Chinese tourists stay away from North Korea after nuclear test

By Michael Rank

Far fewer Chinese tourists are visiting North Korea from the border towns of Yanbian and Yanji due to nerves over the country’s recent nuclear and missile tests, a Chinese website reports.

This is normally the height of the tourist season, the report notes, but this year hardly any tourists taking tours to visit the nearby North Korean port city of Rajin (Najin) 라진/나진. “In previous years there have been about 300 or 400 tourists a day [crossing into North Korea] at this time, but recently there have been only about 20,” it quotes a Yanbian travel agent as saying.

Two-day trips from Yanji cost only 800 yuan ($117) per person but because the nuclear testing and rocket launch sites are nearby most tourists are keeping away, the report adds.  Rajin is in fact about 250 km north of the nuclear testing site near Gilju (Kilchu) 길주 but who know what is safe…?

The report claims that things are different in the biggest border city Dandong and that tourists are crossing the frontier at normal levels there.

But this was contradicted by a surprisingly frank report in the China Daily earlier this month which quoted Li Peng, general manager of the Dandong branch of the State-owned China International Travel Service (CITS), as saying: “The revenues from four-day tours and business trips to the DPRK have plunged at least 50 percent compared to last year.”

He said about 30,000 tourists have traveled with his company to the DPRK from Dandong in the past two years, with a four-day visit costing around 2,400 yuan ($350) per person.

“But during the first seven months of this year, we have seen 2,000 make the trip. Many canceled because of safety concerns,” he said, adding that the recent capture and imprisonment of two journalists from the United States had done nothing to ease those concerns.

The journalists have since been released, but it’s unlikely this will result in a massive rebound in China-North Korea tourism.

Another China Daily report was remarkably frank about smuggling which has also been badly hit by the nuclear furore. It also quoted Dandong Federal Business Corp Chairman Shan Jie, who said: “Most of the nearly 1,000 legal enterprises involved in border trade here have stopped operations.”

Meanwhile, the latest report focuses on a North Korean waitress in Dandong who “sports a luxury Gucci watch on her left wrist – and a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) flag pin on her chest.”

“Her restaurant is one of Dandong’s most luxurious and one of the few establishments in the Chinese city bordering the DPRK that is still seeing brisk business in the wake of Pyongyang’s nuclear test in May and subsequent missile launches.”


4 Responses to “Chinese tourists stay away from North Korea after nuclear test”

  1. Simon says:

    Luxury Gucci watch? in China? why they cost about $2 from a guy just up the road, honestly…..!

  2. NKeconWatch says:

    This seesm like a huge arbitrage opportunity!

  3. Johanna says:

    Are they letting British tourists in again now? I read they were banned for a while….

  4. NKeconWatch says:

    Yes they are. No problem at all. Koryo Tours appears to have been busy taking Brits all summer.