October 10, 2016 10:15
South Korea and the U.S. are seeking to strangle North Korea's tourism industry since the hard currency foreigners bring could be used to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.
A government official here said, "North Korea's tourism industry is also a source of foreign currency revenues for Kim Jong-un. We're considering applying UN Security Council sanctions or sanctions by individual countries since they are funding North Korea's nuclear and missile programs."
Around 100,000 tourists visited North Korea in 2014, 5,000 from the West and the rest Chinese.
Yoon In-joo at the Korea Maritime Institute said the North earns anywhere from US$30.7 million to $43.6 million in tourism revenues. Hongxiang Industrial Development Co. in China, which recently became the target of U.S. sanctions for aiding the North's nuclear program, has a travel agency in Liaoning Province recruiting Chinese visitors to the North.
According to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency's office in Xiamen, China, North Korea aims to attract 1 million Chinese tourists by 2017 and 2 million by 2020.
Leader Kim Jong-un has named nurturing the tourism industry "the most important objective."
In April, the South Korean Consulate in Shenyang identified 52 Chinese travel agencies selling tour packages to North Korea and banned them from handling visas for South Korea.
But a government source said, "Chinese account for 90 percent of foreign visitors to North Korea and continue to travel. We can't completely block travel to North Korea unless we resort to broader sanctions."
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