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Mt.Baekdu Will Not be Open for Tourism within This Year

Posted September. 28, 2005 07:35,   


The opening of Mt. Baekdu to tourism that Hyundai Asan Corp. has been pushing for with the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has been effectively delayed to next year.

Officials from Hyundai Asan and the KTO said on September 27 that it would be difficult to open the mountain to South Korean tourists within this year as their exploration of the site has been delayed. It is also noted that temperatures in Mt. Baekdu fall below zero, and the area has much snow by October.

“The North Korean authorities did not allow us exploration and pilot tours because runway paving at the Samjiyeon Airport in Yanggang-do and maintenance works of the nearby roads are not finished. If not this year, we will push for pilot tours next spring as early as possible,” Hyundai Asan said.

Kim Jong-min, head of the KTO, said, “As inevitable conditions delayed the pilot tours, temperatures in the area dropped below zero. Tourism will begin as early as next spring.”

North Korea changed the venue for the inter-Korean ministerial meeting held from September 13-16 from Mt. Baekdu to Pyongyang, citing delayed maintenance works of the Samjiyeon Airport.

The North had agreed in July with Hyundai Asan and the KTO to open Mt. Baekdu at least twice for tourism by the end of this year.

Some speculate that North Korea is delaying the joint project after it was disturbed by the dismissal of Hyundai Asan CEO Kim Yoon-kyu.

However, Hyundai Group said, “There is no possibility that this problem will lead to Mr. Kim’s returning to his job. Hyundai Elevator President Choi Yong-mook will soon meet with him to listen what he wants and deliver what Hyundai is thinking.”

In the meantime, separate from Mt. Baekdu tours, North Korea’s restraint on access to the country halved the number of South Korean tourists to Mt. Geumgang to about 600 a day. That will cost Hyundai Asan four billion won in lost revenues in September alone.

The company said, “The number of tourists dropped by 20,000 in September from August. That means four billion won in lost revenues because per capita unit cost of the tour is about 200,000 won.”

Sung-Won Joo swon@donga.com