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Photograph: Joshua Davenport /

Tourists may soon be able to visit whole new swathes of the Korean demilitarised zone

The presidential candidate for Seoul’s ruling party has pledged to open an ‘international tourism zone’ on Mount Kumgang

Sophie Dickinson
Written by
Sophie Dickinson

Most people wouldn’t even consider it as an idea. Too risky. But if you like your holidays to come with a bit of an edge, whole new swathes of the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea could soon be open to visitors.

As it stands, tourists only can visit a tiny slice of the heavily guarded area, with an official tour guide. But the presidential candidate for South Korea’s ruling party has pledged to reopen another part of it for the first time in 15 years.

Lee Jae-myung has promised to create a special ‘international tourism zone’ in the Mount Kumgang area between the two countries. Of the plan, Lee said: ‘Starting with exchanges in nonpolitical areas, such as tourism and sports, I will pursue inter-Korean coexistence through practical North Korea policies that benefit both the South and the North.’ It’s a bold move: relations between the two countries are particularly frosty at the moment. 

Whether the scheme will be welcomed across the border remains to be seen. Mount Kumgang, in Gangwon Province, was shut down in 2008 after a 53-year-old South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean guard. But despite tetchy international relations, the plan also includes building a state-of-the-art transport system in the area.

Before the pandemic, the small chunk of the 160-mile-long zone that was open to tourists attracted around 1.2 million visitors per year. South Korea now wants to welcome even more. Would you brave the trip?

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