Observers note an increase in Chinese visits to the North Korea-China border region. The Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan reported that Chinese people, reminiscent of their country’s past, have shown interest in North Korea. It has become somewhat of a trend to take photos with the Yalu River in Dandong, China, as the backdrop.
A Chinese woman in her 60s said, “The scenery of North Korea reminds me of my childhood in China,”
and it’s not just the older generation but also those in their 20s who are showing increased interest in the region. With the trend of taking photos with North Korea as the backdrop on social media, more young people are visiting the area.
In response to this interest, travel agencies in Dandong have created North Korean tourism programs.
These tours allow visitors to see North Korea while touring Dandong for about 4 hours.
Dandong is a gateway between North Korea and China, connecting to Sinuiju in North Korea. Due to the influx of tourists, vendors are selling North Korean souvenirs and Daedonggang beer in a row around the Yalu River.
In the past, day trips to North Korea were very popular in China. Travel packages focused on the North Korea-China border regions like Jilin or Hunchun, where visitors could enjoy seafood in North Korea and return. A day trip to North Korea costs about 50,000 won ($42), making it affordable and attracting many visitors. People could visit without any burden and spend the day at a low cost. The itinerary for this package involved crossing the border by bus from the North Korea-China border region, eating seafood in North Korea, purchasing local products, and returning to China.
North Korea announced that it would open its borders and allow foreign visitors from the 25th of last month. China Central TV (CCTV) reported that North Korea has fully opened its borders for the first time in 3 years and 8 months. Chinese travel agencies have started selling tour products and recruiting tourists for North Korea for 2023-2024.
These agencies have limited the number of group tourists to 24 people. There are two schedules for the travel products: 4 nights and 5 days, and 7 nights and 8 days. The price range varies from 600,000 won ($507) to 3 million won ($2,535), and tourists will fly to Sinuiju on Air Koryo. They will watch the North Korean military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang, collective gymnastics, and special performances. They will also visit regional cities like DMZ, Kaesong, and Sariwon.
A North Korea-specialized travel agency in Sweden has also started accepting reservations for North Korean travel products. North Korea has been renovating tourism facilities since the border’s opening, but the pace of renovation is slow.
A Norwegian TV personality revealed that he had visited North Korea. Nikolai said he traveled around various cities in North Korea. He stayed for 6 nights and 7 days through a package tour. The cost for a week was 1.5 million won ($1,270), which covered flights from China, a hotel, and meals. He mentioned that they assign foreigners visiting North Korea to the best hotels.
Foreigners visiting North Korea cannot travel freely. They require strict rules, and a local guide must always accompany tourists. Also, they monitor tourists 24 hours a day and require them to leave their passports with the local guide. In North Korea, they receive a foreigner’s ID written in Korean instead of a passport.
Tourists must get permission from the guide to take any photos or videos during their trip. Tourists can only take photographs at permitted locations. They cannot have any conversations with people other than the guide. It is impossible to go outside the hotel at night. They can carry laptops or tablets but cannot use location-tracking systems. In particular, tourists should not damage political propaganda or fold or tear pictures of President Kim Il-sung or Chairman Kim Jong-il.
On the North Korea-specialized travel website, you can check the reviews of tourists. One foreigner who visited with his son said, “I went out of curiosity before the last communist dictatorship on Earth collapsed. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.” A tourist from Norway said, “Although I can’t deny the poverty, it’s not as bad as what I saw when I traveled to countries like Kenya, India, and Bolivia. I gained a new perspective after the trip.”
Overseas travel agencies promote North Korean tourism as a “journey to the hermit kingdom” and “a trip to the unknown world,” stirring curiosity. For Chinese people, they are promoting the opportunity to experience the memories of old China in North Korea.
By. Seo Sung Min