North Korea Makes Chinese Feel "Rich"

Monday, August 14, 2006

North Korea Makes Chinese Feel "Rich"

Tom Johnson, a reporter with McClatchy Newspapers, recently wrote this interesting article about one river and two increasingly different nations. Johnson writes:
DANDONG, China - Chinese tourists who come to this border city with North Korea often hop on boats for excursions to a virtual human zoo: They cross the Yalu River and motor along the other side to gawk at poor North Koreans.

... "I feel sorry for them," Gao Feng, a visitor, said after a boat trip, launching into praise for his own country. "I feel proud to be a Chinese. Our country is developed, and people have become rich."

On the Chinese side, high-rise hotels and modern condos tower overhead ... At nighttime, the Chinese side is ablaze in neon lighting.

Barely a light flickers on the North Korean side, a sign of dire energy shortages in the most closed society in the world. Some 350,000 residents dwell in the border city of Sinuiju, but smokestacks over dilapidated factories issue nary a wisp. Along the river, rusted fishing boats list, and residents squat, staring aimlessly. A Ferris wheel sits idle.

"When you compare the two sides, you see how prosperous China is," said Wu Zhanjun, 36, who's from Liaoning province, in China's surrounding industrial heartland.

"I saw their children catching fish," added Han Quanyi, a truck owner who was taking a vacation here. "They don't look like Chinese children. They are very thin. Their clothes are old and dirty. And the women have mud all over their bodies."

... For decades, North Korea has been the easiest foreign destination for the Chinese. Until last year, they didn't even need passports.

... Those (Chinese) who opt for travel often bristle at the strict rules they must follow. Among the items that Chinese tourists are prohibited from taking to North Korea are mobile phones, binoculars, laptop computers, professional cameras and zoom lenses.

North Korea recently demanded that Chinese tourists stop posting impressions of their visits to the country online, warning that it may cut off the travel agencies' business.

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