As Trump Chides Pyongyang for Ballistic Missile Belligerence, North Korea Opens Borders to Israeli Tourists
North Korea is opening up its borders to Israeli tourists beginning this spring, the business site Globes reported on Sunday, as news of Pyongyang’s test-firing of a purportedly mid-range Musudan ballistic missile into nearby seas emerged from neighboring South Korea, spurring condemnation from US President Donald Trump and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
According to the report, the tyrannical country, ruled by dictator Kim Jong-un, has given Tarbutu, a subsidiary of Israel’s Rimon Tours, an exclusive franchise for issuing visas for visitors from the Jewish state.
Globes reported that Tarbutu announced the launch of four organized tours to North Korea in April-May 2017, at a cost of approximately $4,000. Tarbutu program manager Haim Peres said, “North Korea is without question one of the most fascinating countries in the world today. It is a closed country cut off from the world, including its neighbors. More is unknown than known about the country.”
Tarbutu also said that up until now, Israelis have been granted tourist visas for North Korea through parties in China, and that thus far, only 100 Israelis have visited the country.
According to Globes, under the new arrangement, Israeli passport-holders can obtain tourist visas to North Korea, but journalists and South Koreans will only be able to visit the country after receiving special permission from the the authorities in Pyongyang.
Tourists may bring cellphones and laptops with them, but only internal North Korean Internet is available, other than in hotels. Permission to take photographs is restricted to certain sites. Dollars, euros and Chinese yuan can be used by tourists, who are forbidden to use “won,” the local currency. Nor are there ATMs or places to convert currency.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry told Globes, “There is no travel warning for North Korea, and no specific ban on traveling there. We, of course, recommend extreme caution, since there are no diplomatic relations with North Korea, but it is not classified as an enemy country.”
According to ABC news, North Korea’s missile launch comes only two days after Trump and Abe called on Pyonyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In response, Abe called it “absolutely intolerable,” while Trump said, “The United States stands behind Japan, a great ally, 100 percent.”
In response to concerns Israelis might have as a result, Tarbutu stressed that tourism in North Korea is not affected by political or military events there. “North Korea is proud about having one of the world’s lowest crime rates, and tourists feel very safe there,” the company said.