Chinese tourists in North Korea: ‘almost a necessary evil’
11/06/2019|4:44:59 PM|SCMP

North Korea might not seem a likely victim of overtourism but, according to the website NK News, the hermit kingdom is struggling to accommodate a surge in arrivals from its neighbor to the west. On October 31, the Seoul-based platform estimated “conservatively” that a record 350,000 Chinese tourists will have visited the isolated nation by the year’s end, adding that the volume of visitors is causing problems at some of the most popular destinations in the capital Pyongyang and beyond.

Improved relations between China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, whose leaders have met five times since March 2018, are believed to be behind the DPRK’s increased appeal, although the desire to know more about a mysterious neighbor and a lack of gambling laws also play a role. As does nostalgia. “I don’t want to speak for all Chinese any more than I would for all Koreans, but there is a tendency for mainland tourists to assume that the DPRK is simply China from 40 years ago,” Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, told NK News.

Banking on another “conservative” estimate from NK News that each arrival spends US$500 per trip, the nation could net as much as US$175 million from tourism this year, without having to worry about those pesky international sanctions. “Simply by targeting the Chinese with their tourism business, North Korea can earn a considerable amount of foreign currency,” one source told news site Daily NK.

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