In North Korea, construction of a new 30-story hotel and casino for the northwest of the impoverished Asian nation has reportedly been suspended amid rumors that the government of China had lodged a formal objection against the coming venue.
According to a Wednesday story from Chosun.com citing an earlier report by Radio Free Asia, the coming tourist-only development was due to sit in the Sinuiju Special Administrative Region, which lies just across the Yalu River from the Chinese city of Dandong. This border area of some 350,000 inhabitants was established in 2002 in order to experiment with the possibility of introducing aspects of a market economy but has since remained relatively impoverished due to a lack of foreign investment.
Construction ‘suddenly’ halted:
Radio Free Asia quoted an unnamed source in Dandong as declaring that all construction on the planned hotel and casino facility had been ‘suddenly’ halted with some 20 floors already complete. The broadcaster purportedly explained that Beijing may have lodged an objection due to concerns over crime and a desire to keep any of its currency from being spent abroad.
However, Radio Free Asia reportedly cited a second source in Dandong as detailing that all work may well have been stopped due to the inability of the man behind the project, Dutch-Chinese billionaire Yang Bin, to attract sufficient financing. The horticulture and real estate magnate was once purportedly considered to be one of the richest men in China and this reputation led to him being selected to administer the Sinuiju Special Administrative Region in 2002. But, his standing in the world of business was seriously damaged less than a year later after he was arrested and subsequently convicted on charges of tax evasion.
Casinos attract meager clientele:
The source also added that North Korea already features the Emperor Hotel and Casino in the northern Rason Special Economic Zone as well as the Casino Pyongyang in the basement of the capital city’s Yanggakdo International Hotel. However, the country’s long-term economic woes alongside its current standing as a pariah state have purportedly made it very difficult for these venues to attract guests.
Regarding the Sinuiju Special Administrative Region, one North Korean source reportedly told Radio Free Asia that it ‘doesn’t make sense to build a casino’ in the border area as it ‘is difficult to control access’ whereas the more inland Rason Special Economic Zone ‘is strictly limited to foreigners only.’