Korean Tourism at Mount Kumgang

Apparently growing impatient with South Korea’s lukewarm response to its dialogue offer, North Korea announced Friday that it could terminate an exclusive contract with a South Korean conglomerate for tourism at Mount Kumgang, a resort along its east coast.

In a statement carried by the official news agency KCNA, the Asia Pacific Peace Committee, a state organ in charge of inter-Korean relations, said, “There is no more prospect of resuming the tour of Mount Kumgang.”

“In this regard it informed the Hyundai side of its stand that it may terminate the validity of the provision of the agreement on tour of Mount Kumgang signed with the Hyundai side which calls for granting it monopoly over the tour,” it said, referring to Hyundai Asan, the South Korean operator of Mount Kumgang tourism program.

The statement also added Hyundai could continue conducting tours for South Koreans but that Pyongyang “may” take charge of tours to Mount Kumgang and elsewhere for North Koreans and also entrust an overseas business professional with such tours.

South Koreans’ tours to Mount Kumgang, once a cash cow for the impoverished North, have been suspended since the summer of 2008, when a female South Korean tourist was shot dead after straying into an off-limits military zone.

Pyongyang has been seeking to resume the joint venture, but Seoul has demanded a formal apology for the killing of the housewife, along with measures to prevent a recurrence of such an incident and a guarantee of tourists’ safety.

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