North Korea’s construction plans for a 30-story hotel close to the Chinese border have been abruptly halted after the latter reportedly convinced North Korea that it was a bad idea citing concerns that Pyongyang’s plans to build a casino. Already, the project was halfway through with 20 stories having been built. The casino was to be situated in Sinuiju, an economic zone that lies in the northwest border and it was primarily aimed at attracting Chinese tourists.
How It Got to This
Gambling, except for two lotteries that are operated by the state, is completely illegal in China – the country has been putting tremendous efforts into keeping its citizens from traveling to other countries to gamble with the main intention being to reduce cases of problem gambling and prevent capital from leaving the country. North Korea, on the other hand, still faces multiple international sanctions that have had a significant negative impact on its local economy and as it turns out, China remains to be its main trading partner which means that China has quite a considerable amount of influence over it.
There have been lots of speculations surrounding the nixing of the project with China’s interjection being just one of the least bizarre ones even though it certainly makes some sense. Some analysts disagree with this speculation citing the fact that there is already a casino in North Korea close to the Chinese border in the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone – China has not rejected the operation of this particular casino. That said, the analysts believe that it is more likely that the project ran out of funding hence the sudden halt in its development. While the relevance of both of these speculations cannot be disputed, the prevailing one remains to be seen.
Yang Bin’s Involvement Could Have Been A Factor
Developing the project is Yang Bin, a Dutch-Chinese billionaire who has been sourcing for foreign revenue to finance the completion of the project, something that sort of backs up claims that the project ran out of money. Yang, who was once the second-richest man in China was recruited by Pyongyang in 2002 to run the Sinuiju economic zone, a move that was backed up by forms North Korean leader Kim Jong II. The billionaire had big plans for the region into a semi-autonomous capitalist enclave that got the attention of Chinese authorities who worried that it had the potential of destabilizing the region’s economic and political management.
These plans fell apart when Yang Bin was arrested and imprisoned for tax evasion by Chinese authorities before being released 2 years ago. His involvement in the project is probably enough to get Chinese authorities on edge once again. So much so that they would want to have it completely shut down.