Chinese tourists rarin’ to go to North Korea

By Michael Rank

Chinese tourism to North Korea seems set to boom, with groups from several provinces about to set off and Pyongyang clearly eager to earn much needed extra revenue.

Tourists are warned that they can’t bring in mobile phones and must “respect Korean customs” by avoiding getting into arguments and “not saying or doing anything which is not good for Chinese-Korean friendship”. They are also told not to aim their cameras at “things which may be seen as the dark side of life”, such as litter or people who are not properly dressed.

But demand is strong despite these restrictions, says a report from the booming, export-oriented province of Zhejiang.

The tourists are mainly middle-aged or elderly and include a large proportion of Korean war veterans, says the report, which notes how Pyongyang was devastated in the war and was the victim of 1,400 American bombing raids.

North Korea agreed to welcome Chinese tourists under an agreement signed in September 2008, but implementation was held up by bureaucracy and problems over high costs, and the doors are only opening this month, according to a report from the southern province of Guangdong. It says people are not put off by the fact that tours are quite expensive at about 5,000 yuan ($730) for five days or 6,000 yuan ($880) for six days, and applicants have to fill in plenty of forms and show their work ID and other documents.

The itinerary is much the same as for Western visitors – Pyongyang, the Myohyang mountains and Panmunjom – although in the North Korean capital the Chinese-Korean Friendship Tower is a must-see, featuring a memorial to the “martyrs” of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army who fell in the Korean war, including Mao Zedong’s son Mao Anqing.

A total of 800 tourists from Wenzhou in Zhejiang are due to leave on April 20, as well as another group from the provincial capital Hangzhou. There are no direct flights at present, so they have to fly via Beijing, while tourists from Guangdong fly to Dalian or Shenyang and then take the train to Pyongyang via Dandong.

One Zhejiang travel agent goes so far as to say there is so much interest in North Korea that “It will become a tourism destination second only to Taiwan.”

Further tours are planned from Nanjing, Fuzhou, Jiangxi, Shandong and other cities and provinces, and border tourism is also booming, as noted in several reports on NKEW recently. According to the latest report, a tourism agreement has just been signed between the border town of Ji’an in Jilin province and Manpo, just across the Yalu river.


3 Responses to “Chinese tourists rarin’ to go to North Korea”

  1. NKtourist says:

    There are already tons of Chinese tourists allowed in. One lady I talked to in SH, who had visited several times from Dandong, said her trips were cheap, like RMB1500 all in for several days.

  2. Benoit says:

    How much Chinese tourists were there before?
    Is 800 tourists a significant increase?