China border tourism to North Korea set to rise, South Korean airlines may be involved

By Michael Rank

Chinese officials have announced plans to increase the number of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea from the border region of Yanbian 延边 and are hoping to involve South Korean airlines and to include Vladivostok on the itinerary, a Chinese website reports.

The head of the Yanbian tourism bureau, Jin Chengwen 金成文 (Kim Seong-mun), was quoted as saying they were investigating plans for tours starting in the main city in the region, Hunchun 珲春, which would take in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok and Baekdusan 백두산, a mountain on the Sino-Korean border that is the purported birthplace of leader Kim Jong-il, as well as tours from the North Korean port of Rajin 라진 to Pyongyang and Panmunjom.

He said he hoped Korean Air and other South Korean and Chinese airlines would become involved, but gave no details. It was hoped that Chinese tourists would not need passports to visit North Korea, he added.

Another Yanbian tourism official said there were already tours from the border town of Sanhe 三合 to the industrial city of Chongjin 청진 and Baekdusan and to Samji lake (Samjiyeon 삼지옌), a scenic spot near Baekdusan, and Pyongyang, and they were hoping to add a Rajin-Pyongyang-Panmunjom tour. “North Korea is hoping more Chinese tourists will come and tour their country,” he added.

The report said the tourism plans were connected to an agreement announced this month under which China gained the use of a pier at the port of Rajin 라진 for 10 years to help the development of the border region and give Jilin province access to the Pacific.

As NKEW reported last year, Chinese officials are also talking about cruises from Hunchun to the North Korean port of Raseon 라선 (Rasŏn/Naseon/Nasŏn) (which somewhat confusingly seems to be the same as Rajin), Sokcho 속초 in South Korea, just south of the DMZ, and Vladivostok.

North Korea is also hoping to attract tourists from southern China, and has cast its eye on Guangdong province as well as Shanghai.

Also see “China to Offer Railway Tours to N.Korea” in the Choson Ilbo:

A new train service is being offered in China for tours to North Korea. One news website based in China’s Zhejiang Province reported on Wednesday that a large travel agency in the region will offer railway trips from Hangzhou to Sinuiju from April 20.

The trains have 14 sleeper carriages and can transport 800 passengers. They pass Beidahu in Hebei Province and Dandong, Liaoning Province before arriving in Sinuiju, where Chinese passengers will transfer to a North Korean train and embark on an 11-day tour that includes stops in the border truce village of Panmunjom, Mt. Myohyang and the childhood home of former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung. The tours will cost 5,280 yuan for first-class compartments and 4,680 yuan for regular ones.

“Until now, people in Zhejiang Province visited North Korea by flying from Hangzhou either to Beijing or Shenyang and transferring to trains,” said a spokesman for the tour agency. “But the train tours are both cheaper than existing options and offer more sightseeing stops including Beidahu and Dandong, so more than 300 people have signed up already.” China halted tours to North Korea in February of 2006 but decided to start them again this year.

Chinese tourists will not be able to bring mobile phones into North Korea and will also be banned from carrying cameras with zoom lenses and face restrictions on traveling alone in the communist country.

Finally, more information on Chinese tourism has been published in the Donga Ilbo:

Tours of North Korea for Chinese tourists resuming next month have started to be sold in Beijing and Guangdong province, the China Daily said yesterday.

Five to six licensed tour agencies are recruiting Chinese tourists for travel in North Korea in mid-April. As many as 200 people from Beijing alone will visit next month, the daily said.

A few tour packages are up for grabs. A Chinese state-run travel agency is offering a six-day package and a three-day package. For both, tourists will travel by plane but must do so via Hangzhou, Beijing, the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, and Shenyang, so two full days will be needed to get to and from North Korea.

The three-day package is a brief visit to Pyongyang and costs 3,380 yuan (495 U.S. dollars). The six-day tour costing 6,280 yuan (920 U.S. dollars) covers many parts of North Korea. Tourists will visit the day after their departure Mansudae Grand Monument and Chollima Statue in Pyongyang. From the third day, they will go to Panmunjom in Kaesong, beaches in Wonsan, Mount Kumgang, and then back to Pyongyang.

The six-day package could also include a tour to Mount Myohyang. Tourists can also choose to attend a performance celebrating the birthday of North Korea’s late leader Kim Il Sung April 15.

The tourists will also receive a long list of “don’ts.” They will be banned from making noise, mimicking Kim’s postures in front of his statue, and commenting on North Korea’s leaders, politics, military and economy.

Another big no-no is the taking of photos on the trip from Shinuiju to Pyongyang, streets and markets, and images conveying a negative impression of the communist country.

Tourists also must call South Korea “South Korea” instead of the Republic of Korea. They will also be required to leave at immigration offices mobile phones, products with the South Korean or U.S. flag and other symbols of these nations on them, and magazines with open covers upon entering North Korea.

The list also says few public phones are on North Korean streets, adding tourists can make phone calls only at hotels for 16 yuan (2.30 dollars) per minute.

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4 Responses to “China border tourism to North Korea set to rise, South Korean airlines may be involved”

  1. Michael Rank says:

    See also this Xinhua story, I’m not entirely clear what it means as my understanding is Chinese tour groups visit NK pretty often. This seems to be the first centrally organised one of the year…

    1st Chinese tour group to visit DPRK in April
    http://www.china.org.cn/travel/2010-03/13/content_19600490.htm

  2. […] may be proceeding for an influx of Chinese tourists, as trenchantly relayed by Michael Rank at NK Economy Watch, but these funds certainly can’t bail out the DPRK.  Even the recent news […]

  3. […] It looks like North Korea must be hurting for money considering they are allowing an increase of Chinese tourists into the country. […]

  4. Sonagi says:

    While on a train from Beijing to Dandong, I chatted up some Chinese who’d been to North Korea. They weren’t too impressed – nothing to see, nothing to buy, they explained. The Kim cult of personality, dirt-poor countryside, and spartan-looking cities might hold some nostalgic appeal for middle-aged Chinese, but I just don’t see how North Korea can attract more Chinese tourists unless they put some, ahem, fun and adventure into those guided tours. Chinese can already enjoy the beauty of Changbaishan without crossing the border, and the mythical birthplace of Kim Il-sung isn’t high on the list of places to see.