JUNE 1 (Reuters) — The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held an investment seminar Thursday (May 28) aimed at attracting foreign investment and visitors to Wonsan-Mount Kumgang international tourist zone.
The zone’s investment programs, two-thirds of which relate to tourism, include an amusement park, a nature park, a bathing beach, a golf course, yachting and even casinos.
As a world-notable tourist attraction, Mount Kumgang used to be a symbol of amicable relations between DPRK and neighboring Republic of Korea (ROK).
ROK tourists began traveling to Mount Kumgang by cruise ship in 1998, and multinational conglomerate Hyundai was granted a 50-year monopoly for operating the tourist spot.
An estimated 1.93 million ROK travelers visited the mountain over the following decade.
In 2008, however, an ROK tourist was killed by DPRK soldiers after mistakenly entering a military area. The ROK then temporarily suspended trips to Mount Kumgang.
In 2011, DPRK authorities retracted Hyundai’s operating license and established the Mount Kumgang international tourist zone.
One year later, the tourist zone re-opened to the public in a relatively quiet state.
Although two duty-free stores invested in by Chinese enterprises have since closed, the situation is now gradually changing as the number of tourists keeps growing.
“There will be 150 to 200 people [visiting the store] when tourists come here to travel,” said a salesperson at a duty-free shop.
Besides the international tourist zone, other venues showcasing DPRK characteristics serve as tourist attractions.
“We went to the persimmon village in the DPRK, which was listed on the travel agenda. I thought it was really good, and I played with children there too,” said a tourist from Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan Province.
As the tourist season gets into full swing, DRPK will open more direct, chartered flights.
So far, cities in China with direct DPRK flights include Shanghai, Zhengzhou and Harbin.
“There were few tourist groups in the past, and now we have a Zhengzhou-Pyongyang chartered flight, and it’s the first time we visit the country,” said another tourist from Zhengzhou.