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North Korea to Reduce Number of South Korean Tourists to Mt. Geumgang to 600 a Day

North Korea to Reduce Number of South Korean Tourists to Mt. Geumgang to 600 a Day

Posted August. 30, 2005 06:50,   


North Korean authorities notified Hyundai Asan that it would reduce the number of South Korean tourists to Mt. Geumgang from about 1,000 to 600 a day, starting next month.

Reportedly, the North made this decision because of Kim Yoon-kyu, the vice chairman of Hyundai Asan who recently resigned from the CEO post for being involved in a corruption case.

With the news, Hyundai Asan is being inundated with inquiries and complaints from tour organizers to Mt. Geumgang, while tourism agencies are receiving calls from customers who already made reservations and were inquiring whether they can visit Mt. Geumgang.

Hyundai Asan said on August 29 that the North met with officials of the company in Mt. Geumgang on August 25 to notify that it will decrease the number of daily South Korean tourists to 600, citing, “Vice President Kim’s resign from frontline management.”

Also, the North reportedly said that it will focus on the three-day tourism program.

Against this backdrop, Hyundai Asan announced it plans to cancel reservations and offer full refunds for one-day or two-day tourism packages.

As it is high season, Mt. Geumgang tourism is fully booked through end of October with approximately 30,000 reservations for one-day or two-day trips. Hyundai Asan started to refund reservations for one-day or two-day trips by September 15.

Hyundai Asan management, including chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, president Yoon Man-jun, and managing director Kim Jung-man, is planning to meet the North officials on August 30 when they visit Mt. Geumgang to attend ground-breaking ceremony for a meeting center for families separated by the Korean War to persuade them to change the decision.

A Hyundai Asan official said, “The North seems to misunderstand the issue about Kim,” adding, “We will emphasize that his resignation was voluntary.”

Some say that the North’s decision is a gesture designed to pressure chairwoman Hyun and the Hyundai Group in negotiations over the costs of tourism to Gaeseong.

A government official said, “It is regretful that this happened when business is smooth-sailing,” adding, “We expect that the business will be back on track soon and that both parties will closely cooperate with each other.”

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com