Rason is a combined city of the former cities of Rajin (라진구역) and Sonbong (선봉군). It has a special 'free trade' designation at the corner of both China and Russia which allows for easier foreign investment. It has an approximate population of 195,000.
Of interest to the traveller is that Rason is apparently the only place in North Korea that will provide a visa stamp in your passport (as long as the passport in question is issued by neither Japan or the United States).
The Rason Special Economic area is in many ways a separate country from North Korea. There are check points between North Korea and the zone that act as a border, and North Koreans require special permission (which is not readily granted) to enter the zone.
Chinese citizens do not require a visa to enter, just a travel permit. Chinese cars may also be driven into the zone as well.
The city's 1 Rajin Station and 2 Sonbong Station are on the Pyongra Line and connects all the way to Pyongyang as well as the nearby Russian border city of Khasan. The rail line has a service to Moscow.
Note that the train service (as in most of the rest of North Korea) is not generally available to tourists. Only around 10,000 passengers used this line in the whole of 2005. Of future interest is the city's potential use in a proposed rail link between South Korea and the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway, although this is still an extremely distant prospect as of 2019.
- 1 Imperial Hotel and Casino. Generally available to Chinese businessmen and tourists.
- 2 Pipha Island (Over the bridge from the Emperor Casino). Bathing resort
Rason has some reputation for having free markets as well as being able to exchange North Korean currency at 'real' rates rather than the highly disadvantageous 'official' rates.
- Bazaar. Built by the Chinese for mainly reselling Chinese goods. Interesting example of small scale capitalism.
- Rajin Hotel.
- Imperial Hotel. Part of the Casino building