BEIJING (Yonhap News) ― North Korea is expanding travel routes between China and its scenic resort in Mount Geumgang, a source familiar with the North said Monday, indicating Pyongyang’s continued efforts to earn much-needed cash from Chinese tourists.
The new routes will include extra flights from Chinese cities to Mount Geumgang on North Korea’s east coast, in addition to trains and expressways linking Beijing to the mountain resort via Pyongyang, the source said on condition of anonymity.
The move comes after North Korea recently ran a trial cruise from its northeastern port city of Rajin to Mount Geumgang.
The source also said more than 100 Chinese tourists traveled to the resort on a five-day itinerary at the end of last month.
By the end of this month, North Korea is planning to launch a tour program to Mount Geumgang from China’s northeastern city of Harbin, although it is not clear whether the flight will land in Pyongyang or at a military airport on the mountain, the source said.
North Korea is reported to be considering converting a military airfield near the resort to a civilian airport to facilitate travel to the area.
“Starting with Harbin, (North Korea) plans to operate flights for Mount Geumgang from 16 cities across China, including Beijing, Shenyang and Guangzhou,” the source said.
“They also plan to attract Chinese visitors by opening a railway and expressway linking Beijing, Pyongyang and Mount Geumgang,” the source added, saying the first train tour on the route will likely be in April.
The move comes amid a dispute over the handling of South Korean assets at the resort. Seoul halted an inter-Korean joint tour program to the resort in 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist in the area.
In protest, North Korea recently expelled South Korean workers from the resort and vowed to legally dispose of all South Korean assets there. The tour program had served as a cash cow for the impoverished North.
South Korea has asked foreign countries not to invest or engage in tourism activities at the resort in a bid to protect its property rights there.