(Bloomberg) -- North Korea appears to be allowing entry for foreigners for the first time since it shut its borders at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, opening up a source of revenue that once provided the country with hard currency.
North Korea announced foreigners would be allowed to enter the country starting Monday, according to a report by China’s state broadcaster CCTV. Visitors will need to quarantine for two days, the report said. There was no immediate report in North Korea’s state media about the move.
Kim Jong Un’s regime has slowly been easing up on its border curbs imposed nearly four years ago by allowing high-level delegations from China and Russia to visit in July and then sending commercial aircraft in August to Beijing and Vladivostok to return diplomats, students and workers who had been stranded abroad due to border restrictions.
Tourists from places like China have previously been an important source of foreign currency for cash-strapped North Korea. Those visitors helped the country make transactions abroad while it remains cut off from international banking.
Kim’s decision to shut borders slammed the brakes on the little trade the heavily-sanctioned state could conduct. It led to a contraction that caused the economy to be smaller than when Kim took power more than a decade ago, according to estimates from the Bank of Korea in Seoul.
Signs of a resumption of trade with China, historically Pyongyang’s biggest partner, led Fitch Solutions to estimate North Korea’s economy returned to growth after two full years of contraction. Still, it added that significant uncertainties still remain.
North Korea has refused vaccine aid from the outside world, increasing the risks that its antiquated medical systems could be overwhelmed by a mass outbreak of the virus.
--With assistance from Jing Li.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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