Humvees, Pawn Shops, and 5 Star Bathrooms – North Korea’s Surreal Rason Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

No visit to Rason, North Korea would be complete (at least for those interested in business or entertainment) without a stop at the Hong Kong investor owned Emperor Hotel and Casino. The second casino in North Korea (the original being a small dodgy room in the Yanggakdo International Hotel basement), the Emperor Hotel and Casino is located on a lonely stretch of coast with farmers and oxen tilling fields right up to the empty parking lots.

The lobby is spotless, the restaurant promising (but empty), and the signs politely remind Chinese gamblers not to spit. Visitors can only gamble if they exchange a minimum of 500 dollars into chips – we didn’t, so we couldn’t visit the gaming floor. Neither did we visit the dodgy Chinese massage parlor, but as per our guide’s proud recommendation, we did use the county’s only 5 star bathroom.

The casino has a fleet of Humvee vehicles reportedly confiscated from Chinese mafia gamblers who lost millions of dollars and refused to pay their debt. They left the Humvees instead, which are now used to shuttle patrons down from the Chinese border – they must have been on a run, we searched for the Humvees but the casino motor pool was empty.

And if this wasn’t all surreal enough, there is even an associated pawn shop for unlucky gamblers located on the road leading to the casino!

More pics of the Emperor Hotel and Casino:

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Dodgy Chinese massage!

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

12 responses

  1. Joseph thanks a lot for this :) my second adventure in DPRK will be Rason for sure.
    And I really appreciate the “Do not spit” sign…

    August 22, 2013 at 10:06 am

    • I’m going back next month – lets go :)

      August 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      • Don’t tempt me!! I’ll make a Stanito-look-alike puppet to leave at my office!

        August 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm

  2. Looks pretty flashy. How are the prices there compared to a similar hotel in another country?

    August 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

    • I didn’t note the prices, but I think they were pretty expensive. I’m going back next month, hope to be able to pass on more info then.

      August 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm

  3. James

    Are the employees of the casino and “spa” Koreans or are they imported from Northern China? If I recall the Yanggakdo had Chinese workers only.

    August 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    • This is a venture out of Hong Kong, I understand its all Chinese workers.

      August 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm

  4. James

    Thanks, Do you know if Stanley Ho is casino partner? He owns the Yanggakdo casino (as much as you can “own” assets in DPRK)

    August 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm

  5. Not sure about Sanely Ho. DPRK, Rason guides told us Jackie Chan was one of the major investors although he had never visited. We were also told to show our passports to customs and immigration control in the lobby since this was Hong Kong territory! This was a joke – but they did fool me and I pulled mine out.

    August 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm

  6. James

    From further research the hotel/casino is owned by Albert Yeung Sau-shing’s Emperor Group. Him and Jackie Chan seem to have some relationship and have set up a couple of charitable foundations that bear their names so Chan being an investor in the casino sounds reasonable.

    August 22, 2013 at 11:22 pm

  7. engman

    Chan is also a partner in the Emperor group casino in Macau.

    August 24, 2013 at 8:50 am

  8. I want to thank everyone for their positive response to this post. I will be back in Rason, North Korea in Sept and will be visiting the Casino again at that time – will do a follow up post.

    August 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

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