SEOUL – Western visitors will soon be allowed to enter the Sino-North Korean border town of Sinuiju on short one day trips, a Beijing-based tour company said.
The route was previously only open to Chinese tourists, who often have more access to areas of North Korea not yet open to Western visitors.
“Chinese tourists have always been able to open up different areas first in the past- they bring large numbers, don’t ask questions and don’t publicize their trips, so are seen as low risk,” Troy Collings of Young Pioneer Tours told NK News.
“After the recent Chinese travel ban on Chinese tourists entering the DPRK I think they are seeing the value of expanding their markets.”
Chinese tourists are still able to go directly overland from China to Chogjin and Hoeryong whilst Western tourists, Collings says, can only enter via Namyang, a small town on the Tumen river.
Permits to enter Sinuiju on a day trip can be processed in as little as four days, North Korean officials told Young Pioneer Tours.
SINUIJU MARKETS AND MARKETIZATION
Sinuiju City, which sits across the Yalu river from the Chinese town of Dandong, is at the centre of a North Korean Special Economic Zone (SEZ), and is home to a large proportion of Sino-North Korean trade.
The city is home to some of North Korea’s more tolerated and state-sanctioned markets, although these will remain off-limits to visitors.
“Markets are definitely not on the table at this point,” Collings said. “Rason is still the only open market to tourists in the country.”
Tours will be run by North Korea-based Sinuiju Travel company, and arranged via the China International Travel Service (CITS).
The deal was announced today, and is not exclusive to Young Pioneer Tours, Collings said. Other tour agencies have yet to announce plans to offer tours to Sinuiju.
(Headline picture: NK News)