When a simple Xi-Kim handshake spoke volumes

By CUI JIA in Dandong, Liaoning | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-12 07:50
The New China-DPRK Friendship Bridge. WEN SHAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Bridging the gap

To boost cross-border trade, construction of a new crossing, officially called the New China-DPRK Friendship Bridge, started in 2011 and was completed in 2014. However, the new bridge-about 12 km downstream from the old 940-meter-long construction-hasn't been put into use because construction of a road to connect it with Sinuiju hasn't started yet.

"At the moment, the new bridge only functions as a holder for neon lights; it actually looks very pretty when the colorful lights are turned on at night. Let's talk about the opening-up of the DPRK; when will trucks be able to use this expensive bridge?" Zhang said.

"Some of my friends believe the hype and have even asked me how they can buy property in Sinuiju-they are deadly serious."

After the UN imposed the latest sanctions, Yao Xing, 28, a member of the younger generation of cross-border businesspeople in Dandong, shifted his focus from importing diesel to taking tourists to the DPRK.

"We've seen a rising number of young Chinese showing an interest in visiting the country because they have heard it mentioned frequently in the news in the past two years and are curious. Although tourism is not nearly as profitable as importing diesel, business is booming," he said.

To help young people understand more about the DPRK, Yao and his team launched a subscription service on WeChat in February last year. He hopes young people who subscribe to their service will realize that visiting the country is not as difficult as they had assumed and that it could be fun to take a trip.

"The rising demand means we have to book train tickets from Dandong to Pyongyang at least a month in advance now. Also, many people view the once-a-day international train to the DPRK as an attraction in its own right, although the 220-kilometer journey can take up to seven hours because of security checks," Yao said.

Zhou, the businessman, said that given the sanctions imposed over the years, social development in the DPRK has made real progress in the past decade. He encouraged people to visit and see the country for themselves.

"Of course, like everyone else in Dandong, I will closely follow the meeting between Kim and Trump because it will have an influence on the city one way or another. In addition to looking forward to seeing the two of them shake hands, I also want to see the UN take its hands off the 'sanctions button', which would have an immediate, beneficial effect on my business," he said.

Zhang Tongtong contributed to this story

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