NK, China launch new tourism train
By Kim Young-jin
North Korea and China have opened a regular train service between the northeast Chinese city of Tumen and Chilbo Mountain in the North for tourism, Xinhua reported Monday.
A total of 65 tourists took for a four-day trip Saturday on the train that will travel once per week, Chinese travel authorities said.
According to the report, they walked to the North Korean city of Namyang across the Tumen River before boarding the train; taking a walking tour of the area beforehand.
The group will visit the mountain in Chongjin, North Hamgyeong Province as well as hot spring spas in the area during their stay, the report said.
The North’s state media reported that hundreds of Chinese tourists visited the mountain late last year, and they had requested that the tourism services be expanded.
The tourists stayed in one- or two-story “dwelling houses…of Korean and European styles” with capacities of between 40 to 100 people, a report by the official Korean Central News Agency said. A tourism program provided them with a “good understanding of the Korean people’s history, culture, traditions and customs.”
Mt. Chilbo, which translates into “seven treasures,’ is known for its peculiar rock formations and views when covered with snow.
The service is part of efforts by China’s Jilin Province to promote cultural exchanges with the North.
The North last year sought to boost tourism in an apparent bid to attract cash. Those efforts reportedly included plans to expand Chinese travel to the Mt. Geumgang in the North, the site of a stalled inter-Korean tourism project.
Pyongyang last year expelled the last remaining South Korean workers from Mt. Geumgang and said it would legally dispose of South Korean assets under a new plan to set up a special zone for international tours to the mountain.
The South’s Hyundai Asan is the main investor in the project that has become a source of controversy between the two governments since a South Korean tourist was shot to death there in 2008, when she wandered into an area the North said was a military zone.
China, the North’s main ally, has steadily expanded economic cooperation with the impoverished state in recent years in apparent bid to ensure stability on its border.