North Korea looks to southern China to attract tourists

By Michael Rank

North Korea is spreading its net wider in its quest to attract more tourists from China, and now has its eye on the southern province of Guangdong as well as Shanghai.

A Chinese website (link here) reports that a delegation of North Korean travel agents is expected to travel to Guangzhou next month and that local tour operators in Guangzhou and nearby Shenzhen, on the Hong Kong border, are eager to do business.

Tourists will have a choice of two routes to North Korea – they can either fly to Shenyang or Dalian in northeast China and then take the train to Pyongyang via Dandong, or they can fly to Pyongyang via Shenyang. It puts the price at 5,000 yuan ($730) but doesn’t say how many days the tours last or any further details. It says the main attractions will be the usual ones of Pyongyang, the DMZ at Panmunjom, the Myohyang mountains and the annual Arirang pageant.

As NKEW reported in July, North Korea is also targeting Shanghai as a source of tourism revenue, and there is further talk of charter flights from Qingdao in Shandong province to Pyongyang.

Quite apart from the question of how many Chinese are likely to be tempted to visit a Cultural Revolution-type theme park like North Korea, there are also bureaucratic hurdles to overcome. North Korea does not have “approved destination status” for Chinese tourists, which means in theory at least that travel there is restricted to business groups and official delegations. (Incidentally, South Korea doesn’t seem to be an ADS country either).

As the website notes, “An important issue within ADS is to avoid possible illegal immigration through tourism channels. All tourism groups travelling within the ADS framework are supposed to be monitored by both Chinese and foreign authorities to ensure they return to China. Embassies and consulates apply different methods to monitor the return of the Chinese tourists. Whenever a tourism group member does not return to China, the local travel agency is held responsible and sanctions are applied.” Not that there is much likelihood of Chinese tourists defecting to North Korea.

Furthermore, China is encouraging tourists to counter the world recession by spending their money at home, and although this is China-DPRK year marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations, a further obstacle is the fact that Chinese citizens now need a passport to travel there, not just a border pass that was all that was needed previously to cross into the country at Dandong by train.

Nick Bonner of Koryo Tours says: “We have noticed a sharp drop in Chinese tourists visiting DPRK in comparison to this time last year – even though the spectacle of the 100,000 strong performance of the mass games is still going on and has been extended to October 15th.

“I think next year Chinese tourism will be coming back strong – there is a certain ‘busman’s holiday’ attraction for Chinese tourists to visit DPRK.”


2 Responses to “North Korea looks to southern China to attract tourists”

  1. This is a very helpful essay — thanks for posting it.

    I’m intrigued by the Qingdao-Pyongyang possibilities, and appreciate also the link to your July 14 posting on possible Shanghai-Pyongyang flights, as I seem to have been blocked from reading your blog when I was in China.