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Tourism and fishing industries suffering from cross-border tensions
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-05 08:27

The nuclear test carried out in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in May set the world on edge, so it is little wonder the tourism industries in China's border cities have been one of the worst affected by the following tension.

The mysterious nature of the DPRK has lured an increasing number of Chinese sightseers but its grand folk dancing and music shows have done little to ease potential visitors' fears this year. "The revenues from four-day tours and business trips to the DPRK have plunged at least 50 percent compared to last year," said Li Peng, general manager of the Dandong branch of the State-owned China International Travel Service (CITS).

He said about 30,000 tourists have traveled with his company to the DPRK from Dandong in the past two years, with a four-day visit costing around 2,400 yuan ($350) per person.

"But during the first seven months of this year, we have seen 2,000 make the trip. Many canceled because of safety concerns," he said, adding that the recent capture and imprisonment of two journalists from the United States had done nothing to ease those concerns.

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Many experts, like Lu Chao, a professor in Korean Peninsula studies with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, however, said the DPRK would keep developing its tourism industry despite strained relations.

He said the DPRK was planning to stage a mass performance of Arirang, one of the most famous Korean folk songs, involving 100,000 musicians and dancers, while foreign tourists are strictly guarded during tours to assure they are kept away from ordinary citizens, thereby avoiding a possible threat to the nation's political stability.

The lives of those in the fishing industry in Dandong have also been affected, while security forces worry they could be dragged into a dispute between Pyongyang and Seoul.

Despite China's three-month fishing ban in the Yellow Sea still being in operation, a local police source, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was common to see Chinese boats illegally trawling the region's waters.

In June, Pyongyang issued a fishing ban covering 9,700 sq km in its neighboring waters, which analysts believe indicates the possibility of missile launches and military conflicts between the DPRK and its southern neighbor, the Republic of Korea.

"We are closely monitoring the waters for Chinese boats in case any get pulled into the dispute," said the source. "There is no way fishermen will be able to secretly sail out this year."