It’s one of the most secretive nations in the world and keeps close tabs on foreign visitors, but North Korea has just got its very first travel app promising to let tourists “go behind the Iron Curtain”.
Created by a British-based startup Uniquely.Travel, the app includes everything from original high definition photography to a phrase book and first-hand “Tour Guide Tips” from travellers with more than 10 years-experience of the country.
‘North Korea Travel’ (available for both Android and iOS devices) features such bizarre destinations as the Ryongmun Caverns with its genitalia-like rock formations, the “World’s Worst Zoo” ("in 2004, the zoo contained three ducks, a turkey, some elusive foxes, and a drawing of a monkey") and the infamous Ryugyong Hotel – a 105-storey skyscraper that began construction in 1987 and is still far from completion.
Although the app is most definitely “100% unofficial” it reflects increasing media interest in the totalitarian state and a relative thawing of the country’s attitude towards tourists, with dictator Kim Jong-un announcing plans last year to spend £130 million creating an airport capable of accommodating up to 1.2 million tourists each year.
So far though North Korea receives far less visitors than this, with around 5,000 to 6,000 Westerns thought to make the trip each year (a quarter of which are American) supplemented by approximately 10,000 Chinese tourists takin day trips to the country.
The app, which can be downloaded for both Android and iOS devices, allows users to even plan and book their own trips to the country but as the site notes, internet connections aren’t widespread within North Korea so there's also an "offline mode for people eager to read up about the places around them while in-country.”
More seriously than this, Uniquely.Travel warns would-be travellers that “despite a long record of tourist safety, North Korean authorities [are] arresting foreign visitors with increasing frequency” and that the government has “shown itself to be less amenable to negotiating the release of foreign detainess than was previously the case.” Best stick to the app instead.