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Seoul must clarify responsibility for deterioration of Kumgang facilities

Seoul must clarify responsibility for deterioration of Kumgang facilities

Posted November. 22, 2019 07:42,   

Updated November. 22, 2019 07:42


It certainly is old: the facilities at the Mountain Kumgang resort dismissed as “unpleasant to look at” by Kim Jong Un, the young dictator of North Korea.

Kim ordered to get rid of the entire facilities of South Korea. Such an attitude will not change overnight. Mounting Mt. Baekdu on the saddle of a white horse last month, Kim portended a “great operation,” and the North Korean media are propagating the redevelopment of the resort in Mt. Kumgang as a “great step.”

The South Korean government has yet to figure out how to respond to Kim Jong Un’s decision to tear down its facilities in Mt. Kumgang. The South is proposing a talk, but the North is refusing to talk. Even an ultimatum has been sent over to notify the demolition of facilities. Some Seoul officials are speaking about a possibility that Pyongyang might tear down parts of the facilities without a prior notice as a way to pressure Washington. Things are truly touch and go.

The South Korean government must clarify its stance on something in regard with Mt. Kumgang: which side is responsible for the dilapidation of the facilities. The North claims that it has sustained massive damage as the South hesitated to restart the tourism business while currying favor with Washington. The North are fabricating a pretext to dismiss the demand for compensation from the South when its facilities are destroyed in the near future.

One thing remains clear: it was the North that caused the tourism in Mt. Kumgang to screech to a halt, which led to deterioration of the facilities. It was in 2008 when the tourism program was suspended after Park Wang-ja, a South Korean tourist, was killed by North Korean post guards. Even afterwards, the tourism program has not opened owing to the concern of international community and sanctions against the North as a response to the communist regime’s nuclear and missile development. However, not a single government official makes such a complaint. Against this backdrop, South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-cheol visited Washington D.C. and said that he will actively pursue a renewal and revival of tourism in Kumgang with the changed conditions and circumstances taken into account.

Hyundai Asan has invested a total 767 billion won in the Mt. Kumgang project for business license and facilities building, and the South Korean government has also spent 59.86 billion won in the tourist program. Pyongyang is denying our right to Mt. Kumgang, arguing that Seoul has somehow been “disqualified.” The Moon Jae-in administration should clarify which side is responsible for the suspension of tourism programs and deterioration of facilities thereof to ensure the property rights of Korean companies and fend off the criticism that it has squandered the taxpayers’ money again. The resumption of the Kumgang tour would be a next order of business.

In-Chan Hwang hic@donga.com