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South Korea island plans cruise trips to North Korea

The project is to be launched in multiple stages – and would eventually include stopovers in Tianjin, China, Incheon, South Korea, and Fukuoka, Japan.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea island plans cruise trips to North Korea
The island of Jeju is one of South Korea’s most popular destinations with Chinese tourists, and the province is planning to launch a cruise line to North Korea that could include stopovers in four North Korean cities. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Cruises to North Korea that depart from the South Korean island of Jeju may be drawing closer to reality, and the newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank could be involved in the project.

The South Korean chairman of the Jeju Cruise Industry Association said Thursday a new "Peace Cruise Line" could include the North Korean port cities of Nampo, Wonsan, Rajin and Sonbong as stopovers, Yonhap reported.

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The North Korean city of Nampo is ideal for excursions to Pyongyang because of the existing facilities. The waterfront includes nine docks for large vessels, and lodging facilities are nearby, said Kim Eui-keun.

The port city of Wonsan also has tourist facilities and has often served as a receiving point for visitors from Japan, most notably the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, a pro-Pyongyang organization.

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The island of Jeju is one of South Korea's most popular destinations with Chinese tourists – 2.9 million Chinese visited the island in 2014, and the ship's route is to include stopovers in Tianjin, China, Incheon, South Korea, and Fukuoka, Japan.

Kim said the project is to be launched in multiple stages – and Chinese tourists traveling on a Chinese-owned ship would be the first to sail to North Korea from Jeju. Cruises on non-South Korea vessels that include South Korean and other foreign nationals would be eventually launched, and for the first time South Koreans could travel across the maritime border between North and South.

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The cruise industry representative said the project would require investment in North Korea, and the AIIB may be sought as a partner in the building of reception facilities on the North Korea side.

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Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong said at the cruise forum on Thursday the new project is to serve as a messenger of peace through tourism, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.

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