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North Korean borders open to foreign visitors for first time since COVID-19: report

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North Korea reportedly will allow the regular entry of select foreign nationals for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The policy change began Monday and ends a years-long ban on almost any outsiders entering the hermit kingdom for business, travel or non-vital diplomatic relations.

Chinese state media first reported the decision, though North Korean news outlets have not yet announced the change, according to Yonhap News Agency. 

The parameters of North Korea’s border entry policy in the post-pandemic era is yet to be seen, but the country is known for its intense scrutiny of outsiders and sweeping bans on international travel

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A green train with yellow trimmings is seen steaming by a slogan which reads “Towards a new victory” on the North Korea border with Russia and China seen from China’s Yiyanwang Three Kingdoms viewing platform in Fangchuan in northeastern China’s Jilin province. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

North Korea has struggled to open itself fully since the COVID-19 pandemic, when the regime could not field the necessary resources and infrastructure to effectively combat the outbreak within its borders.

Groups of North Korean elites living outside the country began re-entering last month after the nation’s airlines began running regular flights to China and Russia again for the first time in years.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the completion of a fertiliser plant, together with his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, in a region north of the capital, Pyongyang, in this image released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). (KCNA/via Reuters)

Air Koryo, North Korea’s state-operated airline, has begun operating three flights a week from Pyongyang’s airport to Beijing.

The first flight arrived with few inbound passengers but returned to North Korea with approximately 400 North Korean nationals who had stayed in China during pandemic lockdowns.

Another commercial North Korean flight arrived in Vladivostok, Russia, on Friday morning. 

An Air Koryo plane is seen at Beijing Capital Airport on August 22, 2023. North Korea’s first international commercial flight in three years landed in Beijing after the country has been largely closed off from the outside world since early 2020, when it shut its borders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  ((Photo by GREG BAKER / AFP) (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images))

The plane made a turn-around back to North Korea by the mid-afternoon with passengers aboard.

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North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un departed Russia after a six-day trip earlier this month, leaving with some explosive weaponry as gifts.

Kim met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss a potential arms deal, though no agreement has been signed yet. Before Kim departed on his armored train, however, a regional Russian governor gifted him with five explosive “kamikaze” drones, a reconnaissance drone and a bulletproof vest, according to Russian state media.

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