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  1. ITV Report

Tourist numbers double at North Korea's Pyongyang marathon

North Korea's Pyongyang marathon attracted more than double the number of foreign runners compared to last year, tour firms have said.

The annual race held in the North Korean capital saw around 950 foreign runners take to the streets on Sunday, compared to 450 in 2018, according to market leader Koryo Tours.

It is only the sixth year in which the race has been open to foreign runners and the 30th iteration since the marathon began in 1981.

Reduced tensions in North Korea has led to an increase in tourism. Credit: AP

The event is part of celebrations for the anniversary of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung's birth in 1912.

Tourists in the marathon are allowed to run through the streets of Pyongyang, which are normally under strict control and are cheered on by North Koreans who line the streets.

Reduced tensions in the country has led to an increase in tourism to the isolated peninsula.

North Korean Ri Kwang Ok crosses the finish line to win the gold medal. Credit: AP

However a US travel ban meant no American runners took part in the race, following the death of Otto Warmbier.

The 22-year-old student was jailed for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster in 2015 and died from a coma just days after being returned to the US.

The majority of tourists to North Korea are from China and around 5,000 Westerners visit the peninsula every year.

North Koreans lined the streets of Pyongyang to cheer on the runners. Credit: AP
A US travel ban meant no Americans took part in the race. Credit: AP

Tour operators advise visitors to take extra precautions about "what to do and what not to do" when travelling in the North.

Simon Cockerell, Koryo Tours' general manager, said: "This is vital when visiting North Korea and anyone wanting to travel shouldn't go without a briefing."