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What Is North Korea’s Ulterior Motive?

Posted September. 09, 2005 07:43,   


It was reported yesterday that North Korea has delayed negotiations over tourism at Mt. Baekdu with Hyundai Asan Corp. on the heels of halving the number of tourists to Mt. Geumgang.

The South Korean government expects that it will take a considerable time for the negotiations between Hyundai Asan and North Korea to reach an agreement given that some other South Korea’s companies are trying to make a bid for the right of tourism by contacting the North’s authorities.

Mt. Baekdu Tourism Negotiations Are Being Postponed-

Hyundai Asan general director Kim Jeong-man and deputy general director Yuk Jae-hee heard from officials of North Korean authorities whom they met with in Gaesong on September 3 that the North wanted Hyundai Asan to take action in the scandal involving its vice chairman Kim Yun-gyu until September 7, when a pilot tour project to Gaesong was set to end.

This remark from the North is interpreted as a request by the North that vice chairman Kim be returned to the post in charge of tour projects to North Korea. North Korea unilaterally informed the Hyundai Asan that it was cutting down the number of visitors to Mt. Geumgang on the pretext of “Kim’s withdrawal from the front line” on August 25.

However, Hyundai Asan did not comply with Pyongyang’s request. In response, North Korea did not respond to Hyundai Asan’s request of field work for the tour project to Mt. Baekdu areas slated for early this month until yesterday. Consequently, the tour project to Mt. Baekdu appears to be deadlocked.

An official with Hyundai Asan said, “We remain steadfast in our stance that vice chairman Kim’s return to the post of CEO is not admissible,” adding, “We have no choice but to overcome the matter through patience.” Hyundai Asan expects that it will not be problematic to conduct the pilot tour to Mt. Baekdu more than twice this year.

North Korea’s Ulterior Motive Could be Profit-

Pyongyang seems to be putting off negotiations on the tour project in a bid to secure more economic gains from the tour project under the pretext of Kim’s scandal.

Some analyze that some other South Korean firms, which have zeroed in on the goal of obtaining tourism rights by exploiting disharmony stemming from the process of establishing a Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun-headed system amid Kim’s resignation, are giving Pyongyang time in negotiating with Hyundai Asan.

If the competition between South Korea’s companies for tour projects to North Korea becomes fierce, chances are high that the overall cost for the tour project will increase given that the North will seek to negotiate with companies that promise more favorable conditions to it.

A high-ranking official of the South Korean government is concerned about the current situation, saying, “Since some firms that failed to receive approval for tour projects to North Korea from the government are pledging to offer benefits to the North by directly contacting it, the stability of the current tour projects is breaking.”

Currently, the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Law stipulates that only businessmen who are permitted by the Minister of Unification can negotiate business related to North Korea.

Some speculate that North Korea might seek to negotiate with other large firms other than Hyundai Asan.

An official of the South Korean government said, “It will take a considerable period for this matter to conclude because the change in Hyundai Asan’s governance structure, the competition for tourism rights, and the North’s understanding of this situation, are all structural problems.”

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com yhchoi65@donga.com