Amid warming relations between China and North Korea, a major entry point has seen throngs of Chinese tourists gathering to cross the border, sources in the area report.
“At Dandong Customs House, Chinese tourists can easily be seen lining up for entry into North Korea. I’ve seen roughly 1,000 people processed for entry into the North on buses between the morning opening and lunchtime,” a source in China close told Daily NK.
After re-opening following suspensions surrounding the September 9 national holiday, Chinese tourist numbers to the North have begun to rise. According to the source, interest among Chinese nationals in traveling to North Korea spiked after the third China-North Korea summit in June, and many have descended on Dandong to travel into the North. With a range of packages on offer, Chinese tourists can enjoy 3 night/4 day and 5 night/6 day options spanning Sinuiju, Pyongyang, and Mount Kumgang, among other regions.
Hamstrung by sanctions, the North Korean authorities likely see tourism as an easy, legal foreign-currency earning avenue, with plans to expand operations, evidenced by the Wonsan-Kalma marine tourist zone and construction of tourist facilities in the Samjiyon area.
Chinese tourists typically buy all manner of specialty products upon their visits to the North, making them popular among North Korean vendors who go above and beyond to accommodate the demands of their Chinese patrons.
“The North Korean authorities are actively pursuing tourism as a cash stream after others were blocked and they’re banking on the Chinese as the answer for now,” another source noted.