China halts tourism to North over war jitters

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China halts tourism to North over war jitters

BEIJING - Following local authorities in northeastern China halting tourists from crossing its border into North Korea, Beijing Thursday issued a temporary suspension of all tourists traveling to Pyongyang and also advised them to carefully consider travel plans to Seoul.

A travel agency in Beijing relayed yesterday, “The Chinese government issued an emergency notice to regional governments to notify travel agencies to temporarily halt all travel to North Korea from [April] 11.”

Shanghai’s tourism administration issued an emergency notice to all travel agencies in the city on Thursday stating, “Following the tension-ridden situation on the Korean Peninsula, halt all travel to North Korea for the time being.”

Likewise, a Beijing tourism administration official stated yesterday, “For the safely of travelers starting from April 11, we have decided to suspend leisure travel to North Korea and also advise to carefully proceed in travel to South Korea.”

The official said that such advisories have been issued in most cities throughout China. But travel related to business or trade has not yet been blocked.

The advisory to “carefully proceed” to South Korea indicates unless there are special circumstances, officials advise travelers to refrain from visiting South Korea. Travel agencies expect this to have an impact on Chinese tourism in Korea.

Another travel agent said yesterday, “After North Korea’s nuclear test in February, there have been fewer calls regarding visiting Korea from the Chinese. In March, there was a 5-10 percent drop in tourism to Korea compared to last year.”

Last year, some 70,000 Chinese traveled to North Korea.

The U.K.’s Koryo Tours, which specializes in North Korea tours and is based in Beijing, as well as several over North Korea tour agencies, declared yesterday they will continue to operate tours to Pyongyang.

On Wednesday, travel agencies in Dandong, Liaoning Province, and Yanji in Jilin Province for the first time blocked Chinese tourists from crossing northern borders following orders from local authorities as tension mounted on the Korean Peninsula following a shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Last week, Pyongyang told diplomats there it could not guarantee their safety after Wednesday and warned foreigners in the South to make evacuation plans.

None of the embassies in Pyongyang or Seoul have made any evacuation movements, despite Pyongyang’s impending missile launch.

By Choi Hyung-kyu, Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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