Korean tensions hit mainland tourism industry

Updated: 2010-12-02 07:53

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - Outbound tourism from China to the Korean Peninsula dropped dramatically after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) exchanged artillery fire with the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Nov 23.

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Many Chinese travelers' fear of a war breaking out drove them to cancel their plans to visit the two Koreas, along with Northeast China's Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin provinces, which are close to the peninsula.

Shanghai resident Dong Shuangyan, 26, had planned a trip to Heilongjiang's ski resort Xuexiang with a group of friends six months before the first shot was fired, but has since decided to postpone the trip a few days before they were due to depart.

"The flight I'd booked was on Dec 1, when the ROK and the United States conducted military exercises, which really put me off," Dong said.

Travel agencies in Shanghai worried whether the exchange of fire between the two rivals in waters near a disputed maritime border would hit business during what was already a slow season.

The impact of the skirmish has now become apparent. The travel agency SAL Tour said the number of tourists heading to the ROK has halved and that tour groups to the DPRK were canceled until March.

"We used to send more than 200 people a week to the ROK, but now there are not quite 100 who are going," said Ding Zhenyi, a member of the agency.

"As for the DPRK, we've decided to stop sending tourists between December and March," said Sun Biao, one of Ding's colleagues who is in charge of the agency's DPRK business.

While tours to the DPRK have largely been canceled due to the country's hotels and transportation system having "poor facilities" in winter, which are unable to satisfy Shanghai tourists' needs, travelers' safety is also of concern, Sun said.

Tour groups to the ROK are also canceling their bookings in Beijing.

"At least, 30 travelers have canceled their bookings with us for the ROK and I have to call off some groups because of insufficient numbers," Zhang Wei, general manager of the outbound travel department of China International Travel Service, told Beijing Youth Daily.

Tourism in Dandong, Liaoning province, whose ports conduct extensive trade with the DPRK, has also reported a drop in trade.

Zhang Jun, a spokeswoman for the Korea Tourism Organization's Shanghai office, told China Daily that the government of the ROK said the country is currently safe to visit and that the security of overseas tourists will remain of paramount concern for the government.

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