Go to contents

`Chinese Could Take Over Mount Kumgang Tourism`

Posted April. 10, 2010 05:26,   


A day after North Korea nullified its contract with Hyundai Asan Corp. as operator of tours to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort, an association of the company’s suppliers said yesterday that Pyongyang is not bluffing.

The association said North Korea could replace Hyundai with a Chinese company as the new tour operator, adding Pyongyang’s freezing of Seoul’s real estate assets in the resort has left three South Korean companies stuck in those properties.

In an emergency meeting at Hyundai Asan’s headquarters in central Seoul, the suppliers said North Korea could replace the tour, and if so, they will be forced to drop their tourism businesses.

They also agreed that South Korea should resolve the situation, deciding to urge Unification Minister Hyun In-taek to make an active response.

“The frozen South Korean real estate assets are where North Korea can resume tourism without depending on Hyundai Asan and its suppliers,” said Kim Rae-hyun, an executive of the suppliers’ association. “Technically, our assets are frozen, too.”

J&D Health Care, which operates a spa in a building owned by the South Korean government, and two other businesses are being affected by the freeze.

The association said North Korea could take over South Korean-operated hotels, spa, performance hall and duty-free shop and allowing Chinese businesses to run the tours instead. Rumors say three Chinese companies will start tourism business activity there from mid-April.

A spokesman for the Unification Ministry in Seoul said it has heard that the Chinese companies could do conduct tourism business in the Mount Kumgang area, but has no concrete information yet.

Another South Korean official said Pyongyang’s latest measures are a “political offensive” and premeditated measures, adding Seoul will respond “in a dignified manner.”

While Seoul is willing to have dialogue with Pyongyang at any time, the official said, it will not set the date first or send a notice to Pyongyang.

The South Korean government is said to be preparing for scenarios North Korea could create by taking certain steps.

sukim@donga.com kyle@donga.com