It's not only China's gateway to North Korea. The city of Dandong on the border, is sold as a glimpse into Chinese tourists' own communist past. A tour boat ticket seller told us, take a trip down memory lane. See what China was like in the 1970s.>> I'm Reuters' Sue-Lin Wong, and with photographer Damir Sagolj, we spent a week along the edge between China and North Korea.
We saw and heard surprising ways the two sides connect. But perhaps one of the most telling is the lens through which everyday Chinese watch their neighbors. Tourism to North Korea sometimes has a feeling of a human zoo, with tourists going to gawk and laugh at North Koreans, who they perceive as far worse off than they are.
For example, on these tour boats that leave along the Yalu River. The tour guides will often tell anecdotes about how poor the North Koreans are, and how they buy second-hand Chinese cars and tractors and bicycles, that the Chinese don't want anymore. They also talk about how China used to be as poor as North Korea is now.
But is far more developed. The boats take the tourists to see North Korean life up close. Soldiers walking around with guns, farmers working the land and cleaning cabbages in the river. And there's even sometimes chances for small interactions between the Chinese tourists and the North Koreans. When they come and up and they try and sell goods like North Korean cigarettes and alcohol to the Chinese tourists.
A Dandong souvenir seller tell us North Koreans find the Chinese irritating, staring at them all day. But he also told us they're easy to cheer up. All you have to do is give them something to eat. Somebody spoke do told us toy guns and propaganda souvenirs are the only thing for sale after the tour is over.
One tale we heard on the border goes like this. Open a bank account with a bank in Dandong that works outside the system of official banking between China and North Korea. Meaning outside sanctions. Deposit about $60,000 worth of yen, and then you can get a free North Korean wife.
You can visit but she's got to stay in North Korea.