Over 30,000 Chinese tourists to visit Pyongyang this year

Michael Rank

Over 30,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit Pyongyang this year, well above normal levels of around 20,000, and numbers are likely to increase further in future, the head of the Pyongyang-based Korean International Travel Company said recently.

In a rare instance of a North Korean official divulging meaningful statistics, Jo Seong-gyu 조성규 赵成奎 was quoted on a Chinese website as saying that in addition to the average 20,000 Chinese tourists who visit under national agreements, a further 20,000 Chinese visitors a year cross into North Korea as border tourists. He said these had been typical levels since a bilateral tourism agreement was signed in 1988. Although Chinese tourists typically number around 20,000 annually, there had been up to 50,000 in some years, as well as years when levels had dipped sharply, he added.

Jo was speaking to Chinese journalists visiting Pyongyang to mark a newly implemented bilateral tourism agreement. He did not say how many border tourists were expected this year, but several new local agreements have been signed recently, so that number is also likely to increase.

Jo said KITC had hired almost 90 Chinese-speaking guides to cope with the expected flood of Chinese tourists. Apart from the usual tourist sights of Pyongyang, the Myohyang mountains and Gaeseong, there are also plans for Chinese tourists to visit the Chinese Korean war cemetery in Hoechang 회창군 county (satellite image here), about 100 km east of the capital, where 134 “martyrs” of the Chinese People’s Volunteers are buried, including Mao Anying 毛岸英, son of Chinese leader Mao Zedong. The 90,000 square metre cemetery is the largest of dozens of such cemeteries in North Korea. Click here for photos of Premier Wen Jiabao visiting the cemetery last October.

Jo said Mt. Chilbo 칠보산 七宝山 on the Sino-Korean border will also be opened to Chinese tourists.

He said the increase in Chinese tourists visiting North Korea was due to a vogue for “red tourism”  – nostalgic tours to revolutionary sites which have become fashionable in China in recent years. These tend to appeal mainly to the older generation who remember the Maoist era, including perhaps the Korean war, and Chinese reports suggest that visitors to North Korea are often in their fifties and sixties.

Jo warned Chinese tourists to behave themselves, saying they should “respect Korean laws and regulations and moral standards and proceed from a standpoint of cherishing Korean-Chinese friendship, mutual understanding and tolerance.”


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