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Hyundai Chief Extends NK Stay for 5th Time

Posted August. 17, 2009 08:12,   


Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun extended her stay in North Korea for the fifth time yesterday. She had planned to stay in the North for just three days.

Whether Hyun held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il remained uncertain. As such, the group predicts her stay in the North could be further delayed depending on the situation.

Staff from the group and subsidiary Hyundai Asan Corp. came to the office over the weekend and awaited news about their chairwoman. A Hyundai source said, “Staff members are anxious because they only heard that she met Kim Yang Kon, unification secretary of the North Korean Workers’ Party, and about her repeated requests for the extension of her stay.”

Hyun is staying in the North with her eldest daughter Chung Ji-e, executive director of Hyundai U&I, and other Hyundai staff. Group sources expressed worry that her trip could prove disappointing since she extended her stay in Pyongyang five times.

Hyun has visited Pyongyang seven times, and this trip is her longest to the city. Her previous longest stay in the North was in 2007, when she stayed five days from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. At the time, Hyun met Kim Jong Il and agreed on resuming South Korean tours to Mount Kumgang.

This time, however, it remains still uncertain whether she had an audience with the North’s leader. Hence, analysts say she might not have had a chance to talk to Kim Jong Il this time. If the meeting did not happen, she probably made no progress in pending issues in Hyundai Asan’s inter-Korean economic cooperation, including the resumption of the tours to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong.

On the joint military drill Ulchi Freedom Guardian between South Korea and the U.S., the North Korean mission at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom said, “This nuclear warfare exercise is an act of aggression targeting our country,” adding, “We will respond mercilessly in our own fashion.” This statement rendered the Hyundai Group all the more nervous.

Other analysts suggest positive prospects, however, saying Hyun’s extended stay could be because she will talk to the North’s leader after partially coordinating issues in advance.

Another scenario is that Pyongyang might have asked her to stay longer to analyze the content and intent of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s Liberation Day speech made Saturday before setting up Hyun’s meeting with Kim Jong Il.

In the wake of Hyun’s extended stay in Pyongyang, Hyundai Asan President Cho Kun-shik did the same in Kaesong.

Cho told reporters, “I had no choice but to extend my stay due to the situation here,” adding, “I hope reporters understand our situation as we cannot brief them in advance due to problems with communication with Pyongyang.”

A source at Hyundai Asan also said, “Cho has not been able to communicate with Hyun’s entourage in Pyongyang as well.”