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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean and Russian tour operators plan to hold a meeting in June to discuss opportunities for expanding bilateral cooperation in the field of tourism, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East announced on Thursday.
Russian Deputy Minister for the Development of the Far East Alexander Krutikov announced the plan in a written statement.
“The potential for the development of relations in tourism between the countries is high,” the minister said, adding that the North Korean side has set up a new counterpart organization to the Russian tour agencies without providing details.
August last year saw the launch of a new Russian travel agency “NKOREAN,” hinting at expanding bilateral cooperation in the field of tourism between the countries.
Though the operator of the company remains unclear, its official website features the logos of Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism and the Korea International Travel Company (KITC).
Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Galushka has been a vocal champion of Moscow’s desire to expand bilateral cooperation in the field of tourism.
The minister has in the past called on the North to ease visa requirements for Russian citizens to improve bilateral relations and boost tourism, saying Moscow’s interest in the DPRK is “very high.”
Pyongyang has also informed Moscow of its plans to simplify the visa process for Russian citizens, Galushka said in the same statement on Thursday.
The minister said the DPRK’s new policy was a response to last year’s move by Moscow to allow North Koreans to visit Russia’s Far East area using an electronic visa, adding he believes it will “lead to an increase in the tourist flow.”
Under Russia’s recent rule change, citizens of 18 countries, including the DPRK, can obtain e-visas through a simplified online procedure.
Holders of the e-visa, however, can enter and exit the country only through designated border crossing points in “territory of the free port of Vladivostok.”
Minister Galushka said Russia’s State Duma was reviewing extending the e-visa procedure to other airport checkpoints in the Far East region.
Moscow plans to apply the simplified visa process to airports which are equipped with the system: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Ignatyevo, Khabarovsk Novy, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Anadyr (Ugolny).
He said the e-visa system will be extended to other checkpoints in the regions of Magadan, Yakutsk and Buhta Provideniya in the future.
Meanwhile, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East also announced that both Russian and North Korean technical experts will in June hold talks on plans to build a motorway bridge between the two countries across the Tumen River.
In March, Moscow and Pyongyang held practical discussions on the constitution of the automobile bridge on the occasion of the 8th meeting of the DPRK-Russia intergovernmental committee for cooperation in trade, economy, science and technology held in Pyongyang.
Thursday saw the ministry say the two parties have held several meetings since then on the implementation of the project, with deputy minister Krutikov in a written statement saying the DPRK and Russian technical experts would need to discuss the amount of equipment and materials necessary for the construction.
Pyongyang will provide the workforce and the construction materials while Moscow will offer the necessary equipment and building supplies.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)