Written by Staff Writer
Accessible travel policies, delayed construction projects and added security lines on route 5 are among the things you might not know about the world’s most limited-access country — the Republic of Korea (ROK) — until you’re there.
But all of those little-known facts may soon be a thing of the past.
South Korea is set to begin lifting its 21-year-old “off the road”-travel rules that restrict everyone from entering the country from North Korea as early as early August.
Soon it will open up international travel across its entire land border with North Korea, with no curfews, no hard border controls, no visa requirements.
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Although the full implementation of the move — first promised by President Moon Jae-in in April — is yet to be officially announced, CNN has learned that it could come as early as mid-August.
The news comes as tensions between the two countries remain high after North Korea’s successful nuclear test , but experts believe it’s a move that’ll make life far easier for millions of tourists currently trapped inside the two countries.
Still far from luxury, the border cities of Kaesong and Daejon would also be open under the changes, along with the eastern city of Wonsan.
North Korea’s capital Pyongyang remains shut off from the South as of yet, with all travel to the capital strictly controlled by the military.
But while there’s still no access to North Korea’s spectacular tourist attractions like Mount Kumgang , experts think there’s a good chance it may come into play before the current warming of relations between the two countries, particularly during the Olympic Games this year.
“You’ve got major cities now, including city airports, that are potentially opening up,” says Jonathan Pogash, director of Asia Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
Beneath the surface
“This was something that was part of the UN Security Council resolution and years in the making.
“It’s always coming, but the positive signs that we’re seeing from the two countries are taking it to another level.
“North Korea has always been sheltered on this front compared to other nations. As a result, it has been perceived as being invulnerable to travel restriction.”
Tourism by citizens of the ROK and the North was previously restricted to elites in a design to limit the fallout from the North’s funding of international drug smuggling.
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The move marks a large improvement on such restrictions and has already translated into major travel deals for business and leisure travelers.
Dalian Wanda, for example, is offering a 64-day package to North Korea, which includes flights to Pyongyang from Beijing and multiple nights in a luxury hotel in the capital.