Archive for the ‘Koryo Tours’ Category

Koryo Tours reports the [probable] end of Arirang performance [but not really]

Monday, March 11th, 2013

UPDATE 1 (2013-3-11): Koryo Tours reports that the mass games will take place this year…and it will be “Arirang” themed.  The DPRK had earlier reported that Arirang had been consigned to history.  So it appears that management of the mass games is handled in much the same way as the management of economic policy. Here is what the Koryo Tours email had to say:

Today, Koryo Tours received confirmation of the mass games dates for this year. They are scheduled to run from JULY 22nd to SEPTEMBER 9th. These dates incorporate two of the biggest holidays in the DPRK this year – the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War on 27th July (Victory Day) and the 65th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK on September 9th (National Day) .

Despite claims last year that 2012 would be the last ever Arirang-themed performance, it seems that this is not the case and this year the theme will again be Arirang but we expect to see new scenes added in to make it bigger and better than ever before.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-7-11): I have relocated to the DC area and have begun clearing out the backlog of posts and emails. I should be caught up by the end of the week.

This morning, however, I wanted to point out a marketing email sent out by Koryo Tours:

Word from our sources in Pyongyang is that the Arirang Mass Games of 2012 will be the last – so we suggest you sign up now to ensure that you can see this remarkable event while it is still running。

While mass games have been performed since the 1940s in the DPRK the Arirang show is the largest and most impressive they have ever produced. Born in 2002, since 2007 it has been an annual event, but 2012 will be Arirang’s 10th anniversary, and it seems the powers that be have decided to close the curtain. As for the reason, our Korean partners suggest that the narrative needs to change with the times. Combining dance, gymnastics, propaganda, politics, music, and even unicycling, this spectacular performance chronicles the struggles of the Korean people suffering under Japanese occupation, moving into the independent era and building a modern country – basically the period linked to the first 100 years since the birth of North Korea’s Eternal President Kim Il Sung.

However, since 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the republic (Sept 9th) as well as the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War (July 27th), organisers are reportedly planning a whole new performance for next year – for more news on this, please stay on our mailing list!

So if you haven’t seen Arirang yet, or if you want to see it one last time, this is your chance.

Koryo Tours is also repeating its Ultimate Frisbee Tour and Pyongyang’s first ever DJ set! Email them at [email protected] if you are interested.

You can read the full Koryo Tours newsletter here.



Koryo Tours news…

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Comrade Kim Goes Flying
Comrade Kim” can now be seen in the USA. According to a Koryo Tours email:

Miami International Film Festival (screening dates: 8th and 9th March 2013)
San Francisco CAAM Festival (screening dates: 16th, 23rd and 24th March 2013)

Nicholas Bonner (co-director/co-producer of the film) will be at the Miami screenings and the San Francisco screening on 16th March – and would love to see you there.

The film will also be shown at various other festivals throughout the US later in the year – we will add the screenings to our website:

For press please contact the film’s publicist:
David Magdael
[email protected]
Phone (+1) 213 624 7827

Pyongyang Charity Fun Run!

According to a Koryo Tours email:

Koryo Tours are proud to announce the very first charity Fun Run to be held in DPRK (North Korea) on May 1st 2013.

The Fun Run is open to any tourists in Pyongyang at the time so if you’re on the May Day Long Tour or the May Day Short Tour then you can join in! There will be a 5km route as well as a 10km one for those who are up for more of a challenge – we will be running (or jogging/ walking/ limping – delete as applicable) in the Manyongdae District in Sports Street. Tourists taking part in the fun run won’t miss out on any of the other activities – after the run we’ll return to the hotel to freshen up before starting the day’s sightseeing itinerary kicking things off with a visit to the Mansundae Grand Monument before heading to Taesongsan Park where the locals hold May Day celebrations.

The aim of the run is to raise money to buy milk powder for the children in the Nampo Orphanage on the west coast, a place we’ve worked with regularly. There will be a minimum donation of EUR 20 per runner but if you’d like to try and raise more we of course encourage you to do so – and please note that donations from non-participating tourists are also greatly received by us and the children!

The weather on the morning of May 1st should be pleasantly cool, we’ll provide water and a FUN RUN T-shirt so all you need is some suitable footwear/ clothing.

If you’d like to be part of the first ever Fun Run in North Korea or need any more information about our May Day Tours then please send an email to [email protected]


Koryo Tours visits the Ryugyong Hotel

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

The most recent Koryo Tours newsletter contains the first photos of the Ryugyong Hotel (inside and from the top)!

See the newsletter here. It contains some useful information on the project:

On Sept 23rd Koryo Tours’ staff were taken to the top of the enigmatic and oddly iconic 105 storey Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang – we were the first foreigners allowed to take pictures there and are able to print a handful of shots of the ground floor and the open air viewing platform more than 300 metres up.

The view was incredible and breathtaking indeed! The inside of the building still has substantial work to be done but the structure of the lobby and dining area and conference room (all on the ground floor) were visible, sources at the site suggest 2 or 3 more years until projected completion at which time hotel rooms, office space, and long term rentals will be available.

Amazing photos!

Koryo Tours also just finished a film in the DPRK: Comrade Kim Goes Flying.

You too can join the Koryo Tours email list by sending them your contact info: [email protected]


Some stuff from Koryo Tours

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Comrade Kim Goes Flying…a film by British entrepreneur and Koryo Tours founder  Nick Bonner (who also did The Game of their Lives, A State of Mind, and Crossing the Line) and a North Korean film production team.

See the film’s official web page here (includes screening dates and cast/crew).

See the film’s Facebook Page here.

See a film clip on YouTube here.

See CCTV coverage here (in English).

BBC coverage here.

See Nick Bonner talking about the film at the Toronto International Film Festival here.

More on the Pyongyang Film Festival here,  here and here.


Love North Korea Children Charity Event in Shanghai
On September 25th, the UK-based charity Love North Korea Children will hold an event in Shanghai. Hannah Barraclough from Koryo Tours will also attend this event and will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Location: The Public
Address: Sinan Mansions Block 2 4/F, 507 Fuxing Zhong Lu, near ChongQing Lu
Date: 25th September
Starting time: 7PM (19:00)
Entrance: 150 CNY

For more information, please contact: [email protected]

*Love the North Korean Children’s official web page is here. I have previously blogged about their bakery in Rason here. LNKC recently build a bakery in Sariwon.


Comrade Kim Goes Flying

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

The first collaborative film project between the DPRK and western producers, Comrade Kim Goes Flying, will premier at the 2012 Pyongyang International Film Festival.

If you would like to attend the film festival with Koryo Tours to see the film, click here.

Yonhap reports:

As the North’s first romantic comedy feature film, the movie was produced by the communist country in partnership with Belgian producer Anja Daelemans and British-run travel agency Koryo Tours’ official Nick Bonner. The film was shot in Pyongyang with North Korean cast and crew, according to the report.

The biennial festival also plans to screen feature films including “Mr. Bean,” “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” and a South African movie titled “Cry, The Beloved Country,” the report said, citing Koryo Tours, which runs tour programs to the North for the film fest.

Without giving too much away, the plot of the film revolves around the daughter of a coal miner who wants to be a gymnast in Pyongyang.

UPDATE: This story was picked up in the New York Times on 2012-7-30.


DPRK tourism estimates

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Koryo Tours reports:

Last year, around 3,500 Western and 40,000 Chinese tourists traveled to North Korea, according to Beijing-based Koryo Tours, which accounts for about 50% of the Western tourists each year. That total includes American citizens.

“We would estimate that around 500 or 600 American citizens visit every year,” Nick Bonner, a Brit who founded Koryo in 1993, told Ad Age in an email interview. “There is a lot more to the country then you hear about from either North Korean or Western press.

Read the full story here:
Curious Westerners Making North Korea a Vacation Spot
Rupal Parekh


Friday fun: Kim Jong-il flies, “pasty-foods”, DPRK Gatorade

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Kim Jong-il Flies: Recently KCTV has broadcast many videos on the life and work of Kim Jong-il. One of these videos was on Kim Jong-il’s contributions to the theatrical and cinematic arts.  In this video, Kim Jong-il can be seen riding in a plane while he scouts out locations for movie sets:

I have watched more North Korean television footage than a healthy person should, but this was the first video footage I had seen of Kim Jong-il on a plane.

Alejandro Cao de Benos once told me that Kim Jong-il could fly fighter jets, though I have not seen any footage of that.


Koryo Tours has a great Facebook Page.  Here are some of the gems that have popped up over the last few weeks:

Pasty, fast food (yum):

DPRK Tourist Card:

In the next few days Koryo Tours will be offering a brand new tourist route in the DPRK, from Rason down the East Coast to Chongjin and Mt. Chilbo, previously only accessible by charter flight from Pyongyang.

Take On Me by a-ha, North Korean Style (YouTube):

A-ha’s “Take on me” performed by young accordion players from the Kum Song School, filmed in Pyongyang, North Korea December 2011. Part of multi-genre project The Promised Land by director and artist Morten Traavik. Here is more information on the video.

Ceausescu’s visit to Pyongyang, North Korea in 1971:

I believe this clip comes from a feature film: The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (2010) (trailer here).


DPRK Gatorade: North Korea is making its own-style sports drink. Here is a link to the report on KCNA (posted to YouTube):

This drink is manufactured in the Kumkop Combined Foodstuff Factory (금컵체육인종합식료공장) in Mangyongdae District. Satellite image and coordinates here.


Friday Fun: Tourism, winter, and stamps

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Tourism: Koryo Tours issued a newsletter this week promoting their tours to the DPRK during the celebrations of Kim Il-sung’s 100th year:

April 15th 2012 marks North Korea’s biggest celebration in decades – the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, who, despite his death in 1994 is still the country’s ‘Great Leader’ and ‘Eternal President’.

This historic day will see epic events and the completion of large-scale national programmes, all furthering what North Korean media calls the creation of a ‘strong and prosperous country’ – however flexible that concept may be. We invite you to come with us to experience this once in a lifetime occasion on the ground in Pyongyang

At present, the exact nature of the celebrations and corresponding tourist access is shrouded in the usual mystery – no one knows what visitors can see and do, but as always Koryo Tours will be first in line. Birthday travellers should be ready for sudden changes in itinerary and hotels – all part of the excitement of the country’s biggest holiday period ever!

We have several tours going on over this holiday, including one brand new one we just added to our website; all of them are open for application now.

In brief they are:

Kim Il Sung Birthday Short Tour
– Ideal for anyone wanting to see North Korea’s capital Pyongyang on this massive occasion. We’ll see all the city’s highlights and be there for the nation’s biggest occasion in history.

Kim Il Sung Birthday Long Tour
– In addition to capital sightseeing and anniversary events, this trip goes to the west coast city of Nampo – and for the first time, the surrounding industrial areas which Koryo Tours opened to tourism only this year. Finally, we’ll take in ancient city of Kaesong (buy your famous ginseng here) as well as the notorious DMZ, the concrete barrier that has divided
the peninsula for six decades.

Kim Il Sung Birthday Ultimate Tour
– The Big One! If you’ve ever wanted to (almost) fully explore the world’s most mysterious country in one trip, then sign up today. The tour’s complete version runs two weeks; those on tight schedules can book for first or second halves alone. Week one (Option A) takes us around Pyongyang, Kaesong and the DMZ, Mt. Myohyang and the giant gift halls to North Korea’s leaders, the west coast city of Nampo and much more. Choose week two (Option B), and you’ll see the rarely-visited east coast cities of Wonsan and Hamhung, North Korea’s second largest city, which Koryo Tours opened to tourists in 2010. From there we’ll see the stunning Mt. Kumgang area and the country’s most remote area open to travellers.

In its history, Pujon County has only seen one tour group (run by Koryo Tours); if you’re looking for a unique area of a unique country, you won’t do better than this. Option A is nearly closed so book today; Option B is still open for booking, and ideal for those
who have seen the main sites and want a second trip.

Option A is filling up fast so we do need to ask for early applications for this tour, Option B is still open for booking, and ideal for those who have seen the main sites and want a second trip. There are 15 places left for the Option A or Ultimate Option!

NEW!! – Kim Il Sung Birthday Week Tour
– Due to high demand we have added another week-long tour, so you can take in the country’s most fascinating sites and still catch the Big Event.

Check out our amazing programme and sign up now to be on the ground for the biggest birthday party of 2012!

While all tours are still open, we strongly suggest that you book sooner rather than later due to high holiday demand. Tours may need to be closed early, so don’t miss out; book now! (early bookings also apply to independent tours)

Winter: Today KCNA published photos of Pyongyang’s first winter 2011/12 snowfall :

Stamps: Today Joshua Pollack ( posted some new stamps from the DPRK:


Click images to see larger version from the source. I have an interesting book of North Korean stamps, but have not posted it. Here are some recent DPRK stamps highlighting Chinese/DPRK friendship. Here are some CNC stamps. Here is a stamp issued to raise awareness of bird flu.

Finally, this week’s issue of the Pyongyang Times, claims that the DPRK stamps below won the “best stamp award” at the 10th China Annual Best Foreign Stamp Poll on November 24:

UPDATE 1: A reader sent me a link to some additional DPRK stamps on the North Korean web page, Naenara.  See them here, here, here, and here!

UPDATE 2: Thanks again to the same reader sending this stamp commemorating the sinking of the General Sherman:


Koryo Tours launches “Heavy Metal” Tour of the DPRK

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

According to the latest Koryo Tours newsletter:

For the past two decades, Koryo Tours has been opening North Korea to tourism, and in 2012 we are once again breaking new ground. After working closely with our Korean partners, we are proud to offer both our group and independent tourists the chance to go where no visitor has ever been, namely factories and similar sites around Nampo, the west coast port city not far from Pyongyang. Here’s a brief introduction to what is on offer:

Chollima Steelworks – A major heavy industry site for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), this place was built by the Japanese and is known to Koreans as the birthplace of the Chollima movement, which even today drives the country. If you’ve always wanted to witness the making of ‘Juche Steel’ in a giant facility, come to Nampo with us. This is the DPRK’s most famous factory, and as always, Koryo Tours are the first company to be allowed to take tourists inside. But Koryo has its own Chlima connection; we can tell you about the art project we arranged at the steelworks as well as the scenes we shot there for our new feature film!

Tae’an Heavy Machine Tool Complex – This enormous complex boasts a number of hangar-sized buildings; we will see the vast range of machine tools, lathes and so on that the workers use to make shaped steel, turbine components, and other products.

Tae’an Glass Factory – This opened in 2005 with heavy Chinese investment, in fact, the Peoples’ Republic of China President Hu Jintao attended the opening ceremony along with DPRK leader Kim Jong Il. Tae’an produces glass and glass products for the domestic market. Koryo tourists will be the first visitors ever to watch the process from smelting to sheet-cutting, and even try to break a sheet of strengthened glass!

Nampo Taekwondo School – Many of the DPRK’s champion martial artists have been educated at this school, despite looking from the outside like it badly needs some maintenance the demonstration put on by the students here (aged from 6 – 16) is a mind-blowing masterpiece of the indigenous Korean fighting style – it’ll make you think twice about arguing with little girls in future!

Nampo Park – With a scenic view over the mouth of the Taedong River, as well as a fresh-water swimming area ideal for warmer months, this is a great place to relax or have a picnic. A popular wedding photography site, this picturesque park makes a pleasant diversion after the heat and noise of the factories.

As if factories, martial arts schools and rustic settings aren’t enough, we can also take you to a local restaurant in the city centre, an orphanage, and you can cap off the trip by visiting the nearby 8km-long West Sea Barrage and staying overnight at the Ryonggang Hot Spa Guesthouse

Keeping with our tradition of travel innovation, Koryo Tours would love to show you the face of DPRK no visitor has seen before. Come see the world’s most mysterious country with the only DPRK specialists around; contact us on [email protected] or pop in and see us if you’re in Beijing or Shanghai. For anyone planning a DPRK trip, whether it’s your first visit or you’re coming back for more, Koryo Tours is glad to offer you the chance to do and see more than ever before. We look forward to hearing from you!

We are adding these new attractions to the following tours, so if you’ve ever wanted to see Juche Steel (it’s a real thing!) being made, watch a load of sand turn to glass, see North Koreans operating lathes of all kinds, and see a young child beat up several surly attackers then one of these tours could be perfect for you!


Koryo Tours media wrap-up

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Koryo Tours has been busy. Below are three recent media hits the organization has received:

1. Yonhap recently published a long article on Koryo Tours founder, Nick Bonner.  You can read the full article here. In the article he discusses starting Koryo as well as the numerous other projects he has launched in the DPRK.

2. Bonner’s colleague, Simon Cockerell, recently did a podcast interview with the Korea Economic Institute.  The whole interview is worth listening to here.

3. Koryo Tours just sent out an email newsletter.  You can read it here.