January 01, 2016 09:14
North Korea has opened a riverside passport-free, visa-free zone where Chinese tourists can shop duty-free has opened on the shore of the Apnok River in Sinuiju, China News Service reported Wednesday.
Visitors can stay for a day and also enjoy North Korean food and various performances, but they will have no access to the rest of the country.
The tourism zone sits at the point where a recently completed bridge crossing the Apnok River starts. "It was developed jointly by North Korean authorities and a travel agency in Dandong," the news agency said.
It measures 130,000 sq.m and has cost 50 million yuan since construction began in April. It contains restaurants, duty-free shops, a theater and a cruise boat terminal.
It can accommodate up to 10,000 tourists at a time and a full tour can take up to five hours.
The passport-free rule is a huge departure for North Korea, which normally confiscates the passports of Chinese day visitors until they leave.
Instead they can get a travel pass by simply presenting their ID card. It is in theory issued the same day.
"The zone is an island-like area that has been built after part of the Apnok River shore on the side of Sinuiju was reclaimed," a source in Dandong said. "It's impossible for Chinese tourists to enter the North Korean mainland from there because soldiers block the road to Sinuiju."
The cash-strapped North has frantically been thinking up ways of earning hard currency from various shopping and tourism schemes, some of which are deserted. It is even offering foreign tourists a helicopter tour over Pyongyang.
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