Kim Jong-Un isn’t really keen on receiving guests, judging by the fact that his state is considered the most secretive state in the world. But he is willing to change, as long as visitors keep his pockets warm.
The tourism industry in North Korea is beginning to boom, according to experts quoted by The Korea Times.
Nearly 100,000 tourists visited North Korea last year, almost all of them from China while only 5,000 came from Western countries, according to Yoon In-ju, a researcher at the Korea Maritime Institute, a think tank based in South Korea.
The surge in the number of visitors generated between $30.6 million to $43.6 million in revenue for the hermit kingdom.
It’s no wonder, then, that the most anti-social dictator in international politics has been busy planning programs to boost tourism in his country.
At present, 100,000 tourists a year are allowed to visit North Korea, however, in June Pyongyang announced that it wants to attract ten times as many tourists — 1 million — to the country by 2017, and 2 million by 2020.
Over the past several months, Kim Jong-Un has been working on constructing and developing infrastructure to attract international visitors. Most notable example would be the inauguration of the new Pyongyang International Airport which is one of the most expensive and luxurious buildings in the country.
The young leader was photographed taking a tour of the fancy terminal complete with shiny souvenir shops, wine bars and chocolate fondue fountains among various other facilities.
"North Korea could capitalize on tourism as a growth engine to escape poverty," Yoon told The Korea Times.
And she is right.
Right now, the only stable source of income for the state is Kaesong Industrial Complex, an inter-Korean economic zone. North Korea earned around $86 million in 2014 from the KIC. Considering tourism generated around half of that amount in the same year, it is definitely a lucrative industry for a country where poverty and drought is affecting millions of people.
But it depends on how the money is used. Generally, government revenue is diverted to the elite. Rich people keep getting rich while the poor remain impoverished.
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So unless, Kim Jong-Un undergoes a (major) change of heart, the booming tourism industry of North Korea will no doubt help boost the country’s economy, but won’t really help eradicate widespread poverty.