Pack Your Bags, We’re Going to The Socialist Paradise!

Archive photos reveal how tourist authorities promoted North Korea as a holiday destination to friendly nations within the communist bloc
December 7th, 2012

From 1945 until the fall of the USSR, only a small number of foreign guests were welcomed to visit North Korea, with the majority of visitors arriving from Communist bloc or non-aligned nations. Distant memories and scattered tourist snapshots aside, few archives remain of this fascinating time.

A new blog run by Christopher Graper of Koryo Tours now tells the story of North Korea’s outreach to foreign tourists during the 1980s with some truly fascinating pictures. The tourism brochures and advertising materials reflect the type of marketing DPRK tourism authorities used to market the Club Med of North Korea, Hamhung’s Majon Beach Hotel.

It all harks back to a time when for communist bloc allies, lazy holidays on the shores of socialist North Korea were a distinctively attractive possibility.  So roll up and book your tickets today!

Wonsan Beach in the 80s

Wonsan, the capital of Kangwon Province on the southeast coast of North Korea, is a port city surrounded on three sides by mountains.  With stunning beaches and a nearby youth camp, the city is a frequent stop on tourist itineraries and a great city to place to check out during the summer months.

Welcome to Paradise – bathers enjoy the sand

Wonsans’s infamous diving boards of doom (both are in considerably worse condition than pictured today)

The Songdowon Hotel in 1991, still used by tourists in 2012 (albeit now painted green!)

A mid-day traffic jam in Wonsan

The Wonsan skyline, viewed from a nearby lighthouse

Songdowon International Children’s Camp

Wonsan is also home to the Songdowon International Children’s Camp, which receives teenagers and youths for cultural exchange between North Korea and various countries. The Camp is still functioning today and is a popular destination for North Korean children and youth. It still receives a small contingent of foreign visitors, with KCNA reporting recently on Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian children visiting the camp.

Cover of brochure for Songdowon International Children’s Camp

Children enjoying the facilities at the Songdowon Camp

Taesongsan Funfair, Pyongyang

The Funfair, built originally in the heady days of the 1970, recently underwent renovation as part of a propaganda campaign by Kim Jong Un to show his deep devotion for the people.


1970s kitsch fashions in Pyongyang

Round and round the …. rocket?

Chongjin City in 1985

Chongjin is one of the DPRK’s most important steel and fiber industry centers. Near the port area are many factories, including Kimchaek Iron & Steel – a site which used to employ over 20,000 workers.

While the city is highly restricted for tourists, with the Steelworks Kindergarten and town museum the only places that foreigners can really see, it is nonetheless a fascinating place to visit, if anything for being one of the least visited cities of the DPRK.

At night, tourists can visit the Seamen’s Club which serves to cater for foreign crews as well as a meeting base for North Koreans and foreigners engaged in the shipping trade.

These photos show how North Korea promoted the town in the mid-1980s, a time when industry was still booming.

Welcome to Chongjin, An Industrial City

Promoting an Industrial hub

Come and Watch Cargo Ship Launches!

“Hot-Rolling Shop” at the Kim Chaek Iron Works, Chongjin

See More Great Pics

For more great photos and updates, make sure you follow Chris Graper’s new blog, Retro DPRK. Thanks to both Chris and our friends at Koryo Tours for letting us share these pictures.