May 27, 2019 12:57
Chinese tourists are visiting North Korea in increasing numbers, significantly helping to boost the renegade regime's hard-currency earnings. Some 1.2 million Chinese tourists visited the North last year, Radio Free Asia quoted the China National Tourism Administration as saying Friday.
The Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul in February also released a similar number estimate, saying numbers have soared about 50 percent on-year.
China last released official data on tourism to the North in 2012, when the number stood at a mere 237,000. Supposing Chinese visitors spent $300 each during their stay, the North earned some US$360 million from Chinese tourists last year, roughly one percent of its GDP of some $40 billion.
"It's a lifeline for the North amid international sanctions," said Cho Young-gi at Kookmin University.
Tourism has increased to such an extent that it is becoming hard to get train tickets to the North from the Chinese border city of Dandong.
North Korean trade officials who want to go home after finishing work in China cannot get train tickets to Pyongyang, a source in Dandong told RFA.
"There's now a travel agency promoting North Korea tours at almost every hotel in Dandong," said Prof. Nam Sung-wook of Korea University, who visited the area last month. "One hotel the North is building in Sinuiju is near completion, and once it's completed even more Chinese will come."
One-day bus tours to the North Korean border city of Sinuiju are also becoming a big hit. Buses pick up Chinese tourists in Dandong at 8 a.m. and return at 5 p.m.
"The North is trying to beat the sanctions by promoting tourism, which doesn't directly violate UN Security Council resolutions and China seems to be cooperating," Nam added.
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