March 25, 2010 08:44
South Korean officials on Monday duly presented themselves at North Korea's Mt. Kumgang resort after the North last week threatened to confiscate any real estate held by South Koreans unless they turned up for a survey.
Three Korea Tourism Organization officials including its Mt. Kumgang branch chief Cha Dong-young went to North Korea through the east coast checkpoint in the afternoon.
Cha claimed the officials "are going to North Korea to conduct our own survey one day before the North's planned survey" because the KTO has a considerable amount of property in the Mt. Kumgang area. "We're visiting the North in a cool-headed way. We just hope that tour programs will be normalized as early as possible through dialogue between the two governments," he added.
North Korea has become increasingly frantic to resume the lucrative tours as hard currency flow dried up amid international sanctions and the fallout from a botched currency reform late last year. Last week's threat is only the latest in a series of attempts to bully and cajole the South into resuming the tours, which were halted after the fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist in 2008.
The KTO officials and staff from tour operator Hyundai Asan and other South Korean firms will comply with the North's summons on Thursday. The KTO officials will stay at least until March 31 depending on how long the process takes.
The KTO invested W90 billion (US$1=W1,138) in a cultural hall and a hot spring spa in the tourist area.
"We've already handed documents including floor space of facilities and investment amount over to Hyundai Asan for delivery to the North," Cha said. "We don't think there'll be any worst-case scenario, but we'll find out what the North is up to once we meet North Korean officials."
Sixteen staffers of Hyundai Asan and other South Korean firms are to leave Seoul around on Thursday morning and return the same day.
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