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NK Threatening to Shut Down Mountain Tour

Posted April. 24, 2010 05:25,   


The tourism project at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang faces shutdown in the wake of the North’s moves to seize South Korean-owned properties and expel staff.

Pyongyang yesterday said it will confiscate five properties held by the South Korean government at the resort, including a reunion center, freeze land owned by South Korean companies, and expel management personnel. This has pushed the tourism project, which began on Nov. 18, 1998, on the brink of collapse.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman of Pyongyang’s Landmark Comprehensive Development Agency as saying, “We will seize five South Korean government properties that have been seized, namely the reunion center, a fire station, a cultural center belonging to the (South) Korea Tourism Organization, a spa and a duty-free shop.”

“At the request of a relevant government organization, the agency will act to confiscate such properties following the previous action of freezing South Korean properties in the Mount Kumgang resort.”

The spokesman added, “This move is to offset our losses caused by the protracted suspension of the Mount Kumgang tour,” adding, “Confiscated properties will be taken over by our government or transferred to new operators.”

“The remaining South Korean real estate in the Mount Kumgang resort will all be frozen and management personnel will be expelled,” he said. “It is truly regrettable that South Koreans are permanently prohibited from touring Mount Kumgang by the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration.”

“The puppet regime blatantly links the sinking of a South Korean naval ship to us, completely severing inter-Korean relations, and says it is ready to wage a war,” he added. “We have reached a critical moment to face war let alone suspension of the tour.”

An official at the Unification Ministry in Seoul said, “North Korea’s move is unfair and will fundamentally undermine inter-Korean relations,” adding, “This move is unacceptable since it breaches agreements between operators and governments, and international norms.”

Despite its hard-line measures, Pyongyang did not mention reconsideration of the Kaesong joint industrial project. It had mentioned the project April 8 along with the freeze of South Korean properties.

An expert in South Korea said, “North Korea didn’t confiscate the properties owned by South Korean companies, which means it has left open the possibility of a final agreement.”