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KNTO’s Joint Operation of Mt. Kumgang Tour Program Provokes Controversy

KNTO’s Joint Operation of Mt. Kumgang Tour Program Provokes Controversy

Posted June. 20, 2001 19:29,   


As a state-run corporation Korea National Tourism Organization (KNTO) has agreed to join the Hyundai Asan’s Mt. Kumgang tour program that is on the verge of crisis of discontinuance due to a deficit, it is provoking controversy as the government spends taxpayers’ money to rescue a troubled business. Although the KNTO and Hyundai Asian will form a consortium, it means that the government will be making up a deficit of the Mt. Kumgang tour project with taxpayers’ money since the KNTO is a state-run corporation and the project will receive 33 billion won of the government subsidy every year starting this year.

Kwon Chul-Hyun spokesperson of the Grand National Party (GNP) commented yesterday that ``the government should ask for an agreement from the people if it wants to pump the money to North Korea with taxpayers money, asking if the government wants to use taxpayers’ money to rescue a company in crisis.`` Cho Dong-Ho, a researcher at the Korean Development Institute (KDI), said that ``it is problematic to form a consortium to pay for the unpaid fees for tour to North Korea by the end of June. The government seems to violate its policy of keeping politics and business separate.``

However, the government and the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) announced that ``the KNTO has decided to participate in the Mt. Kumgang tour program based on the judgment of the profitability of the business. We hope that the Mt. Kumgang tour program, the symbol of South-North reconciliation, will be activated through the joint operation.``

Meanwhile, Cho Hong-Kyu president of the Korea National Tourism Organization (KNTO) and Kim Yun-Kyu president of Hyundai Asan signed an agreement for joint operation of the Mt. Kumgang tour program at the NKTO building in Jung Ku, Seoul, Wednesday. Therefore, the existing frame of Hyundai Asian-initiated Mt. Kumgang tour project is to be dismantled and the `Inter-Korea tour project consortium` (a provisional name), in which private corporations and individual investors will participate along with Hyundai Asan and the KNTO, is to be formed.

At the press conference, president Cho said that ``Hyundai will spot investment and the KNTO will supply the funds. The profits will be equally distributed. We will encourage the private sectors’ participation. We plan to seek out multiple ways to supply the funds, such as asking for the financial circles’ support as well as the government’s Inter-Korea Cooperation Fund and the tour promotion fund.`` The KNTO plans to participate in the profit making businesses such as recruitment of domestic and foreign tourists, transportation, hotel, ski resort, and duty-free shop. For this, it will launch the investigation on the financial structure of Hyundai Asan and the Mt. Kumgang tour development sites.

Cho Seong-Ha summer@donga.com