April 13, 2024

Banned from the industry: One agent’s North Korea travel experience

Walter Keats looks back on running tours to – and getting banned from – the DPRK

For Walter Keats, North Korea was far from the first out-of-the-way location he had taken tour groups to. A social anthropology graduate from Harvard, he began his travel industry career in China as the country opened up in the 1970s, making him one of the first American tour operators to arrange commercial tours there.

“Over the succeeding years I expanded the business into other East Asian countries,” he said over email. “Particularly Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and Southeast Asia. Our focus also shifted from group tours to custom, upscale individual and small group tours with an emphasis on history, culture and food.”

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