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Report: North Korea preparing hotels for influx of Chinese tourists

By Elizabeth Shim
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Report: North Korea preparing hotels for influx of Chinese tourists
North Korean workers dismantle an old building in North Hamgyong province in this 2010 photo. The regime is modernizing old hotels, according to a recent press report. File Photo by Wu Hong/EPA

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- North Korea is renovating hotels in outlying provinces in anticipation of an influx of mainland Chinese tourists, according to a recent press report.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Radio Free Asia the Kim Jong Un regime is modernizing old hotels for foreign visitors.

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"Recently around the province, foreigners-only hotels have undergone sweeping renovations," the source said. "Ahead of a full-blown tourist season, the province is preparing and completing internal repairs in order to receive more foreign tourists."

RFA's source also said there are "quite a few" Chinese tourists visiting the North on itineraries ranging from two-day, one-night to five-day, four-night stays.

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Areas like North Hamgyong Province do not receive many foreign guests, the source said, allowing the state to renovate different floors of the hotels when they are not occupied. Improvements are being made to the existing heating system and old water pipes are being replaced.

Work is being done using an "internal generator" that alternates with the regular power supply -- thus avoiding the problem of power outages, the source said.

Even as renovations are ongoing, a steady stream of Chinese tourists continue to pour into the country, RFA's source said.

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Many Chinese are descending on the hot springs area near Kyongsong, North Hamgyong Province, where the waters have been promoted for their remedies for skin disease, gastroenteritis and arthritis, the source said.

Chinese tourists are a source of revenue for North Korea, and their presence in other parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, has drawn mixed reactions.

The South China Morning Post reported Sunday a group of Hong Kong activists want mainland Chinese tourism to be restricted, despite their boost they provide to local businesses.

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"Please stop coming to Hong Kong. You should go back and strive for better food safety and lower import tariffs," the activists of Population Policy Concern Group said.

More than 65 million visit Hong Kong annually from the mainland. They add to the problem of overcrowding, activists say.

Hong Kong has a population of about 7.4 million people.

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