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Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
North Korea will soon allow foreign visitors to go to a newly built water park and horse riding club, DPRK tourism industry insiders told NK News on Wednesday.
Tourists will soon be able to visit the Munsu Waterpark for a fee of 10 Euros and spend a half-day at the Mirim Riding Club for 30 euros, Simon Cockerell, General Manager of the Beijing-based Koryo Tours, told NK News on Wednesday.
“These new sites have made quite a splash in local media recently so being asked to take tourists along to these places in 2014 makes for an interesting opportunity for anyone looking to swim with some Pyongyang locals or ride a horse around the track in Pyongyang,” Cockerell said.
Another tour operator, Uri Tours in New York City, told NK News that the new destinations were already scheduled to future itineraries and could prove popular with visitors seeking to mingle with locals.
“I do think they will be popular destinations. More and more, people are looking to experience North Korea through activities that allow you to interact with locals,” Uri Tours president Andrea Lee explained.
“The Munsu Water Park and the Mirim Riding Club are already part of our New Year’s tour,” Lee added.
Despite news of the two sites being open for foreigners, in October two North Korean refugees interviewed by the Daily NK said that the new sites were “burdensome to the people,” and merely “places for select cadres to enjoy themselves”.
“The water park is nothing more than a construction project aimed at the high-ranking, wealthy cadres of Pyongyang. Party cadres looking to spend a lot of money can go there, but for everyday people, enjoying a water park is unthinkable,” Bak Keum Chol told Daily NK.
Another refugee complained that the Riding club was too far from Pyongyang for locals to enjoy, suggesting a lack of transport infrastructure could cause it to be unpopular. However, recent news from North Korea’s state news agency says that a shuttle bus service has already been created to ferry locals to and from the course.
The Munsu Water Park, located in the east of Pyongyang, is a large indoor / outdoor swimming resort that includes flumes, lazy river, spas, and a 25m pool. It opened in mid-October amongst significant spectacle in domestic media.
The Mirim Riding Club, which also opened in October, is a former Korean People’s Army equestrian club that North Korean media recently described as being a “product of the energetic leadership provided by Marshal Kim Jong Un”.
“I, nearing the fifties, felt abashed when getting on a horse for the first time. So I asked a guide of the club if women in their fifties come here,” an unnamed woman interviewed by North Korea’s the Korea Central News Agency said on Wednesday.
“Learning the riding, I felt relieved from fatigue and refreshed. I want to enjoy horse riding here every day,” she added.
The 30 Euro entry price to the riding club includes a complimentary shower, Cockerell told NK News.
Kim Jong Un visited both the sites of the Mirim Riding Club and Munsu Waterpark during construction.
Main picture: Rodong Sinmun