[Photos] New North Korea-Russia ship fails to draw in foreign tourists

Kim Ga Young  |  2017-07-05 22:44
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North Korea’s Mangyongbong began operations one month ago and is the first passenger ship to conduct regular voyages between North Korea and Russia. With strict UN resolutions mandating the close inspection of all North Korean vessels, the service has failed to attract significant foreign travelers. 

 The Mangyongbong transports both people and freight between Russia and North Korea. On June 18, the ship demonstrated a trial run to Chinese travel agency representatives. It began full business operations shortly thereafter, but has failed to attract many foreign tourists into North Korea. 
 
Daily NK reporters were on the scene to observe passengers embarking and disembarking from the ship at Vladivostok Harbor on June 22, but were unable to see any Chinese or Russian tourists among the ship’s 20 passengers. 
 
A source at the scene noted that, “Most of the passengers were female crew members and male laborers from North Korea. I didn’t see any foreign passengers. As soon as they disembarked, someone who appeared to be a cadre approached them and collected their ID cards.” 

The Mangyongbong has been in full service for approximately one month and sails weekly trips between Russia and North Korea. The 9,700 ton capacity ship can accommodate 200 passengers, but it appears that the service has not garnered much attention. 
 
The Mangyongbong’s inability to attract tourists is likely due to increasingly negative opinions of North Korea. 

In the beginning, there were more investors using the service than tourists. But many lost enthusiasm and interest after their produce was collected and seized by the North Korean authorities. Strict UN sanctions resolutions against the North also make it difficult to remain compliant while doing business in North Korea. 

“The international implementation of UN sanctions against North Korean vessels has become more strict. In this kind of atmosphere, who is going to ride the Mangyongbong as a tourist? People are  predicting that Russia and North Korea’s decision to engage in economic cooperation and human exchanges will not bear much fruit,” a source close to North Korean affairs in China said.
 
As the Mangyongbong struggles to draw passengers, the international community is closely watching for potential breaches of UN sanctions. 
 
The Mangyongbong was originally used in the mid-1950s to bring ethnic Koreans from Niigata, Japan, to Wonsan in North Korea’s Kangwon Province. After 1984, it was used as a freight ship traveling between North Korea and Japan. It was eventually listed in a sanctions resolution following North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006. 

The Japanese government has submitted a complaint that the new usage of the vessel is in violation of sanctions. The Russian government has disputed this claim. 

*Edited by Lee Farrand

 
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2017.06.28
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