As cash-strapped North Korea seeks new sources of revenue, it prepares to open a new tour for Chinese visitors to the north-eastern border city of Hoeryong, state media said on Monday.
North Korea has been working on what looks like an immigration and customs center at the border crossing into China near the city for months. That work appears to have been completed and Chinese tourists are booked to arrive on Tuesday for a one-day tour, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
What is there to see in Hoeryong, a gritty city close to a number of the country's mines? Topping the list of North Korean recommendations will be a statue of Kim Jong Il's mother, Kim Jong Suk, who was born in the city and features prominently in state propaganda.
Rimjingang, a news agency that publishes reports and videos from clandestine journalists inside North Korea, said recently that an attempt may have been made to blow up the statue. The agency notes that the authenticity of the report couldn't be verified and could be fabricated to justify a crackdown.
One facility that definitely won't be on the tour is the largest of North Korea's prison camps by area, known as Camp 22, near the city. There has been some debate in recent years from analysts that study satellite images, if the camp--31 miles long and 25 miles wide--is still operating. It is believed to have held up to 50,000 political and criminal prisoners.
Hoeryong is also known as a market town and a center for people trafficking because its shared border with China makes it a point of attempted escape. Defectors also say that Hoeryong was hit hard by a surge in use of crystal meth in recent years
It won't be the first time foreign tourists have visited the city. Hoeryong was included on two tours of the country's northeast region last year by Beijing-based Koryo Tours, which mainly caters to western tourists.
North Korea said the visit on Tuesday would be by a group of 130 Chinese tourists and 'mark an occasion in encouraging border tourism in the DPRK, ' using the country's formal name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Alastair Gale/The Wall Street Journal图为朝鲜边境的一个在建工程，通过该设施中国游客可以进入朝鲜边境城市会宁。照片摄于2013年8月。
朝鲜一直在该市附近的中朝边境口岸建设一个像是移民和海关中心的设施，施工已经进行了数月。根据朝中社(Korean Central News Agency)的报道，工程似乎已经完工，中国的游客将于周二达到该市进行为期一天的旅游。
会宁是一个灰尘飞扬的城市，距离该国的几个矿区很近，那去这个城市看什么呢？在朝鲜的推荐名单上，排名最靠前的是金正日(Kim Jong Il)的母亲金正淑(Kim Jong Suk)的雕像，金正淑出生在这个城市，官方媒体对她多有颂扬之词。