Borderers invited to join pioneering trip to North Korea

Tom Burnham.
Tom Burnham.

Adventurous Borderers are being offered the chance to become the first Westerners to make a train trip across North Korea since the country’s creation almost 70 years ago.

Retired businessman Tom Burnham fulfilled a lifelong ambition three months ago by visiting the secretive communist state for the first time, and he was so impressed that he wants to do it all over again.

Pyongyang in North Korea.

Pyongyang in North Korea.

And next time round, the 71-year-old, of Earlston, wants to take some fellow Borderers with him.

The former Earlston Community Council chairman is organising a return to the East Asian country in September and is hoping to sign up a handful or more fellow travellers keen to see the republic for themselves.

“I’ve already got three of my friends enlisted, and I’m looking for around half a dozen other like-minded individuals to join us so we can benefit from discounts from the tour company,” he said.

Tom, a member of the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership, was one of a 14-strong international party to visit North Korea in October after booking with specialist travel agency Korya Tours.

“I’d always harboured a desire to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, not least because of the stories from my late father, who fought in the Korean War in the early 1950s, but, like many other people, I’d been slightly put off by all the negative stuff we get fed in the western media,” he said.

“I wasn’t deterred by the political system because, during the days of the Cold War, I worked in many countries behind the Iron Curtain and always found them culturally fascinating.

“The reality was that North Korea was wildly different from the propaganda image of a cold, faceless, regimented society.

“The people were endlessly courteous, some of the scenery we saw during our coach trips was spectacular and the architecture, particularly the iconic modern buildings, was breathtaking.”

He explained that the train journey had been exclusively brokered by Korya Tours.

“We will be the first ever westerners to take the overnight train from the capital Pyongyang in the south west to the large port of Chongjin in the north east since the country’s inception in 1948, which is quite something,” said Tom.

“There will be overnight stays in hotels in the towns we visit, and there are lots of tours including visits to factories, waterfalls, monuments and museums.”

Tom said he is hoping to put together as party from the Borders, paying £2,500-plus a head, by the end of March ready for a trip taking place from Thursday, September, 21 to Sunday, October 1.

“It costs around 2,800 euros all in, although you have to pay your own way to the Chinese capital of Beijing, where Korya Tours is based,” he said.

“It took me around three weeks, but I had no problem getting the necessary visa.”

Anyone interested in joining Tom’s North Korean jaunt or requiring more information can contact him on 07931 939 260.

End, caption follows

Tom Burnham’s photographs of two monuments in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang – the Arch of Triumph and the Monument to the Korean Workers’ Party, depicting hammer, sickle and pen.