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Korea tensions could impact Thailand tourism

Apr 03, 2013 12:15 am

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Thailand is bracing for a downturn in visitors from Korea if Kim Jong Un’s nuclear war-mongering persists. Tourism to North Korea could suffer, too, unless Dennis Rodman is unswayed by it all and revisits his friend for life.

— Dennis Schaal

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Trade officials are closely monitoring rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, amid concern the crisis could affect Thai trade with Seoul and Pyongyang.

Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said Tuesday the department expected no short-term effect because of the tense situation. But she said a close watch would be maintained by trade offices in South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China and Hong Kong. There is no official Thai presence in North Korea.

She was concerned about the weakening Korean won, which would make imported products to South Korea higher.

The official said the flare-up could affect tourism to Thailand by Koreans. About 1.1 million South Koreans visited last year — the third largest group from East Asia after Chinese and Japanese.

Tensions between North and South Korea rose last Saturday when Pyongyang declared a “state of war” with Seoul.

Thai trade with South Korea amounted to US$2.44 billion (70 billion baht) in the first two months of this year, a 14% year-on-year increase. Top Thailand exports are rubber, sugar, electronic appliances, paper and tapioca products, while the country imposts South Korean machines and electronics.

Trade between Thailand and North Korea reached $21 million in the same period, a 281% leap.

Rubber, chemical products and plastic pellets were the major Thai exports shipping to North Korea. Imports from the country included steel and industrial machines. ___

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