From the Wall Street Journal, we get word of a Reuters story about a rally of sorts through the North Korean countryside:
China’s rapidly expanding network of highways, burgeoning obsession with the car and swelling stocks of disposable income have conspired to remake a once quintessentially American past time — the road trip — into the height of recreational fashion among monied Chinese weekenders.One of the people interviewed notes that things appear to have improved since she was in North Korea a decade earlier. Her evidence? The hotels are nicer and there's abundant seafood.
Now it appears China’s road warriors have the pursuit to a place no American is allowed to roam: the trails and turnpikes, such as they are, of North Korea.
According the Reuters voice over on the CCTV report above, 100 Chinese tourists recently crossed the border to participate in the first ever “self-driven” tour allowed in the Hermit Kingdom. Because of the condition of North Korean roads, the report says, the convoy was limited to trucks with four-wheel drive. The tour looks to have included stops at a number of Potempkin hotels and restaurants. Total cost: $147 per person, or roughly 49 times the official average monthly income in Pyongyang.
Still, that North Korea would allow this kind of thing at all is a possible indication of two things: (a) slightly greater confidence in allowing visitors to travel around unencumbered by handlers, even if the visitors are vetted from a friendly country, and (b) North Koreans themselves having greater exposure to outsiders and their trappings of wealth.
I say this because I've always felt that North Korean opening up — and I believe China is trying to force that upon North Korea — is a Trojan horse that could be a major contributor to the downfall of the Pyongyang regime as we know it. Like Dallas being broadcast into East Germany.