Since 2002 this biennial festival has been run as a true international festival welcoming films from around the world, whereas previously the event was reserved for ‘non-aligned and other developing countries’. Koryo Tours has worked closely with the festival organisers to expand and improve the range of films shown at the festival and thus seen by large numbers of the DPRK population (over a million tickets were sold for the 2008 event). We have arranged for many films from around the world to be entered in competition, the most well-known include ‘Bend it like Beckham’ ‘Mr. Bean’, ‘The March of the Penguins, and 'Bride and Prejudice'. We also take our tourists to the festival and are able to attend the main ceremonies as well as see Korean and international films with a local audience. September 2012 will be the date of the next Pyongyang International Film Festival.
Each year sees some change whether it is increased access to the Korean people or opening up of new sights and locations within the country. We have also managed at last to start localised tourism - ie getting funds paid direct to local people for putting on activities. Examples of this include a cooking demonstration put on by locals for those who stay overnight in Kaesong, traditional music and a visit to a co-operative farm. The images below show May Day celebrations where we are taken to the local celebrations on Mount Daesong Park and allowed to mix freely with the locals and even invited to join in games and events; this impacts greatly on tourists and locals alike and we sincerely recommend May Day as an excellent time to visit North Korea, the best time for mingling with the local people and experiencing their holiday alongside them.
In 2002, Koryo Tours and VMS productions organized the return of the North Korean national football team of 1966 to the UK, where they had last visited when they took part in the 8th World Cup – Due to their achievements at the tournament the players are seen as ‘revolutionary heroes’ in North Korea and for the DPRK Government to allow them to return to the UK was wonderful and the event was the most significant cultural exchange between DPRK and Europe. At the 2002 World Cup, FIFA had failed to get Pak Do Ik (the most famous of the bunch) to the opening ceremony and the team has not been seen together since 1966 - in fact for 36 years the rumours had led us to believe we would never find more than one of the 1966 World Cup squad let alone get the eight back to Middleborough, scene of their triumph over the mighty Italians in the greatest shock in World Cup history.
WHAT THE PAPERS SAID ABOUT 'THE RETURN OF THE 1966 HEROES TO BRITAIN
‘Pak Do Ik looked in fine shape as he wandered through Westminster yesterday, stopping in front of a portrait of Tony Benn to ask if he had ever been mayor of Middleborough. And he was diplomacy itself, revealing that he had cheered for the old enemy, South Korea, all the way to the semi-final of this years World Cup. “They brought pride to our whole nation” he said.’ The Guardian, October 2002
‘Rapprochement on the field of sport is set against a very different political backdrop…President Bush has declared that North Korea is part of the “axis of evil”. None of this makes sense when you meet Pak Do Ik or Ri Chan Myong or any of the remaining magnificent seven. But of course it doesn’t. And it certainly won’t make sense on Saturday which is the culmination, Middleborough versus Leeds United and a walk-on at the Riverside’. The Times, October 2002
In February of 2008 the historic visit of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to Pyongyang took place. This was a very significant event for the people of North Korea as they were able to see and hear (the concert was broadcast live on the only TV channel and the only radio station in the country) an American orchestra of the highest quality performing classical standards alongside more contemporary pieces and also the national anthems of the two countries. A truly groundbreaking visit and a great concert to have attended. Koryo Tours advised the orchestra on what to expect during their visit and provided information packs to prepare those who travelled to the country as much as possible for their unique and well-publicised experience. Here’s hoping the Pyongyang orchestra can play in New York before too long!