Despite the ongoing UN sanctions against North Korea, Chinese tourism to the reclusive land is on the rise. According to the South Korean wire service Yonhap, the appeal lies in the fresh, pristine seafood the North has to offer.
A knowledgeable source quoted on Sunday by the news provider said North Korean seafood was widely believed in China to be untouched by pollution. Crabs and prawns from North Korea are blatantly sold at major restaurants, even in Beijing, having come in via furtive routes.
The movement for a closer Sino-North Korean relationship, one centered on tourism, seems to be proceeding at an expedited pace since Sept. 9, when Chinese Politburo member Li Zhanshu paid a visit to the reclusive regime as a special envoy to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea. Li is the third-highest-ranking member of China’s ruling Communist Party.
On Thursday, flights between Pyongyang and Dalian, China, reopened after 12 years. On Sunday, Chinese group tours to North Korea resumed.
The Dalian-Pyongyang flight route operates weekly on Thursdays and Sundays. Chinese tourists can book the trip through travel agencies. Dalian is where Chinese president Xi Jinping met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May. In the eyes of some observers, this step reflects a public stance on the part of both countries that they intend to bolster cooperation by starting with tourism, which is a gray area where UN sanctions are concerned.
According to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, budget day tours highlighting North Korean seafood have gained popularity in China’s Jilin and Hunchun provinces, which share borders with North Korea. The cost is 100 yuan ($14.50) per person, and each travel agency is allowed to send around 500 people a day to the North.
For a family of five, getting a hearty fill of North Korean crabs and prawns along with beverages would amount to 300 yuan.
A typical day trip of this sort involves Chinese tourists crossing the border to North Korea from an adjacent Chinese province, having a seafood meal and purchasing North Korean souvenirs such as cigarettes and clothes before returning to China.
Since July, train tickets connecting the Chinese city of Dandong with Pyongyang have been in high demand, with reports suggesting some 1,000 to 2,000 Chinese tourists visit Pyongyang every day.
By opening the gates to Chinese group tourists as of Sunday, North Korea can be expected bring in more cash to support Kim Jong-un’s regime.
The inter-Korean summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled in Pyongyang from Tuesday through Thursday. The biggest item on the agenda is the denuclearization of North Korea.
By Lim Jeong-yeo (firstname.lastname@example.org)