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The North’s Korea International Youth Travel Agency told a Chinese tourist agency that hotels in Pyongyang would be closed for renovations for 20 days starting on Saturday. Another North Korean travel agency informed their Chinese partner that an unspecified “state decision” meant they had to stop receiving Chinese tour group package travellers until September 5, the reports said. North Korea has in the past restricted entry to foreign tourists as the country prepares for significant events, giving a variety of reasons for the moves, Yonhap reported. The latest measures come as the North prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the government. Two months later, the real winner of Trump-Kim summit emerges In his new year speech in January, leader Kim Jong-un said the North Korean people would “greet the 70th founding anniversary of their republic as a great, auspicious event”. In part thanks to a recent diplomatic thaw, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the North has rapidly increased. Between 1,000 and 2,000 tourists are currently visiting popular sites such as the North’s side of the demilitarised zone in a single day, NK News, an online news provider, said. The surge in Chinese tourism may have been seen by North Korean authorities as straining Pyongyang’s limited hotel infrastructure ahead of the anniversary, it added. The North has been preparing for the arrival of foreign delegations and thousands of North Korean citizens have reportedly been practising choreographed movements in Pyongyang for the official celebration of the anniversary. North Korea continues dismantling missile launch site YTN TV quoted a military official as saying that soldiers and weapons were converging on Mirim military airport near Pyongyang to practise a military parade. A satellite picture showed massive camouflage hangars have been put up, sparking speculation that the North might be hiding long-range missile transport and launch vehicles.
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In recent weeks, Chinese media such as Alibaba-owned South China Morning Post and even official news agency Xinhua have reported on Chinese tourists’ alleged return to South Korea. However, as Jing Travel has previously argued , recent growth primarily comes down to that numbers are now compared to post-travel ban figures from last year. This is further corroborated by Park Yong-hwan, senior deputy director of the China Team at the Korea Tourism Organization, who told the Global Times that growth “this year is expected to be slightly higher than the previous year due to the base effect.” Other state media’s eagerness to report on Chinese tourism growth in South Korea could have indicated that a softening or lifting of the now over one-year-old tourism ban was imminent, but the Global Times’ rebuttal now puts that into question. The expected return of Chinese group travelers now appears less-than-imminent Now, with tensions seemingly easing on the Korean peninsula, South Korean tourism stakeholders are now reportedly promoting peace-themed tours along the DMZ as a sign of the times. However, even a message of peace seems to fail to resonate with Chinese tour operators (or, perhaps more likely, their governing bodies). “Major travel agencies in China, for example, Ctrip, have no plans to explore business opportunities in ‘peace-themed’ tours,” the Global Times reported. Of course, it should perhaps be pointed out that Chinese online travel agencies (OTAs) are still barred from selling any South Korea tour packages , so the “no plans” may simply be because they’re indefinitely unable to do so—whether peace-themed or not. However, as arguments often go in Chinese media, the underlying cause of all this unpleasantness isn’t South Korea, China, or even North Korea—it’s the United States. “The interference of US forces jeopardized Sino-South Korea ties, including business relations,” Liang Qidong, vice president of the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences told the publication. Liang also argued that it’s THAAD which caused “significant losses” to the South Korean tourism industry. Of course, fact that a growing number of Chinese free independent travelers (FITs) are visiting South Korea would suggest that it’s less about THAAD repelling Chinese group travelers, and more about China’s tourism ban doing just that.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit https://jingtravel.com/dont-expect-chinese-travelers-chinese-state-media-tells-south-korea/