An Auckland businessman is offering Kiwi tourists exclusive tramping tours to a sacred volcano in North Korea - but is worried about the possible fallout from the Trump-Kim summit this week.
Young Baek Ahn said his business, Able Tour, had been granted exclusive rights to take visitors - up to 14 a month - to Paektu Mountain, Northeast Asia's tallest mountain.
However, he believes whether his venture succeeds or not will depend largely on the outcome of the international summit taking place tomorrow.
American president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be meeting in Vietnam, with talks of the North's nuclear weapons high on the agenda.
"I am hoping for some real positive and peaceful outcome from the summit so it will make more people feel it is safe to travel to North Korea," Ahn said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade here has a travel warning against non-essential travel to the country due to extensive restrictions being placed on foreigners.
It also cautioned that the North had an uncertain security situation that could change with very little warning.
In 2016, a 22-year-old American tourist who travelled to Pyongyang with a tour group was arrested at the airport and accused of stealing a propaganda poster.
He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour, but was released and medically evacuated to the US two years later where he died.
Ahn, however, said visitors would not get into trouble as long as they kept on the right side of the law.
"Every country has rules and laws, so if tourists follow them, then they will not get into trouble," Ahn said.
Ahn made his first trip to Pyongyang last year, and said he was impressed by its cleanliness and how modern it was.
"There are two sides to the city, one part is very developed just like Seoul or Auckland, and another part that is still developing," said Ahn.
The tramping tours will be led by New Zealander Roger Shepherd, who got permission from North Korean authorities to take tourists to Paektu-san.
Ahn said Shepherd was able to get the permit because he had developed a close relationship with North Korean leaders after multiple visits.
Last year, Shepherd made his inaugural trekking expedition there with a tourist group comprising two Norwegian men and two Australian women.
The active volcano is the birthplace of Dagun, the founder of the first Korean kingdom, Gojoseon, according to Korean mythology. It is also believed to be the birthplace of Kim Jong-il, father of Kim Jong Un.
Four trips are being planned between June and September, costing about $6500 per person for 12 nights.
It will comprise six days of trekking, four days of sightseeing in Pyongyang and a visit to the DMZ or demilitarised zone at Panmunjon.
An Mfat spokeswoman told the Herald it kept its travel advisories under close review and the advice for Kiwis to stay away from North Korea remained in place.
"Despite the recent reduction in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the security situation remains volatile," the ministry's travel advisory says.
"North Korean authorities have detained a number of foreign visitors in recent years and consequences can be severe."
The Ministry also added that travel with a guide or as part of a tour did not provide special protection from North Korean laws.