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N.Korea opens new air route with Malaysia

SEOUL, August 9, 2011 (AFP) - North Korea said Tuesday it will open an air route with Malaysia next week as the isolated communist country seeks to attract more foreign tourists.

The route for chartered planes between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur will open next Friday for Malaysian tourists, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

"Many tourists have come to (North Korea) by chartered planes," it said, adding that Pyongyang opened air routes with the eastern Chinese city of Shanghai on July 1 and the ancient city of Xian on July 28.

Tourists from Shanghai have been allowed to tour the North's scenic spots and monuments without a visa, KCNA said.

The move comes amid a festering dispute with South Korea over a jointly-run mountain resort in the North.

The Mount Kumgang resort, which opened in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation between the two Koreas, once earned the impoverished North tens of millions of dollars a year.

But Seoul suspended tours for its citizens after a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist at Mount Kumgang in July 2008. Pyongyang reacted by saying it would dispose of South Korean-owned assets at the resort.

The South's Yonhap news agency also reported Tuesday that Air Koryo, the North's flagship airline, had added flights to its regular service between Pyongyang and the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang.

It quoted an unnamed aid group official as saying he spotted many Chinese and other foreigners at his hotel during a trip to Pyongyang last week.

"It appears that the number of flights between Shenyang and Pyongyang was increased because of the Arirang Festival, which started on August 1," the official was quoted as saying.

The annual festival began in 2002 and usually involves tens of thousands of people, including children, performing synchronised acrobatics, dances and flip-card displays of politicised messages.



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