Archive for the ‘Gambling’ Category

Visa-free Rason tourism for Chinese citizens

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

According to Choson Exchange:

Chinese tourists will have visa free access to the border regions linking Yanbian Autonomous Region, Rason Special Economic Zone and Russia, according to a report originating with Jilin Radio that surfaced in South Korean media today.

The report doesn’t give an date for implementation, but does state that the previous tourism agreement governing the border region (signed in 2010) will be streamlined. It still takes 10 days for a Chinese traveler to get permission to visit Rason. This process will drop to 2-3 days.

If accurate, this could go a long way towards boosting tourism in the SEZ. After all, a Beijinger or Shanghaiian might well be more willing to spend the money to visit the region if they can get two countries in the same trip. At the risk of overgeneralizing, Asian tourists seem eager maximize passport stamps above all else on international tours. This desire could be effectively exploited if Rason and Russia’s Primorsky Krai province coordinate their marketing.

Also, now that the road to Rason is paved, the ease with which Chinese gamblers can reach the Emperor Casino and Hotel greatly increases and arguably makes the destination seem more normal and therefore attractive. One wonders if the casino’s fleet of crimson humvees, once needed to whisk high-rollers along the laborious dirt road from, will now be replaced by Mercedes or Lexuses. (Lexi?)

Last year, the SEZ experimented with self-drive tours for Chinese citizens, though there has yet to be any follow-up on it.

For westerner tourists thinking of visiting Rason, we recommend Krahun, a company that has had a presence in Rason for over a decade and know the region exceptionally well.

Read the full story here:
Visa Free Rason Tourism for Chinese Citizens
Choson Exchange
Andray Abrahamian
2012-5-29

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“Chinese company” given access to Kumgang facilities

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

According to Yonhap :

North Korea has allowed a Chinese company to do business at its scenic mountain resort, a source said Tuesday, in an apparent attempt to revitalize the resort at the center of a dispute with South Korea.

The company plans to organize a cruise tour to Mount Kumgang on the North’s east coast for Chinese tourists from Hong Kong and other eastern Chinese ports, said the source familiar with the issue.

The company, which won permission to run the business until the end of 2026, also plans to run a casino, a duty free shop and a hotel in the resort, the source said.

The move comes just months after North Korea made a trial cruise from its northeastern port city of Rajin to the mountain resort to try to attract Chinese tourists.

North Korea has launched a series of tourism programs for the Chinese in an apparent bid to earn much-needed hard currency.

For a decade, South and North Korea jointly ran the tour program at the resort, a key symbol of reconciliation on the divided Korean Peninsula.

Still, Seoul halted the cross-border tour program following the 2008 shooting death of a tourist by a North Korean soldier near the resort.

Seoul has demanded a formal apology from Pyongyang for the incident, in addition to improved security measures for tourists, before resuming the tour program, a key cash cow for the North.

However, the North has expelled South Korean workers from the resort and disposed of all South Korean assets there after it unsuccessfully tried to pressure Seoul to resume the tour program.

South Korea has asked foreign countries not to invest or engage in tourism activities at the mountain resort as part of its moves to protect its property rights there.

Dear Yonhap: Would it have been too much trouble to give us the name of the Chinese company or tell us anything about it?

Read the full story here:
N. Korea permits foreign company to run business at its scenic resort
Yonhap
2011-12-3

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DPRK Moscow embassy home to casino?

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Accoridng to KBS:

A Russian company is facing charges of operating a gambling room in the North Korean embassy in Moscow.

The company, which leased the second and third floor of the embassy’s administrative building, has allegedly been running the illegal operation since December.

The North Korean embassy denied the allegations when reports surfaced last week. But signs of a gambling operation were detected in a recent investigation by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued letters of protest to ambassadors from North Korea and Belarus and demanded the casino immediately shutdown to prevent further violation of Russian law and bilateral agreements.

Read the full story here:
Russia Protests NK Embassy’s Casino Operation
KBS
2011-4-21

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North Koreans traveling to Rason to gamble

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

High level North Korean cadres are visiting a casino in the far northeast of the country, disguising their identities so as to avoid government regulations which forbid them from entering, a defector-led NGO has revealed.

Reporting the news, an NK Intellectuals Solidarity inside source explained yesterday, “Recently, cases of high level North Korean cadres disguising their identities to enter Orakjang Casino, which is in the Emperor Hotel in Rasun City, have been occurring frequently.”

The Emperor Hotel was established in 2000 by Emperor Group, a Hong Kong-based property developer. With around 100 rooms, bars, cafes, an indoor swimming pool, sauna, night club, sports center and a fine sea view, the hotel, which cost $64 million to build, employs around 500 people, including a number of North Korean women.

According to the source, while the hotel was regularly frequented by Chinese tourists and officials when it opened, it closed down at the end of 2004 after one official, acting independently, squandered a fortune in public funds there.

However, seizing the opportunity presented by Kim Jong Il’s visits to China last year, the hotel reopened and, according to the source, has recently been doing well off Russian traders, among others.

On this, the source explained, “One of the conditions placed on the opening of the hotel was that North Koreans would not be allowed to enter, and at the beginning their entry seemed to have been thoroughly prohibited,” adding that therefore, “However, as the number of Chinese traders going to the casino increased, so high North Korean cadres doing business with the Chinese and wealthy North Koreans disguising their identities also entered.

The North Koreans apparently pretend to be Korean-Chinese when they enter the casino, where some reportedly gamble away as much as $10,000 per day.

Because North Korean enterprises and factories are unable to operate properly due to a lack of raw materials and capital, average cadres and staff go to gamble mostly to relieve their boredom, the source explained.

Read the full story here:
Casino Luring in Bored North Koreans
Daily NK
Cho Jong-ik
1/27/2011

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Emperor Casino reportedly opens under new name

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

According to the Donga Ilbo:

A casino in the North Korean coastal city of Rason (formerly Rajin and Sonbong) that helps the North earn foreign currency officially resumed operations two months ago, a Chinese source said Monday.

China is known to have allowed its nationals to visit the casino, whose main customers are Chinese.

“Rason Casino is openly doing business and 30 to 40 customers visit every day,” the source based in Hunchun in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Jilin province said Monday. “You can get a tourist visa for North Korea in a day in Yanji (China), which makes visiting a lot easier.”

In addition to those from Korean autonomous prefectures such as Yanji, casino patrons also hail from Harbin, Shenyang and Changchun in northeastern China. They arrive in Yanji, go through the Hunchun customs office 90 minutes away by car, and enter the North Korean village of Wonjong-ri.

They then travel for another 90 minutes by car to the casino. In Wonjong-ri, taxis wait for Chinese visitors who enter the North on foot.

The reopening of the casino was apparently possible thanks to China’s tolerance or cooperation. Formerly known as “Emperor Casino,” the facility was opened by Hong Kong Emperor Group in 2000 and closed at the end of 2004, when a Chinese official from a Korean autonomous prefecture was found to have gambled away a huge sum of public funds at the casino.

Beijing cracked down on gamblers and stopped its nationals from entering the North, and urged Pyongyang to close the casino. Back then, Chinese media reported that the casino earned at least 1 billion yuan (151 million U.S. dollars) per year.

The casino operator is reportedly based in Hong Kong, and probably Emperor Group.

Operations at the casino conspicuously resumed after August, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited Beijing and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed on the development of Rason.

Another source said, however, “In fact, the casino secretly resumed operations a year ago. It now openly attracts customers.”

Approximately 15 minutes away from downtown Rajin by car, the casino is also known to house a five-star hotel, room salons (high-class hostess bars), luxury restaurants and saunas. The source said, “Room salons have as hostesses young Russian, Chinese and North Korean women. Prostitution occurs openly.”

A satellite image of the casino can be seen here.

Read the full story here:
NK casino reopens after Kim Jong Il’s Beijing visit
Donga Ilbo
12/29/2010

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Rason: beyond Pyongyang lies a different world

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Michael Rank writes in the Guardian:

If Pyongyang is North Korea’s showpiece city – albeit an empty and forbidding place – then the country’s interior is something else altogether.

In this desolate city [Rason] 800 kilometres from the capital, the main square turns to a sea of mud in the rain, and there are no street lights so it’s impossible to avoid the puddles at night.

Rason is 50km from the border with China, over a twisting dirt track through the mountains, but it could be another planet.

The cities on the Chinese side are frenetic with activity, skyscrapers sprouting like mushrooms in the rain and traffic jams unavoidable. Rason couldn’t be more different, stuck in a Stalinist time warp. Traffic chiefly consists of ox carts and Chinese lorries. Roads are repaired by teams of workers armed with shovels and picks.

Tourists are a rarity, just 20 so far this year and none at all in 2009, according to Simon Cockerell of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, which specialises in travel to North Korea.

Officially this is a “free economic and trade zone”. In practice that special designation doesn’t appear to make much difference.

The overwhelming majority of those who do venture in are Chinese, many of them lured by the area’s only apparent growth industry – a glittering casino and hotel built by a Hong-Kong multimillionaire.

The Emperor casino was supposed to have shut its doors in 2005 after a senior Chinese transport official gambled away more than 3.5 million yuan (£340,000), much of it public money.

But a few dozen Chinese were observed gambling in the smoky windowless rooms on the top floor of the venue on a recent evening.

Near the casino there is a small island that is linked to the mainland by a short causeway where tourists can relax over a seafood lunch consisting of raw sea urchins, chargrilled octopus and squid washed down with Chinese beer.

Not that Rason is awash with produce. In the 1990s, an acute famine killed many thousands. Although the worst is over, millions continue to go hungry and in Rason a British- charity, Love North Korean Children, makes enormous efforts to ensure that children in the area get enough to eat.

The charity feeds 2,500 children a day, and the youngsters in the Hahyeon nursery school looked well nourished when this reporter visited. But George Rhee, the charity’s founder and powerhouse, stressed that without the steamed buns his bakery provides “all these children would go hungry”.

Rason’s remoteness means it is easier to evade the central government’s relentless grip and benefit from trade, legal and illicit, with nearby China.

North Korea officially maintains the fiction that all economic activity is state-run. It therefore bans foreigners from visiting private markets which help to relieve dire shortages of even staple foods.

Yet during our visit, the Guardian was encouraged to shop in the market for crab for supper, which was cooked in a local restaurant. Apart from seafood, the market also sells cigarettes and alcohol imported from China.

For travellers who like to learn about their surroundings from the locals, North Korea is probably not the best destination.

The Guardian was closely manmarked by minders and ignored by locals. Local officials have been hoping to attract more tourists to Rason by building a golf course and racetrack, but it is hard to imagine these ever materialising in such an isolated and impoverished location.

Read the full story here:
North Korea: beyond the capital lies a different world
The Guardian
Michael Rank
9/26/2010

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North Korea on Google Earth v.18

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered version 18 is available.  This Google Earth overlay maps North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks.

This project has now been downloaded over 140,000 times since launching in April 2007 and received much media attention last month following a Wall Street Journal article highlighting the work.

Note: Kimchaek City is now in high resolution for the first time.  Information on this city is pretty scarce.  Contributions welcome.

Additions to this version include: New image overlays in Nampo (infrastructure update), Haeju (infrastructure update, apricot trees), Kanggye (infrastructure update, wood processing factory), Kimchaek (infrastructure update). Also, river dredges (h/t Christopher Del Riesgo), the Handure Plain, Musudan update, Nuclear Test Site revamp (h/t Ogle Earth), The International School of Berne (Kim Jong un school), Ongjin Shallow Sea Farms, Monument to  “Horizon of the Handure Plain”, Unhung Youth Power Station, Hwangnyong Fortress Wall, Kim Ung so House, Tomb of Kim Ung so, Chungnyol Shrine, Onchon Public Library, Onchon Public bathhouse, Anbyon Youth Power Stations.

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North Korea Google Earth

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered v.16
Download it here

laurent-kabila.jpg

The most recent version of North Korea Uncovered (North Korea Google Earth) has been published.  Since being launched, this project has been continuously expanded and to date has been downloaded over 32,000 times.

Pictured to the left is a statue of Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This statue, as well as many others identified in this version of the project, was built by the North Koreans. According to a visitor:

From the neck down, the Kabila monument looks strangely like Kim Jong Il: baggy uniform, creased pants, the raised arm, a little book in his left hand. From the neck up, the statue is the thick, grim bald mug of Laurent Kabila (his son Joseph is the current president). “The body was made in North Korea,” explains my driver Felix. In other words, the body is Kim Jong Il’s, but with a fat, scowling Kabila head simply welded on.

This is particularly interesting because there are no known pictures of a Kim Jong il statue.  The only KJI statue that is reported to exist is in front of the National Security Agency in Pyongyang.  If a Kim Jong il statue does in fact exist, it might look something like this.

Thanks again to the anonymous contributors, readers, and fans of this project for your helpful advice and location information. This project would not be successful without your contributions.

Version 16 contains the following additions: Rakwon Machine Complex, Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory, Manpo Restaurant, Worker’s Party No. 3 Building (including Central Committee and Guidance Dept.), Pukchang Aluminum Factory, Pusan-ri Aluminum Factory, Pukchung Machine Complex, Mirim Block Factory, Pyongyang General Textile Factory, Chonnae Cement Factory, Pyongsu Rx Joint Venture, Tongbong Cooperative Farm, Chusang Cooperative Farm, Hoeryong Essential Foodstuff Factory, Kim Ki-song Hoeryong First Middle School , Mirim War University, electricity grid expansion, Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground (TSLG)” is also known as the “Musudan-ri Launching Station,” rebuilt electricity grid, Kumchang-ri suspected underground nuclear site, Wangjaesan Grand Monument, Phothae Revolutionary Site, Naedong Revolutionary Site, Kunja Revolutionary Site, Junggang Revolutionary Site, Phophyong Revolutionary Site, Samdung Revolutionary Site, Phyongsan Granite Mine, Songjin Iron and Steel Complex (Kimchaek), Swedish, German and British embassy building, Taehongdan Potato Processing Factory, Pyongyang Muyseum of Film and Theatrical Arts, Overseas Monuments built by DPRK: Rice Museum (Muzium Padi) in Malaysia, Statue de Patrice Lumumba (Kinshasa, DR Congo), National Heroes Acre (Windhoek, Namibia), Derg Monument (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), National Heroes Acre (Harare, Zimbabwe), New State House (Windhoek, Namibia), Three Dikgosi (Chiefs) Monument (Gaborone, Botswana), 1st of May Square Statue of Agostinho Neto (Luanda, Angola), Momunment Heroinas Angolas (Luanda, Angola), Monument to the Martyrs of Kifangondo Battle (Luanda, Angola), Place de l’étoile rouge, (Porto Novo, Benin), Statue of King Béhanzin (Abomey, Benin), Monument to the African Renaissance (Dakar, Senegal), Monument to Laurent Kabila [pictured above] (Kinshasa, DR Congo).
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North Korea on Google Earth

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

North Korea Uncovered: Version 12
Download it here

mayday.JPGAbout this Project: This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, energy infrastructure, political facilities, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, national parks, shipping, mining, and railway infrastructure. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the 12th version.

Additions include: Tongch’ang-dong launch facility overlay (thanks to Mr. Bermudez), Yongbyon overlay with destroyed cooling tower (thanks to Jung Min Noh), “The Barn” (where the Pueblo crew were kept), Kim Chaek Taehung Fishing Enterprise, Hamhung University of education, Haeju Zoo, Pyongyang: Kim il Sung Institute of Politics, Polish Embassy, Munsu Diplomatic Store, Munsu Gas Station, Munsu Friendship Restaurant, Mongolian Embassy, Nigerian Embassy, UN World Food Program Building, CONCERN House, Czech Republic Embassy, Rungnang Cinema, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, Pyongyang Number 3 Hospital, Electric Machines Facotry, Bonghuajinlyoso, Second National Academy of Sciences, Central Committee Building, Party Administration Building, Central Statistics Bureau, Willow Capital Food House, Thongounjong Pleasure Ground, Onpho spa, Phipa Resort Hotel, Sunoni Chemical Complex (east coast refinery), Ponghwa Chemical complex (west coast refinery), Songbon Port Revolutionary Monument, Hoeryong People’s Library, Pyongyang Monument to the anti Japanese martyrs, tideland reclamation project on Taegye Island. Additionally the electricity grid was expanded and the thermal power plants have been better organized. Additional thanks to Ryan for his pointers.

I hope this map will increase interest in North Korea. There is still plenty more to learn, and I look forward to receiving your contributions to this project.

Version 12 available: Download it here

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Download glitch fixed: North Korea Google Earth (version 11)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
Download it here

This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the eleventh version.

Additions include: Mt. Paegun’s Ryonghung Temple and resort homes, Pyongyang’s Chongryu Restaurant, Swiss Development Agency (former UNDP office), Iranian Embassy, White Tiger Art Studio, KITC Store, Kumgangsan Store, Pyongyang Fried Chicken Restaurant, Kilju’s Pulp Factory (Paper), Kim Chaek Steel Mill, Chongjin Munitions Factory, Poogin Coal Mine, Ryongwun-ri cooperative farm, Thonggun Pavilion (Uiju), Chinju Temple (Yongbyon), Kim il Sung Revolutionary Museum (Pyongsong), Hamhung Zoo, Rajin electrified perimeter fence, Pyongsong market (North Korea’s largest), Sakju Recreation Center, Hoeryong Maternity Hospital, Sariwon Suwon reservoir (alleged site of US massacre), Sinpyong Resting Place, 700 Ridges Pavilion, Academy of Science, Hamhung Museum of the Revolutionary Activities of Comrade Kim Il Sung, South Hamgyong House of Culture, Hamhung Royal Villa, Pork Chop Hill, and Pyongyang’s Olympic torch route. Additional thanks go to Martyn Williams for expanding the electricity grid, particularly in Samjiyon, and various others who have contributed time improving this project since its launch.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.  Additionally, this file is getting large and may take some time to load.

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