.

How to get around within North Korea

Transport needs are dealt by tour companies most of the time using buses and occasional chartered flights by Air Koryo. A carefully managed five-station ride on the Pyongyang Metro is often included in tour packages, however any other form of local public transport is generally impossible.

How to get there

North Korea can only be visited through organised tours that can be very large or a party of one. Each tour is accompanied by a government minder and usually lasts for five days. Most people going to North Korea travel through Beijing where they can get a North Korean Visa. Nevertheless, no matter what tour company organises a guided tour, it is always run by the Korean International Travel Company. For security reasons, the guides collect the tourists’ visas and keep them during their stay in North Korea.

The main international airport of North Korea is Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, serving the capital Pyongyang. Air China, Air Koryo, and MIAT Mongolian Airlines serve the airport, with flights from domestic destinations as well as international destinations such as Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Vladivostok.

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