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Unification minister gathers Kumgangsan tour operators’ opinions

Oct. 31, 2019 - 16:52 By Park Han-na
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul held a meeting Thursday with chiefs of Hyundai Asan and the state-run Korea Tourism Organization, operators of now-suspended tours to North Korea’s Kumgangsan, to discuss ways to deal with Pyongyang’s demand to demolish their facilities from the tourism resort.

Kim stressed close coordination with the operators to find a path forward in “this critical situation” in a meeting with Bae Kook-hwan, president of Hyundai Asan, and Ahn Young-bae, president of the Korean Tourism Organization. 

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (center) shakes hands with Bae Kook-hwan (left), president of Hyundai Asan, and Ahn Young-bae, president of the Korean Tourism Organization at the Ministry of Unification in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Hundreds of millions of dollars invested by South Korean companies are at risk, as North Korea rejected South Korea’s proposal Tuesday to hold a working-level meeting over the regime’s plan to tear down the South’s properties, including hotels, restaurants and a hot spring, to transform the site into a new international cultural and tourism attraction.

“In the future, there could be talks between the inter-Korean authorities and between the operators and North Korea, but the more important thing is that the Ministry of Unification and the operators hold a thorough discussion,” Kim said.

Bae of Hyundai Asan, the inter-Korean business arm of conglomerate Hyundai Group, expressed being taken by surprise over Pyongyang’s decision as the company has been preparing for the resumption of Kumgangsan tourism.

“We hope that the government will work hard to protect the property rights of South Koreans and play an active role in inter-Korean and international relations,” Bae said.

Hyundai Asan has invested around $196.6 million, while other South Korea companies, including the Korea Tourism Organization and Emerson Pacific, spent some $122.5 million in building facilities necessary for tours to the mountain.