Chinese tour groups are enjoying North Korea

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Chinese tour groups are enjoying North Korea

North Korea’s state-run carrier Air Koryo resumed flights between its capital Pyongyang and the Chinese port city of Dalian, in the southern part of Liaoning Province, last Thursday for the first time in 12 years amid warming ties between the two Communist allies, according to sources in China’s tourism industry.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Air Koryo will operate flights twice weekly, every Thursday and Sunday. Chinese tourists are allowed to book plane tickets through local tour agencies. The last time a North Korean plane regularly flew between the two cities was in November 2006.

North Korean tourism isn’t banned under UN Security Council resolutions. As relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have started to improve this year, Chinese industry insiders say the impoverished regime has taken every opportunity to cash in on foreign tourists, especially those from its neighbor. Last June, the North Korean government invited a group of Chinese tour agents to promote new travel packages around the country.

One source in China’s tour industry said one of the most popular tour packages is a single-day course that takes Chinese tourists from a Chinese border town to a North Korean border town, namely Dandong, in southeastern Liaoning Province, to Sinuiju, in North Pyongan Province. Another popular course takes Chinese tourists from Hunchun in Jilin Province to Rason, one of the North’s special economic zones.

The Hunchun-Rason course is especially popular among Chinese tourists craving a taste of North Korean seafood, the source continued, adding that a family of five can enjoy a variety of marine products including crab and shrimp for just 300 yuan ($43.66).

Under UN Security Council Resolution 2371, unanimously adopted in August 2017 after Pyongyang carried out intercontinental ballistic missile tests, every UN member state is banned from importing North Korean seafood.

Some South Korean experts said the reopening of the Pyongyang-Dalian route may be the result of Li Zhanshu’s visit to the North. Li, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo under the Communist Party Central Committee and chairman of the rubber-stamp parliament, led a delegation to visit North Korea last week as a special representative of Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend celebrations of the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding.

Li, known as the third highest-ranked official in China, arrived in Pyongyang on Sept. 8 and left on Sept. 11. During his stay, he watched a military parade at the Kim Il Sung Square and a mass gymnastics performance at the Mansudae Art Theater in Pyongyang, both alongside North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Kim was reported by the North’s media to have later hosted a banquet for China’s delegation.

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