North Korea Freezes Tourism from China

Just when you thought the Sino-North Korean relationship was back to its apparently solid traditional footing — after all, were not the kisses fresh on the cheeks of the generals with big hats? — North Korea announces that it is freezing tourist visits from China as of December 10.

Reassurances were given that PRC citizens currently in the DPRK would have no problems and could complete their tours.

Given the fanfare with which the Sino-North Korean tourism ties were laid out and broadened earlier this spring, and further deepened with Wen Jiabao’s visit, this new North Korean move is quite an about-face.

It also indicates, perhaps, serious nervousness by Pyongyang about the degree of social stability within the state.  And at a time when the regime appears to be attempting to wean the population off of the Chinese yuan, there isn’t much point in having Chinese tourists return to the PRC with stories of North Korean merchants fighting over those beautiful red 100-yuan notes.

Of course, this is far from the first time that tourism has been a thorn in the Sino-North Korean relationship.  As the Asia Times reported in 2005, a little spat shut down cross-border  traffic between Dandong-Sinuiju and Ji’an-Man’po.

[Hat tip to Juchechosunmanse, whose blog today provides (via Chinese DPRK blogger Hexun) a valuable analysis and translation from the Chinese interview with the head of North Korea’s Central Bank, Jo Sung-hyun, about the recent currency turmoil.]

Hills outside of Man'po, DPRK -- photo by Adam Cathcart

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