North Korea opened its newest tourism zone at Sinuiju near the Chinese border last week, according to a report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday.
The new zone runs along the river Yalu, separating the DPRK from the nearby Chinese border city of Dandong, and is accessible by boat.
“The zone, developed in the shore of the River Amnok jointly by the Korea Myohyangsan Travel Company and the Dandong International Travel Agency of China, has modern all-round service facilities,” the article reads.
Tour operator Young Pioneer Tours (YPT) told NK News the new zone was currently open to Chinese tourists who will not require a visa to cross into the DPRK when visiting the area.
The visa free arrangement however only extends to the confines of the Sinuiju SEZ, with visitors not allowed out of the area. There are currently no hotels in the tourism zone, and visits will be restricted to day trips.
“The tour will cost Chinese nationals 300RMB ($46) and that includes the return trip on the boat,” YPT guide Rowan Beard said.
The facilities mentioned in the KCNA article currently consist of a gift shop, restaurants and performances.
“It’s just a typical little holiday zone that the Chinese visitors would enjoy. Shopping and food,” Beard said.
YPT also said plans were in motion to open up the zone to western visitors, who would also be able to visit from Dandong without the need a visa, though no timetable has yet been set for the additional tours.
Last week DPRK media revealed plans to develop the area, which is part of North Korea’s designated special economic zones (SEZs). The ambitious project to turn the area into international economic zone include the construction air and sea ports, though would likely be dependent on foreign investment.
The new visa free arrangements could start the process, by bringing extra tourist money into the area.
“Having this zone cuts down the two day waiting period Chinese tourists are required for applying for a DPRK visa. So this little zone will certainly boost the DPRK tourism industry. Roughly 30,000 Chinese tourists visited Sinuiju alone this year. A number that has been steady for years,” Beard told NK News.
In contrast, there are an estimated 6,000 western tourists visiting the DPRK each year.