At a plenary meeting of the ruling Workers' Party central committee in April, Kim said the North would shift its national focus away from a "two-track" strategy of developing the economy in tandem with developing nuclear weapons, having successfully concluded the latter.
The national focus, he said, would now solely be on developing the economy.
Betting on Pyongyang's pledge to rebuild its economy, property speculators pushed up home prices in Dandong to such an extent that local authorities stepped in to impose purchase restrictions in May.
However, questions remain about Kim's willingness to give up his nuclear weapons program and whether he continues to develop missiles and nuclear material.
The unpredictability of Kim and the continued uncertainty since his meeting with Donald Trump in June has meant most traders and businesses in Dandong continue to hold out a pragmatic 'wait and see' attitude.
But those with a more optimistic bent in Dandong told Reuters they saw Kim's travels in the Chinese border region, including to the island of Hwanggumpyong, as a signal the long-dormant special economic zone marked out there between the two countries in 2011 could be revived if things progress well.
The plans for Hwanggumpyong, adjacent to Dandong, were announced to much fanfare, but already stuttering progress was curtailed in 2013 when Kim executed his uncle Jang Song Thaek — a top official who handled most of the North's dealings with China.
The value of new property developments in the Dandong New Zone, designed to feed the Hwanggumpyong joint economic zone, spiked by more than 30 percent immediately after Kim first announced his economic focus, but has since cooled slightly as the U.S. maintains pressure to keep sanctions in place.
Sanctions have weighed on traders in Dandong who deal with North Korean coal and other heavy commodities, as well as factories and restaurants who employ cheaper North Korean labor.
To attract tourists, many Dandong restaurants feature colorfully dressed North Korean waitresses as well as North Korean entertainers who perform for diners, mixing contemporary Chinese pop into their repertoire of traditional North Korean songs.
While restaurant owners and staff say restrictions remain on bringing in North Korean workers on new long-term visas, some circumvent the ban by bringing in staff on short-term permits with different visa classifications.
"Chinese authorities turn a blind eye," said one restaurant owner requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.