11 July 2024

North Korea has moved to further open up from strict pandemic-era isolation, with state media reporting Sunday that citizens living abroad have been allowed to reenter the country.

State-run KCNA said that the State Emergency Epidemic Prevention Headquarters had announced that “citizens abroad have been allowed to return home”.

“Those returned will be put under proper medical observation at quarantine wards for a week,” the report said.

It added that the decision had been made “in reference to the eased worldwide pandemic situation.”

North Korea shut its borders in early 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but there have been increasing signals the country has moved towards reopening.

Chinese and Russian officials attended a military parade in Pyongyang last month — the first foreign dignitaries to visit the country in years.

Last week a delegation of athletes was allowed to attend a taekwondo competition in Kazakhstan, while state-run Air Koryo made its first international commercial flight in three years.

The flight arrived Tuesday morning at Beijing’s Capital Airport, with AFP reporters only seeing two North Koreans — recognisable by their distinctive badges bearing the faces of former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il — come through the arrival gate. Neither spoke to media.

Another Air Koryo flight bound for Pyongyang departed just after 1:00 pm, a tracking website showed.

Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency published photos of a number of North Koreans lining up to check luggage for that flight.

Asked about the flights, China’s foreign ministry said that it had approved restarting commercial air travel between Beijing and Pyongyang.

“During the summer and autumn flight season… the Chinese side approved flight plans for passengers such as the Pyongyang-Beijing and Beijing-Pyongyang routes of Air Koryo,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing on Monday.

By Agence France Presse