Koryo Tours History
In 1992 Josh Green (a Chinese scholar and great friend of mine), was working for a year in Pyongyang setting up the TNT courier office. I was lecturing in Landscape Architecture at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK. I visited Josh in Pyongyang and straightaway I was hooked by this extraordinary destination. With our North Korean friends in Pyongyang and Beijing we set up Koryo Tours and are now the longest running and most specialised travel company for North Korea. Simon Cockerell joined in 2002 (after coming on one of the tours!) and his background in philosophy and passion for travel has allowed us to expand our tours content, destinations and cultural activities. In 2006 Hannah Barraclough joined us - she is a great character and events organiser and we are hoping we can now expand our cultural activities as well as tour numbers.
In the last few years we have expanded the range of activities to include trips based around specific interests such as architecture, sport, and Korean history in addition to our regular scheduled tours. As well as tourism we are actively promoting cultural exchanges- anything from taking the film 'Bend It Like Beckham' to Pyongyang filmfestival, to school exchanges and football friendship matches.
1989 to 1993
- Josh Green (based in DPRK for TNT couriers) and Nicholas Bonner take in their first tour group to Pyongyang
- Koryo Tours take the first westerners to visit Mount Paekdu and Mount Chilbo
- Koryo Tours partners with Korea International Travel Company the official DPRK tour agency
- appointed as travel specialist by Korea International Travel Company (DPRK Government body); Koryo Tours takes over 50% of westerners visiting North Korea (and still does to this day)
1994 to 1998
- during the 1995 Peace and Friendship festival (attended by Mohammed Ali) Koryo Tours takes in over 100 tourists at one time; the most Westerners to have arrived in the country since the end of the Korean War
- Nick works with UK Channel 4 to make the first travel programme on North Korea – Travelogue presented by British media personality Andy Kershaw
- asked by Lonely Planet to assist with their travel guide
1999 to 2003
- Koryo Tours and VeryMuchSo Productions make the first of our documentary films after 6 years of negotiations - the award winning film 'The Game of Their Lives’
- ‘A State of Mind’ premieres at Pyongyang Film Festival 2004 and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York
- Beijing Celtic FC become the first western amateur football team to tour in the DPRK, a trip organised and participated in by Koryo Tours
- Koryo Tours take the first tour for westerners to Inner Kumgangsan (a previously off-limits part of North Korea)
- Koryo Tours arranges and facilitates a two part BBC Radio Show on DPRK music with Andy Kershaw, the show was Sony Radio Award nominated
- first goodwill school exchange between International Students from Hong Kong United World College and DPRK students (they have visited 4 times to present day)
- consulted for Bradt Guide as DPRK Travel advisor
2004 to 2009
- release of our latest documentary 'Crossing the Line' on the US military defectors who crossed from South Korea to the North never to be seen again…until we tracked them down
- ‘Crossing the Line’ in competition at the 2007 Sundance Film festival
- photographic book ‘Welcome to Pyongyang’ British Journal of Photography Winner 2007 produced with photographer Charlie Crane and publisher Chris Boot
- more friendly football tours arranged and also the first amateur volleyball and ice hockey tours to North Korea
- the first ever Cricket match in North Korean history is set up and run, a 3-way tournament featuring a DPRK team trained by Koryo Tours’ staff
- we co-curate the first exhibition of DPRK Art in the USA with the Korea Society, New York; features woodblocks from our collection
- we established a DPRK art gallery in Beijing, the Pyongyang Art Studio
- featured in a two part BBC Radio show following a Koryo Tours group and their adventures in DPRK presented by Tony Pletts, producer Sara-Jane Hall; Sony Radio Award nominated
- consulted for Rough Guide as DPRK Travel advisor
- foreign co-ordinator for the Pyongyang International Film Festival (we have helped take in films such as Bend it Like Beckham, Mr Bean the Disaster Movie and Touching the Void - with attendance by over 12,000 locals)
- become a member of both PATA (the Pacific Asia Travel Association), and the European Business Association in Pyongyang
- provide expert advice to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on their groundbreaking trip to Pyongyang
- currently in development of a romantic comedy with DPRK cast and crew
- co-curating an exhibition for Asia–Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) in Brisbane Australia, the leading event in all Asia, December 2009
2010 to present day
Middlesbrough FC Ladies - September 2010: In conjunction with the British Embassy in Pyongyang, we brought 17 players over from the UK to play 2 friendly matches against DPRK teams in order to mark 10 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and the DPRK
- The first ever Ultimate Frisbee Tournament in the DPRK was arranged in Pyongyang in August 2011
On 6th September 2011, 24 tourists from 10 different counties and 4 Korean guides embarked on the first ever cycling tour in the DPRK.
- In June 2012, Koryo Tours made history by organising the first ever basketball trip to the DPRK. The group from Coaches Team International was made up of 14 basketball coaches and players who were all travelling to Pyongyang for the first time to share their basketballing expertise with North Korean youth teams.
- In September 2012 we ran the Cycling Tour again!
- On Sept 23rd 2012 Koryo Tours’ staff were taken to the top of the enigmatic and oddly iconic 105 storey Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang
- On December 2012 Koryo Tours launched the arcade style racing game "Pyongyang Racer"
- 2013 marks the 20th year of operations for Koryo Tours (since 1993) - Interesting content coming soon!