North Korea Woos Chinese Tourists to Recoup Losses

Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 04:28 PM

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North Korea might not be high on any tourist destination list, but the reclusive communist nation wants to change that. The country recently took a number of small and unusual steps into the tourist business, The Washington Post reported.

The country has been hit hard by international sanctions because of its nuclear weapons program and is looking to neighboring China to provide some tourist income. The government is promoting the Mount Kumgang tourist resort, a park area near the demilitarized zone on the east coast with pine trees, hiking paths, and Buddhist temples, the Post reported.

North Korea is developing the area after a South Korean company pulled out because a North Korean soldier shot a South Korean female tourist to death. The country has seized the property and is working with investors to develop the area.

A Washington Post reporter was allowed to accompany about 70 Chinese to the area. Most worked for travel agencies or were potential investors. The welcome to North Korea experience began at the Harbin airport where member of the group were told to leave all cellphones behind, sealed in plastic for retrieval when they left, the Post reported.

At a stopover in Pyongyang, the group was told not to leave the hotel, not to take photographs of buildings under construction, and not to try to interact with ordinary people.

Regardless of the restrictions, the North Koreans see a big payday from the Chinese, who view the country as exotic and filed with clean air and water, the Post reported. About 10,000 tourists have visited since the resort was opened.

North Korea still has a way to go before it makes up for the South Koreans who stopped coming after the tourist was shot for allegedly wandering into a restricted area. Hundreds of thousands were visiting each year, and North Korea was pulling in hundreds of millions from the venture, according to the Post.

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