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Visiting DPRK grows in popularity among Chinese

China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-21 07:14

A crowd welcomes General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and President Xi Jinping at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport on Thursday. Xi arrived for a two-day state visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. PANG XINGLEI/XINHUA

PYONGYANG-Nearly 70 years ago, in October 1950, hundreds of thousands of young Chinese men and women in uniform crossed the border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to fight in the Korean War alongside their Korean comrades.

Nowadays, hundreds of Chinese people cross the Yalu River from the city of Dandong-by train or by bus-to sightsee in the DPRK. Others seek to uncover wartime stories.

Panmunjom, located in the DPRK-Republic of Korea border town of Kaesong, receives international tourists every year. The village, which witnessed the signing of the armistice agreement that halted the Korean War (1950-53), or more recently the historic summit of the heads of the DPRK and the ROK, is now crowded with curious visitors interested in looking into the ROK from inside the DPRK.

"I grew up watching Heroic Sons and Daughters and Shangganling, among others. I can still recite many pieces lauding the Chinese People's Volunteer Army, so I hold special emotions and am curious about the DPRK," said a retired engineer from Beijing who gave his name only as Li.

Shangganling was a battlefield where many Chinese fought for 43 days, starting on Oct 14, 1952, in which a strategic hill was retaken from the ROK's army. Some call it the "Verdun of Korea" after the long, bloody battle in World War I. The Korean War battle has been portrayed in movies and historical accounts. "The trip fulfills a long-cherished wish of mine," Li added.

The special bond between China and the DPRK is personal not only to Li.

Zhang Runfu runs a travel agency in Dandong, Liaoning province. Of the roughly 200,000 annual Chinese visitors to the DPRK, his agency sends over 3,000 of them.

He said the tourists-most of them elderly-go to DPRK not only to sightsee but also to have a close look at where their parents' generation had fought.

Zhang said travel to the neighboring country has been thriving, especially since Kim Jong-un, top leader of the DPRK, visited China in March 2018. Still, tourism to the DPRK was hit hard by UN sanctions despite no penalty for international travel to the country.

The top destinations for foreign visitors include Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, the Tower of the Juche Idea, and the Mansu Hill Statues.

Chinese visitors who were interviewed said they are satisfied with the DPRK's tourism offerings, including hotel, guides, transport and cuisine.


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