The Koryo Tours Blog
We are sorry to announce that our North Korean partners contacted us this morning with news that the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon has — as of today — been closed to amateur and professional foreign runners. We were told that this is due to the ongoing precautions that the country has put in place in relation to fears held there over the Ebola virus.
It is still unclear when the borders will be reopened, but we were also advised not to cancel our March tours, and to expect an update on the border situation at the end of February. If you are booked on any of our tours in March or April then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
We have two further running events scheduled for 2015 — a 10K in Pyongyang in June, which will be held in support of our ongoing charity project providing food aid to several orphanages in North Korea, as well as a half-marathon in the Mount Paekdu area in August. Please email email@example.com for more.
In 2014 we were informed that the spectacular Mass Games events, held in the May Day stadium regularly since 2002, would not be taking place. The first Mass Games were held in North Korea in 1946, although the Mass Gymnastics Production Company was not formed until 1971. The May Day stadium itself was closed for renovation in 2014 and is set to re-open this year – scroll down for pictures of the new interior.
At Koryo we have watched all sorts of activities in the May Day stadium since we started our tours in 1993. The stadium was built in 1980 with a 150,000 capacity which is currently a world record – though physically it’s not the biggest stadium as is proved when you find yourself sitting in rather close quarters to your neighbour!
Mass Games originally were performed in the 100,000 seat Kim Il Sung stadium built in 1982 and it was only when Arirang started that the May Day Stadium was seen as the permanent venue for the Mass Games. See a video about the history and philosophy behind the Mass Games here.
For our documentary film The Game of Their Lives (2002) we filmed football teams who were still playing football matches in the stadium (they were later moved to Kim Il Sung stadium for their matches) and of course the gymnast Pak Hyon Sun the star of A State of Mind (2004). We filmed her practice outside the May Day stadium and watched her perform there in 2008.
We have had amazing access to the Stadium for filming and of course the preparations for the ‘largest picture in the world’ made up of around 20,000 school kids. The backdrop is painted onto small pieces of card which is then transformed into a page on the books the kids use to depict each scene.
Comrade Kim Flies in Shanghai again! Free screening on 11th Dec at Kulou Bar, 19:00
Back by popular demand! Koryo Tours’ North Korean romantic comedy Comrade Kim Goes Flying will be screened at Kulou Bar at 7PM on Thursday 11th December.
Comrade Kim is the first UK/North Korea co-production ever made and tells the story of a young female coal miner who dreams of joining the Pyongyang circus. As with all films made in North Korea, production had to follow the guidelines laid out by Kim Jong Il on how to make a film, but the usual propaganda is twisted in a unique way in this one-of-a-kind movie. Come along and see for yourself!
Comrade Kim Goes Flying is 81 mins long, and is in Korean with English subtitles.
Simon Cockerell, Koryo Tours’ General Manager (who also worked on the film) will be there to present it, and to take any questions after the screening has finished.
Where: Kulou Bar, 222 Xiangyang Nan Lu (between Yongkang and Fuxing)
Reservations recommended to guarantee seating: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Buy-one-get-one happy hour will run from 6-9pm; don’t miss out on a unique film, and a great deal on drinks!
That’s Not All!
Simon Cockerell will also be speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) in Shanghai on Tuesday 9th Dec, giving a brief presentation about the recent changes we’ve seen in Pyongyang and beyond. The talk will be open to non-members so if you’re interested in coming along please contact Shanghai FCCC for more details.
More about Comrade Kim Goes Flying
“Comrade Kim has the makings of a cult heroine” — Variety
COMRADE KIM GOES FLYING
Directors: Kim Gwang Hun, Nicholas Bonner, Anja Daelemans
Producers: Anja Daelemans, Nicholas Bonner, Ryom Mi Hwa
A Belgium/UK/North Korea co-production
Drama; live action — 81 min — 1:1.85 — color — sound 5.1 — DCP
Cast: Han Jong Sim, Pak Chung Guk, Ri Yong Ho, Kim Son Nam, Han Kil Myong, An Chang Sun
Screenplay: Sin Myong Sik, Kim Chol
Production info: Anja Daelemans (Another Dimension of an Idea/Belgium), Nicholas Bonner (Koryo Group /UK), Ryom Mi Hwa (KFEIC/North Korea)
Sales agent: Another Dimension of an Idea (email@example.com)
You can also find more information on the Comrade Kim goes Flying website
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Many of our tourists are aware that the Pyongyang Metro carriages come from West Berlin, Christopher Graper has a fun blog explaining a little more of the history over on Retro DPRK.
Read more at www.retrodprk.com
Koryo Tours are excited to announce that the town of Dongrim is soon to be open to tourists!
For anyone looking for an exciting opportunity to travel in one of the least-seen parts of the least-seen nation in the world Koryo Tours is proud to offer the option to visit the city of Sinuiju, and take a drive down to the city of Dongrim – newly open to western tourists after years of our hard work pushing for access.
We have two options available for tours to this area; a day trip from the Chinese border city of Dandong, or an overnight extension to one of our regular DPRK trips as an extension to any tour that leaves the country by train – both on group and independent tours.
These areas were opened to western tourists due to the hard work of Koryo Tours’ staff in negotiating with the local and national authorities in the DPRK for access to these areas – know that if you join one of these trips, or any of our tours, you’re travelling with the company that made it all possible, we’d be glad to have you along with us!
You can now visit Sinuiju, Dongrim, and stay overnight either if you finish your tour in the DPRK by train travelling from Pyongyang up to Sinuiju on the Chinese border – this is a 24 hour extension that offers a great way to see some sites in North Pyongan province; a rarely seen part of North Korea.
This special offer is exclusive to clients of Koryo Tours – you won’t find this unique trip available anywhere else.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Current suspension of tours expected to be lifted in Q1 2015
North Korean official confirms border will be reopened for tourists
in time for the Pyongyang Marathon in April
Last updated: Tue 9 Dec
The latest information we currently have from our contacts is that the temporary suspension of tours to North Korea – enacted by the DPRK government on 25 October 2014 in response to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa – will be lifted at some point during Q1 of 2015.
While the exact date is yet to be confirmed at this stage we are confident that tours will resume during this period and will be sure to post more detailed news here as soon as we have further updates.
Additionally, a North Korean official at the DPRK’s Ministry of Sport has since confirmed with us that the Pyongyang Marathon on 12 April 2015 will be open to international tourists.
As official travel partner of the Pyongyang Marathon, we have received notice from contacts within North Korea’s Ministry of Sport that the IAAF event will be going ahead, and that foreign visitors will be welcomed to the race – only the second time in history that Western amateurs have been permitted to participate.
We’ve been unable to take any tourists to North Korea from 25 October through to the end of 2014 due to the border closure surrounding concerns held there over the potential threat posed by the international spread of the Ebola virus – a temporary measure that applies to all tourists while the necessary protocols are put in place.
However, having worked in the country since 1993, we were faced with a similar issue during the 2003 SARS crisis, and have been in lengthy discussions with our partners in Pyongyang to reach an agreement that those booked through our company should be cleared for entry into North Korea.
With the border set to reopen in time for the race, our North Korean partners have now asked Koryo Tours to help foreign amateur runners sign up, and reach out to the wider world.
We have five trips arranged for April 2015 for people wanting to run the Pyongyang Marathon. And, in keeping with the charity focus of many other marathons, Koryo Tours will, for each person travelling with us, be able to donate an extra 365 high-nutrition meals to our pre-existing humanitarian project supporting eight North Korean orphanages.
Such is the expectation surrounding the marathon that North Korea’s national carrier Air Koryo is even laying on an extra flight from Shanghai to Pyongyang on 9 April 2015 – an unusual route for the airline, with Koryo Tours having secured a limited number of spaces for Western tourists to travel aboard this rarely scheduled flight.
See here for more.
There is much to look forward to in 2015 – including, of course, the Pyongyang Marathon in April – and we look forward to receiving your booking for one of our scheduled trips in the year ahead.
Koryo Tours was at the opening ceremony and wrestling bouts of the historic International Pro-Wrestling Friendship Event in Pyongyang hosted by the famous WWE Hall of Famer Japanese wrestler, Antonio Inoki (famous in North Korea as he was a student under Korean Rikidozan who was one of the most influential men in wrestling history).
The last time Koryo Tours witnessed a similar event was when we took over 100 tourists to the International Pro-Wrestling Friendship event in Pyongyang in 1995. This event was attended by Mohammed Ali amongst other world class wrestlers including the US and Japan. Only in the DPRK would they come up with this wrestling to celebrate peace friendship and independence.
We’re very excited to announce the launch of our newest video co-production – an unprecedented time-lapse of Pyongyang! We shot this film in April with Shanghai-based Thrilling Cities – let us know what you think in the comments!
This extraordinary time-lapse video shows the North Korean capital of Pyongyang as it has never been seen before. Koryo Tours – a travel company set up by North Korea expert Nick Bonner in 1993 – used its 21 years of experience working in Pyongyang to secure JT Singh and Rob Whitworth unprecedented access to make ENTER PYONGYANG, a truly breathtaking piece of work.
ABOUT KORYO TOURS: Koryo Tours (www.koryogroup.com) specialises in travel to North Korea, and was founded in 1993 by Nick Bonner — a Brit living in Beijing. Koryo Tours now takes more Western tourists to North Korea than any other company and is a firm believer in responsible tourism, which includes raising money for charitable causes within the country, and participating in significant cultural engagement projects, such as taking Middlesbrough Ladies football team to Pyongyang in 2010 with the backing of the British Embassy there. The tour operator’s parent company, Koryo Group, has also made three award-winning documentaries about North Korea: The Game of Their Lives; A State of Mind; Crossing The Line. Koryo Tours runs regular trips to North Korea, including a special architecture tour in October, which will feature exclusive access and expert lectures
ABOUT ROB WHITWORTH: Rob Whitworth (www.robwhitworth.co.uk) is a prominent urban filmmaker. He is responsible for creating awe-inspiring videos that reveal locations in a powerful and compelling manner. The instantly identifiable style of his work has gained widespread critical acclaim, and received over five million online views. During 2014 Robert has been working on a number of major projects, including shoots for the upcoming ‘One Planet’ series for the BBC Natural History Unit, and a viral video of Barcelona. Originating from the UK, Robert gained his first-class honours degree in Photography from Norwich School of Art & Design. He is currently based in Shanghai.
ABOUT JT SINGH Toronto-born JT Singh (www.jtsingh.com) is a leading place-branding pioneer, creative director, global urban explorer and economic strategist focused on cities. He is the co-founder of Thrilling Cities (www.thrillingcities.com), which is the only exclusively place-oriented branding and creative agency in the world.