Undeterred by escalating tensions between Pyongyang and Washington rattling nerves globally, a steady stream of tourists from China each morning passes through the immigration checkpoint at the border trading hub of Dandong.
Greeting them on the North Korean side are dozens of tour buses, collecting them for itineraries ranging from a day in neighboring Sinijiu to a week visiting North Korea’s main cities, including the capital Pyongyang.
“We’re curious. We want to see how they live,” Xu Juan said on Thursday before crossing the Yalu River, which marks the border between the two countries. Xu was traveling with friends and family from Hangzhou, in eastern China.
“I just want the sense of nostalgia, to see a country that is poor, like (China was) when I was young,” said a man in his early 50s, from Jilin province, declining to give his name.
Few expressed concern over the North’s persistent missile tests in recent months, which led the United Nations Security Council on Saturday to impose tough new sanctions against Pyongyang.
North Korea dismissed on Thursday warnings by U.S. President Donald Trump that it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States as a “load of nonsense”, and outlined plans for a missile strike near the Pacific territory of Guam.
But tour operators said their industry remains robust.
Traffic, especially on lower-end group tours, has grown steadily to one of the world’s most isolated states over the past few years, despite North Korea’s persistent nuclear and missile tests, which have drawn ever-tightening U.N. sanctions.
A flyer for the one-day tour to Sinijiu tout a trip to the city’s central plaza, where you can pay respects to a bronze statue of North Korea’s founding president Kim il-Sung, as well as visits to a cosmetics factory, a revolutionary history museum, art history museum and a cultural park.
“You can feast on the North Korean speciality food by warm and hospitable North Koreans,” it says.