Cruise to North Korea Opened to Americans
A groundbreaking cruise that has carried tens of thousands of South Koreans to the communist North in the last two years for brief visits has been opened to adventurous North Americans.
A-Ju Tours Inc. of Los Angeles, telephone (800) 933-3011, began offering package tours on the Hyundai Merchant Marine cruise line in September, said the president of A-Ju, Pyoungsik Bahk. So far, his company has sent only a trickle of people--about 200, mostly Korean Americans and Chinese Americans--on the ship, but Bahk said he is hoping for brisker business after a marketing campaign in February.
The basic five-day package from A-Ju Tours, which Bahk said is the only U.S. firm offering the trip so far, costs $1,299, including round-trip air between Los Angeles and Seoul. Guests are bused to Tong-hae harbor on South Korea’s east coast, where they board the ship for a cruise of several hours to North Korea’s Kumgang (Diamond) Mountains, known for their unusual rock formations, waterfalls, mineral springs and former Buddhist temples. The group spends two days touring the region before returning to Seoul. A-Ju Tours takes care of visa arrangements, Bahk said. This is important because although the U.S. government does not bar Americans from visiting North Korea, the two nations have no diplomatic ties. Most Americans who visit North Korea go to Beijing to obtain visas, the State Department says.