The reopening was announced by North Korean state media on August 28, 2023.
Returning citizens will undergo a week of quarantine upon arrival.
The reopening is seen as a limited step.
After more than three years of strict virus restrictions primarily due to economic challenges, North Korea has reportedly made the decision to reopen its border.
The move comes as the country faces difficulties stemming from the prolonged closure, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry. North Korea announced that its citizens abroad are now allowed to return home, citing reduced concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic.
The returning citizens will undergo a week of quarantine upon arrival. This decision formalizes the reopening of North Korea’s border, which has been shrouded in secrecy.
The reopening is seen as a response to the economic hardships that the country likely experienced due to the extended border closure. The Unification Ministry recognized this step as a “limited border reopening,” as it only applies to North Korean nationals returning from abroad. The timeframe for allowing entry to foreigners remains unspecified. This move is expected to result in the return of diplomats, laborers, and students who were residing in other countries.
However, there are concerns about the potential forced repatriation of North Korean defectors in China back to North Korea. The Unification Ministry expressed serious apprehensions about this possibility and stressed that the defectors’ own intentions should be respected.
North Korea initially closed its border in January 2020 and escalated its anti-epidemic measures in May 2022 after reporting its first Covid-19 case. Recent signs of border reopening include allowing athletes to travel to China for an international event and resuming commercial flights with China and Russia.