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N.K. invites foreigners to marathon to earn hard currency

N.K. invites foreigners to marathon to earn hard currency

Posted April. 05, 2014 05:03,   


How one would feel about running through streets of Pyongyang in North Korea, the "reclusive kingdom"?

The Associated Press and the Voice of America reported on Thursday that amateurs and foreign tourists will participate for the first time ever in the “Mangyongdae International Marathon,” which takes place in Pyongyang on Sunday next week.

Koryo Tour, a Beijing-based travel agency specializing in tours to North Korea, told AP that many people have expressed interest thanks to uniqueness of Pyongyang adding that more than 200 people have shown intention to take part. The company said, “Most of the tourists seem to be attracted by the fact that they can enjoy the scenery of streets in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, while freely running there.”

A six-day tour package that involves a run at the marathon and tours to Mount Myohyang and Kaesong is priced between 2,100 U.S. dollars and 2,400 dollars per person. A four-day tour package, priced between 1,650 dollars and 1,800 dollars, is also enjoying popularity. Andrea Lee with “Woori Tours,” a travel agency specializing in North Korea tours based in the U.S. state of New Jersey, said, “More than half of the applicants are Americans.”

The marathon competition, which was launched in 1981 to mark the 69th birthday (April 15) of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, only brought together elite runners with a time of about 2 hours from China, Russia, and African countries up until last year. However, the marathon added a half-course marathon and a 10-km run to the program to attract ordinary foreign tourists.

Participating runners will depart from Kim Il Sung Stadium with 70,000 seats, pass through the monument on Chinese military’s participation in the Korean War, and Kim Il Sung University. Then, they will cross a bridge across the Daedong River, and head eastward along the river bank to return to the stadium.

It is believed that the North has expanded the scope of runners at its flagship marathon in a bid to earn hard currency. Following opening Masikryong Ski Resort in late last year, the North announced early this year that it will create special trade and travel zones. Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt, an expert on the North Korean economy at the American Enterprise Institute, forecasted that the tourism industry of North Korea will not instantly rake in big money, but situation can vary in the near future.”

Cuba, which had maintained isolationism just like North Korea, also promoted tourism by implementing a promotion policy starting in 1990, and expanded its tourism income by 2,300 folds from 750,000 dollars to 1.78 billion dollars in 1999.