China-N.Korea border city Dandong embraces tourism boom after COVID-19 policy shift
Published: Feb 17, 2023 05:18 PM
A freight train with several cargos is spotted shuttling between China and North Korea on Friday morning. Photo: Shan Xie/GT

A freight train with several cargos is spotted shuttling between China and North Korea on Friday morning. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Dandong, the largest border city between China and North Korea is witnessing a boom in tourism after cross-border trade was resumed and China downgraded COVID-19 management.

The Global Times reporters spotted a freight train packed with cargo shuttling between China and North Korea on Friday morning after China's foreign ministry confirmed one day before that the two sides resumed cross-border freight train through friendly consultations in 2022. 

The train runs from Dandong, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, to Sinuiju of North Korea via the Friendship Bridge in Dandong that connects the two countries at 7:40 am and heads back about an hour later. 

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a routine press conference that "after friendly consultations, China and the DPRK resumed cross-border rail freight transport between Dandong and Sinuiju last year."

"In accordance with the agreement on border ports and other border-related agreements, the two sides will handle matters related to cooperation on border ports through consultation," Wang noted.

The freight trains between China and North Korea in Dandong were suspended in August 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and resumed on January 16, 2022 when both countries deemed the time appropriate.

But the route was halted again on April 29, 2022, after bilateral consultations as an outbreak in Dandong prompted stricter epidemic control restrictions. North Korea had also reported domestic outbreaks since May 2022.

The freight train service is extremely popular and private traders can file an application and wait for a slot on the train. A source familiar with cross-border trade told the Global Times that just after freight train operations resumed, the most urgently needed goods, such as medicine and other necessities, were given priority. 

Along with the resumption of cross-border trade and the shift of COVID-19 management in China since January, Dandong, as a border city neighboring North Korea and an iconic site for the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53), has also seen a revival of tourism.

Tourists climbed the Yalu River Broken Bridge, a symbol of the China-North Korea friendship, to learn about the history of heroism seven decades ago. Many tourists also took a cruise to appreciate the scenery along the river.

Local tour guides told the Global Times that the volume of tourists in Dandong has almost recovered to the same level before the epidemic. "Particularly during the Spring Festival holidays, there were many tourists," a guide said.

However, tourists entering North Korea from Dandong have yet to resume. 

Tourists were also keen to purchase goods from North Korea. Goat milk soups, dried seafood and stamps from North Korea are among the most popular souvenirs for tourists in Dandong.

A local merchant running a grocery told the Global Times that the North Korean goods for sale in the shop are mainly shipped to Dandong port by sea, instead of daily freight trains.