For the last year, the North Korean government has been trying to convince anyone who'd listen that its tourism industry is booming. With North Korea's long history of fibbing, those reports were a little suspect ... until stories emerged about the country is having the same problem as many popular tourist destinations: dealing with crude Chinese tourists. "Simon Cockerell, of Koryo Tours, which specialises in travel to the reclusive socialist state, cites as an example mainland tourists throwing sweets at North Korean children 'like they're feeding ducks'," reports The South China Morning Post's Kristine Servando. "If mainland tourists go to a school performance, they don't have any qualms about rushing to the stage and picking up a child for photos," Cockerell adds, pointing out another faux pas that is irking North Koreans.
We've noted in the past, that Chinese tourists have usurped Americans as the tourists everyone complains about—in Paris there's reportedly a Chinese language-only order that warns people not to defecate or urinate on the museum grounds and a hotel opening up that says Chinese tourists are not welcome; in Singapore, Chinese tourists are chastised for talking too loud; in Chiang Mai, Thailand buddhist monks have a hard time explaining rules to them; in Egypt there was the Chinese tourist who carved his name into the Luxor temple; and in China itself there are stories of zoo-goers abusing animals. You get the picture: There are many complaints about Chinese tourists all over the world. But those complaints are leavened by all of the money Chinese tourists spend.
In North Korea's case, these complaints about tourists may even be a signal of authenticity from a country that loves pumping positive stories out about itself. Servando reports:
The Chinese tourism office says 237,400 Chinese travelled to North Korea last year, 22.5 per cent more than in 2011, but a North Korean tourism official has claimed as many as 700,000 came in 2010-11.
But for country like North Korea, with the several warnings and travel restrictions it carries, you could see how they want to overlook these transgressions. And apparently, Chinese tourists may be even less beloved than Americans. "I don't see tensions, but I would think that the Chinese are even less popular as individuals than the Americans. I think because the Chinese are close by, while the Americans are abstract - they're far away and there's a lot of propaganda about them," Cockerell said. Ouch.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.