December 03, 2019 10:12
The government has accepted some of North Korea's demands to remove South Korean facilities from the scenic Mt. Kumgang resort but also mooted investment in a new tourist zone on North Korean east coast.
The South Korean government and private sector invested around W1 trillion in the old hotel, chalet complex and other facilities in Mt. Kumgang, for whose demolition Seoul will now have to pay.
Now the government here is offering to invest more money into the Wonsan-Kalma tourist zone, which is the centerpiece of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's money-making projects and promises to be jerry-built and in atrocious taste.
Package tours to Mt. Kumgang were halted after a South Korean tourist was shot and killed by a North Korean soldier, an atrocity for which the North has never apologized, and the drab hotel complex has since been moldering away.
The Unification Ministry in a message to North Korea last week mentioned the demolition, which Kim has been demanding since October, and apparently suggested investing in the Wonsan-Kalma tourist zone.
"There was a reference to the special tourist zone being developed on the east coast, which is already mentioned in the joint declaration" announced by the leaders of the two Koreas in 2018, a government source said. "The aim was to stop the North unilaterally tearing down the South Korean facilities and initiate dialogue."
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said Monday at a forum hosted by the Kwanhun Club, a fraternity of veteran journalists, "Our proposals are not specific yet. They can be discussed only if conditions are ripe."
But he stressed that the joint development of North Korea's east coast is already among the projects agreed between the two Koreas. The minister said there could be problems in bringing South Koreans to and from North Korean tourist zones including Mt. Kumgang if the North develops them on its own. He even mentioned the possibility of opening air and rail routes linking South Korea to North Korean tourist sites and possibly using cruise ships.
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