NK halts casino projects under pressure from China: report


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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the halt of ongoing casino-related projects, under pressure from Beijing, Radio Free Asia reported Tuesday.

Citing unnamed Chinese sources with connections to North Korea, RFA reported that Kim halted the construction of a hotel, the plans for which include a casino, in Sinuiju, North Pyongang Province, due to Beijing’s disapproval. The hotel, which would be 30 stories once completed, currently stands incomplete at about 20 stories, according to reports. Sinuiju is located across the Yalu River from China’s Dandung. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is seen at an inspection of a factory in images released by North Korean state media on Dec. 1. Yonhap

“The main reason for halting the casino project is that it has been deemed that the project is a major hindrance to obtaining investment from other countries, particularly China,” RFA quoted the source as saying.

“Kim appears to have made the decision upon hearing that the Chinese government is negative about North Korea’s casino project.”

The RFA report also quoted the source as relaying a North Korean trading company official’s statement that Kim personally gave the orders to end “all troublesome casino projects.”

The RFA report also quoted another unnamed source as saying that if related reports are true, the Sinuiju hotel project may resume in the near future, without a casino.

The report went on to quote the source as saying that if Pyongyang forges ahead with casino projects, Beijing could take tougher measures, including prohibiting the flow of Chinese capital and tourists into North Korea.

Since taking power, Kim has shown considerable interest in tourism and casino industries. In May, Kim ordered the construction of a luxury hotel and casino within the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourism project along the country’s east coast. Kim is also reported to have asked for US President Donald Trump’s aid for the project in the letter he sent the US president in June.

Kim’s drive to use casinos as a source of foreign currency, however, has been met with disapproval from China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner.

As China prohibits gambling, an increasing number of Chinese are said to be going abroad to gamble, which Beijing hopes to curb.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)


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