China launches cruise to N Korean scenic resort

A cruise to North Korea's scenic mountain resort from China has officially been launched, Chinese media reported Saturday.

According to the China News, some 100 Chinese tourists from the northeastern province of Jilin sailed along the North's east coast to visit Mount Kumgang on a four-day itinerary early Friday.

After crossing the border to North Korea by land from the city of Hunchun in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, the tourists boarded a cruise ship in the North Korean city of Rason, the media said.

"This holds significance as it is a first marine tourism route to visit the mountain from China," said an official of the Yanbian Chunwoo International Travel Agency, which has an exclusive right to run the route.

"The tourists were satisfied with our program. We will send a group of visitors once a month," he added.

The cruise tour illustrates a recent boom among Chinese to visit their communist neighbor. Currently, about 10 such programs are available, according to the report. Previously, North Korea had run only 3 to 5 courses for Chinese visitors.

Experts say launching a series of tourism programs for the Chinese is the North's apparent bid to earn much-needed hard currency.

For a decade, South and North Korea jointly ran a tour program for South Korean tourists to the resort in Mount Kumgang, a key symbol of reconciliation between the divided Koreas.

But the cross-border tour program came to a halt following the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier near the resort.

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