Pictured Above (Google Earth): Two Google Earth satellite images of Hoeryong (L: 2002-4-27, R: 2008-12-25) which show the construction of residential apartments buildings as well as the town’s new main market.
Hoeryong is a town in North Hamgyong Province that lies across the Tumen (Tuman) River from China. According to North Korean political narratives it is also the childhood home of Kim Jong-il’s mother, Kim Jong-suk. It has been the the site of a large construction boom in the last five years, and now, according to the Daily NK, Chinese tourists are being brought in on very limited itineraries. According to the article:
The Hoiryeong source explained, “North Hamkyung Province ‘shock troops’ and military unit construction teams have been here for three years on Kim Jong Il’s orders for the construction, and now it is finished.” Local households were asked to contribute 12,000 North Korean Won each to the construction effort, he added.
Hoiryeong used to have few buildings with five floors, but now it has a considerable number of new four and five floor apartment buildings built around the center of the city, as well as a number of newly built commercial facilities. Buildings in the downtown core have also been spruced up with external lighting, a project that began last April.
There are a number of new restaurants in the area. One, ‘Hoiryeonggwan’, has been decorated in the style of Pyongyang’s famous ‘Okryugwan’, something that Kim Jong Il is said to have ordered in December 2010 when he visited the construction site. Elsewhere, restaurants serving spicy marinated beef, duck, dog and Chinese food have also opened their doors.
However, these restaurants only currently open on the weekend or when Chinese tour groups make an advanced reservation, according to the source, who revealed that local people regard the construction effort more as an attempt to generate tourist revenue than to make it a real ‘model city’, as the official propaganda claims.
“Chinese tourists come, then they visit the statue of Kim Jong Suk and the place where she grew up, and then they are taken to one or other of the restaurants,” the source said. “They drink and make merry then go, all without visiting any scenic spots; thus, the authorities make money.”
As with other tourist operations, it is possible that this small step will lead to a softening of restrictive tourism regulations and potentially the arrival of Western tourists. But don’t hold your breath! Chinese tourists have been visiting Sinuiju on a regular basis, but westerners are generally still prohibited from touring the city
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Model City or Tourist Trap: Hoiryeong Sparkles
Choi Song Min