Chinese tourists will have visa free access to the border regions linking Yanbian Autonomous Region, Rason Special Economic Zone and Russia, according to a report originating with Jilin Radio that surfaced in South Korean media today. The report doesn't give an date for implementation, but does state that the previous tourism agreement governing the border region (signed in 2010) will be streamlined. It still takes 10 days for a Chinese traveler to get permission to visit Rason. This process will drop to 2-3 days.
If accurate, this could go a long way towards boosting tourism in the SEZ. After all, a Beijinger or Shanghaiian might well be more willing to spend the money to visit the region if they can get two countries in the same trip. At the risk of overgeneralizing, Asian tourists seem eager maximize passport stamps above all else on international tours. This desire could be effectively exploited if Rason and Russia's Primorsky Krai province coordinate their marketing.
Also, now that the road to Rason is paved, the ease with which Chinese gamblers can reach the Emperor Casino and Hotel greatly increases and arguably makes the destination seem more normal and therefore attractive. One wonders if the casino's fleet of crimson humvees, once needed to whisk high-rollers along the laborious dirt road from, will now be replaced by Mercedes or Lexuses. (Lexi?)
Last year, the SEZ experimented with self-drive tours for Chinese citizens, though there has yet to be any follow-up on it.
For westerner tourists thinking of visiting Rason, we recommend Krahun, a company that has had a presence in Rason for over a decade and know the region exceptionally well.