With the coronavirus still probably not yet at its peak the question of when North Korea might open tourism is a very hard one to answer. Essentially to answer the question of when North Korea will relax its borders to tourists we would need to know what is going to happen with coronavirus, an answer we obviously do not have.
However this is not the first time that North Korea have closed the country to tourism during other serious outbreaks, so in that respect we can look at how they have reacted previously to get a much broader picture on things.
According to Young Pioneer Tours we have the following information.
2003 – North Korea partially closes due to SARS
SARS which it is believed started from a colony of bats in Yunnan province and eventually spread throughout China, Hong Kong, South-East Asia and beyond, whilst killing almost 1000 people (less than coronavirus has killed) was also taken seriously in Pyongyang.
During SARS North Korea restricted entry to people from areas affected by the virus, as well as temporarily halting a tourism project with south Korea.
2014 – North Korea closes due to Ebola
Ebola, with an estimated 50% mortality rate may have mostly affected West Africa, but fear of the virus spread far and wide. Initially North Korea restricted access to people coming in from infected countries, to those who had visited infected countries, before finally closing off the nation in full to tourism.
Despite the relatively few cases of Ebola in China North Korea still kept its borders closed for a full five months.
When will North Korea open again to tourism?
Looking at previous data it is extremely hard to predict, although going by how they reacted to Ebola, and the general consensus that coronavirus has not reached its peak, one would assume it will not be opening any time soon.
Various tourism sources from inside North Korea have said they do not expect the ban to be lifted before April, which would mean that the prestigious Pyongyang 2020 marathon will be cancelled for example.
But what about the Mass Games?
People have gotten all excited about the Mass Games being announced as taking part in 2020 as a sign that the country will be open by then, but in fact this was announced way before yesterday (18th February 2020), with the first report of 2020 performances being made on January 27th 2020.
It is also worth keeping in mind that the Mass Games have existed long before tourism into the country did, and are primarily for a domestic, not international audience.
At best, we feel it could be possible for tourism in North Korea to resume by June, or July, but at worst? Sadly the worst case scenario impossible to predict.