A Chinese tourism delegation has arrived in North Korea, Pyongyang’s state media said Saturday, amid the North’s efforts to revitalize a stalled tour program to a scenic mountain that once served as its key cash cow.
The trip comes weeks after the North announced a law designed to develop Mount Kumgang as a special zone for international tours.
It marked the first time Chinese have traveled to North Korea through a newly opened air route between Pyongyang and the Chinese economic powerhouse of Shanghai, the North’s Korean Central News Agency reported.
The delegation, led by a senior Communist Party official handling tourism on the scenic mountain, arrived on Friday, the KCNA said, an indication that the North will try to attract Chinese tourists to the mountain resort.
The Chinese tourists from Shanghai plan to tour monuments in Pyongyang, the border village of Panmunjom that separates the two Koreas and the mountain resort on the east coast before returning home Tuesday, the KCNA said.
“An increasing number of Chinese people are expected to come for sightseeing in Mount Kumgang and other tourist attractions,” the KCNA quoted Jo Song-gyu, director of the Korean International Travel Company, as saying.
The development comes amid a looming dispute between South and North Korea over South Korean assets seized at the mountain resort.
The North has threatened to dispose of the assets unless South Korean company officials visit the resort by July 13 with plans on how to handle their assets, which are estimated to be worth 300 billion won ($278 million).
South Korea has vowed to protect the property rights of South Korean firms, but indicated it will not allow company officials to visit North Korea over their seized assets.