Ultimate frontier market? Amid thaw, Chinese eye North Korea real estate

From Reuters.com

Chinese property speculators are starting to bet on a rapid improvement in relations between North Korea and the rest of the world, pushing up prices in the border city of Dandong and even spurring buying interest in the world’s most isolated country.

Last week, online Chinese real estate investment platform Uoolu.com released a guide for Chinese buyers interested in North Korean real estate, while popular accounts on the mobile messaging app WeChat have been posting articles about the country’s housing market in recent weeks.

“Recently we’ve had many inquiries about investing in North Korea’s property market,” said Huang Xiaodan, founder and CEO of Uoolu.com, which specializes in helping Chinese buy property overseas.

Actual cross-border investment has yet to materialize.

“Venturing into a new frontier requires policy support and time to cultivate the market,” said Huang. “At the moment, we’re just paying close attention to what’s going on.”

North Korea has long been largely shut to foreign investors, an isolation that deepened when the United Nations ratcheted up sanctions last year in an effort to curb its development of nuclear weapons.

But a dramatic improvement in relations between Pyongyang and China, with a secretive Beijing visit by the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late March, followed by last week’s historic inter-Korean summit and an upcoming meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, has caught the notice of some opportunistic investors.

“I’ve had several inquiries from Chinese interested in purchasing properties in Pyongyang, Wonsan and Sinuiju,” said the founder of INDPRK, a travel company in Dandong that runs tours to North Korea, who goes by the name Griffin Che.

“There are a lot of speculators on the market right now but, at the moment, only locals can buy property in North Korea.”