September 07, 2011 13:16
Once a symbol of cooperation between South and North Korea, the Mt. Kumgang resort is now empty and lifeless, international journalists reported after being taken on a cruise to the scenic resort last week.
Pyongyang invited around 130 foreign journalists and tourism officials from China, Russia, France, and Japan to the pilot tour, in an effort to continue the tourism project on its own after the South halted trips.
Reuters described it as a "modern day ghost town" with hotels and stores covered in cobwebs. Japan's Asahi Shimbun also reported that 100 tourists per day at most visit the resort, which is far from the number of visitors North Korea claims it gets.
The New York Times said although Kim Kwang-yun, the director of the North's Mt. Kumgang international tourism bureau, claimed that about 900 foreign visitors come to the park daily, that seems an exaggeration.
Several others reported that North Korea criticized the South Korean government for putting unilateral restrictions on tourism for political purposes but claimed the tensions would not scare off foreign investors.
AFP, however, said one Chinese tour operator was too wary of the political situation to sign up to the project despite the fact that Beijing is Pyongyang's closest ally.
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