Kumgang (spelled Geumgang by the South Koreans) is a mountain area in southeast North Korea, famous for its scenic beauty. At present it is no longer accessible from the North as it has been set up as a Special Tourism Zone under an exclusive agreement with the Hyundai Asan company of South Korea. This agreement began in November, 1998. Since then over 1.75 million visitors, almost all from South Korean, have visited Kumgang.
There are three main parts to Kumgang: Outer Kumgang (Oekumgang) facing the East Sea, and the seashore (Haekumgang), both open since 1998, and Inner Kumgang (Naekumgang) facing west away from the ocean and only opened to foreign tourists
in 2007. Each of these areas has a choice of walking/hiking trails, scenic areas, some historic sites. Accommodations, a variety of restaurants (including a branch of the Okryukwan Restaurant from Pyongyang famous for its naengmyeon (cold noodles), a relaxing hot springs bath (separate for men and women), an amazing acrobatic show by a troupe from the Pyongyang Moranbong Acrobatic Troupe, a nightly North Korean "Folk Music" show, an 18-hole golf course (just opened in 2007), a beach, and duty-free shopping are available in the main Onjeonggak area (most at an additional charge). Other amenities include a well-stocked Family Mart, a bank, a food court and even a Kodak photo processing shop.
Please note that although individuals can visit Kumgang, it is only as part of a "group" and that you will, unless you come with your own "group", probably be in a group of South Koreans mostly speaking Korean. The guide will normally not speak much English, although Hyundai Asan does their best to have some English speaking guides available for non-Korean visitors and many South Koreans do speak some English.
There are various tour packages available, normally consisting of 3 days-2 nights, but also longer and shorter ones. Usually individuals and small groups leave daily on regularly scheduled buses from two designated pick-up spots in downtown Seoul at about 8:30 am taking about 4 hours to drive east through the scenic South Korean countryside to the town of Hwajinpo in northeast South Korea along the coast of the East Sea. This is the staging place where tourists meet, have lunch, get their special visa documents and are assigned to different buses for the actual crossing of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) separating North and South. Everyone must go through South Korean CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarentine) at Donghae before reboarding their buses for the drive through the DMZ. This drive, since it is through a military zone, is done in a convoy escorted by a South Korean military jeep to the actual MDL (Military Demarcation Line) where a North Korean military vehicle takes over. Next stop is the North Korean CIQ where everyone gets off the buses with their luggage and goes through North Korean formalities. After this it is on to Kumgang and people's individual hotels (there are over a half-dozen options available) and people can begin their own activities.
Some of these activites include tours to the different area of Kumgang mentioned above, a session or two at the Kumgang Hot Springs, an amazing acrobatic show performed daily by the Moranbang Acrobatic troupe from Pyongyang, a Korean "folk song" show at the Kumgangsan Hotel, golf, and a choice of restaurants.
Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd. is a General Sales Agent for Hyundai Asan and can book these tours for clients. Please note, however that they are very popular with South Koreans so you need to book in advance.