July 28, 2017 12:53
North Korea on Thursday declined a request from its old South Korean business partner Hyundai Group to visit and commemorate the late company chairman Chung Mong-hun.
The North's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, an agency dealing with contacts with South Korea, notified Hyundai of the decision by fax. This is the first time the North has rejected Hyundai's request for a memorial service for Chung, who killed himself by jumping out of a window in 2003.
Hyundai executives led by his widow have held a memorial service at the North's Mt. Kumgang resort, which used to be run by subsidiary Hyundai Asan, almost every year since. But last year Hyundai did not make a request because inter-Korean relations were in the freezer after the North's latest nuclear test and the closure of the joint Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Hyundai Group is a separate offshoot of the original conglomerate than the more famous Hyundai Motor.
Hyundai Asan applied for permission to visit the North to the Unification Ministry here on July 19. Two days later, it called and e-mailed the Beijing office of the North Korean committee to say it wants to hold the memorial service at Mt. Kumgang on Aug. 4. The North acknowledged receipt and promised to convey the request to the authorities.
Pyongyang has also snubbed other overtures from the new administration in Seoul and South Korean civic groups in recent weeks.
Hyundai Asan has traditionally served as a bellwether and messenger in contacts with the North, but this time there is clearly no appetite for renewed exchanges.
"Pyongyang is currently in hardline mode against Washington over the nuclear and missile issue and only interested in pressuring Seoul into suspending joint military drills with the U.S.," said Prof. Nam Sung-wook of Korea University.
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