April 09, 2010 09:35
North Korea has frozen the property owned by the South Korean government and the Korea Tourism Organization in the Mt. Kumgang resort area as part of a campaign to pressure the South into resuming lucrative package tours to the resort. It also scrapped the contract with tour operator Hyundai Asan and warned it will "reconsider" the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex.
In a statement on Thursday, the North's Guidance Bureau for Comprehensive Development of Scenic Spots, which is in charge of the tourism, said it is seizing a meeting hall for separated families built by the South Korean government, and a cultural hall, a hot spring spa, and a duty-free shop owned by the Korea Tourism Organization, as well as deporting their management staff, according to the official [North] Korean Central News Agency.
"In circumstances where there is no way to revive the Mt. Kumgang tours, we now declare that we are taking the steps… following a survey of assets owned by South Korea in the Mt. Kumgang tourist area." South Korean officials duly followed a summons to present themselves for the "survey" last month, where the increasingly cash-strapped North warned them of "extraordinary steps" unless the tours resume by April 1.
The statement said Pyongyang will "completely reconsider the Kaesong Industrial Complex project if the South Korean conservative clique ridicules and insults our sincere efforts and continues to tread a path of confrontation that runs counter to the spirit of joint statements and national aspirations."
"Package tours to Mt. Kumgang by Koreans and foreigners will begin again soon with a new business partner since our agreement and contract with Hyundai over tourism are no longer effective due to the South Korean authorities," the statement said. It also formally stripped South Korean companies that did not respond to the summons of their business licenses and banned their staff from the Mt. Kumgang area.
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