Analysts play down impact on trade, tourism
Updated: 2011-12-20 08:09
By Li Jiabao, Wang Wen and Liu Ce (China Daily)
BEIJING / SHENYANG - The sudden death of Kim Jong-il will have only a short-term impact on trade between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK), analysts predicted on Monday.
Asian stock markets, including those in Shanghai, Japan and Hong Kong, fell sharply after it was announced the DPRK leader had passed away.
However, expert forecasts suggest that the country's trade prospects with China remain promising in the long run.
Wang Haifeng, director of the International Cooperation Center affiliated with the National Development and Reform Commission, said trade will be affected for one or two months.
Lu Chao, a senior researcher on the Korean Peninsula at Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, agreed and added: "In the short run, all diplomatic activities and foreign trade, including border trade, will be affected or halted, but it will not last long."
China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are the DPRK's biggest trade partners, accounting for more than 70 percent of its foreign trade last year.
Two-way trade between China and the DPRK rose 29.6 percent year-on-year to a record high of $3.47 billion last year, according to official figures from Jilin province.
The two countries have opened 11 trading ports, although some customs posts were closed after the announcement of Kim's death.
"The customs office is closed this morning and all trucks transporting goods have been called back," a Chinese businesswoman who gave her name only as Sun said in Dandong, a border city in Liaoning known for its prominent role in trade between China and the DPRK.
She predicted that orders will dry up for a short period, but "finally, border trade will resume, as they need to buy all their daily necessities from us".
Although now is the off-season for organized tours to the DPRK, Chinese travel agents said they expect Kim's death to have little or no effect on their industry.
"We can't evaluate the effect now, as our tours to the DPRK have already stopped," said Cui Haishun, manager of DPRK and ROK tours at China International Travel Service (CITS) Dandong branch.
He said the agency does not take bookings over the winter, with the last tour going before the Chinese National Day holiday in October. Tours restart in spring.
From May to October, the peak season, the CITS branch in Dandong, the largest border city, offers a daily tour to the DPRK for about 30 people.
A four-day, three-night excursion stopping at Pyongyang, Kaesong and Panmunjom - an historic symbol from the Cold War - is the most popular package, said branch managed Ji Chengsong.
Chinese travelers passed through the Dandong border into the DPRK 100,000 times between April 2010 and May this year, according to media reports.
However, the DPRK is still not a hugely popular destination for Chinese tourists, industry insiders said.
Cui at CITS said tours are not as busy as the agency had forecast, with groups usually only having 20 people, even in peak seasons.
The long journey times and limited tourist spots put off many potential tourists, he said.
Few Chinese cities have non-stop flights to the DPRK, with most tourists forced to transfer flights or take a train through Dandong.
The price of a four-day tour to the DPRK is 3,000 to 4,000 yuan ($470 to $630), similar to a tour to the ROK.
Bloomberg contributed to this story.
(China Daily 12/20/2011 page6)