How much do you know about the Mount Kumgang tour program, a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation?
How much do you know about the Mount Kumgang tour program, a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation?

Last month North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
ordered to remove South Korean-built facilities at the North’s Mount Kumgang resort. The leaders of the two Koreas agreed in September
last year to resume the tour program as soon as conditions are met. It was suspended in 2008 after a female tourist
was shot to death by a North Korean guard. The tour program was a key symbol of reconciliation
between the two Koreas, which technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended
only with an armistice, not a peace treaty. This week North Korea Now will look into the
Mount Kumgang tour program, a symbol of inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation. Mount Kumgang has historically been one of
the most scenic spots representing the Korean Peninsula. Since the division of the two Koreas, however,
Mount Kumgang has become a part of North Korean territory, north of the border, making it
impossible for South Koreans to travel there for around 50 years. In January 1989, Chung Ju-yung, the late founder
and former chairman of Hyundai Group, visited the North to sign an agreement between Hyundai
and North Korea to start the program. And then, the tour program started a decade
later. In October 1998, then-honorary chairman Chung
Ju-yung met the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang and made a deal under
the condition of renting the Mount Kumgang area for 50 years paying US$ 942 million to
the North. And finally the tour to Mount Kumgang began
on 18th November of that year with a cruise ship named “Kumgang” leaving the port
of Donghae in Gangwon Province. At first, it was only possible to go by boat,
but overland tours by bus began in 2003, and in 2005 KBS’ “Open Concert” was held there
to mark the cumulative 1 million tourists. In 2006, NongHyup Bank’s Mount Kumgang branch
opened, and passenger car tours began in 2008 and golf courses at Mount Kumgang were also
completed. While expanding, however, the tour has met
an unexpected ambush. The tour program was suspended after a South
Korean tourist, Park Wang-ja, was killed by a North Korean guard on July 11th 2008. A total of 1,955,951 tourists visited Mount
Kumgang until then. In other words, it has been suspended just
before achieving the goal of 2 million tourists. Even after the suspension of the tour, reunion
events of separated families and a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of Hyundai Group’s
start of Mount Kumgang tour have been held at the resort, but the door has not been opened
for general tourists. A safety guarantee has been regarded as a
prerequisite for the resumption of the tour program since its suspension. However, North Korea has not made an official
apology for the incident. Nonetheless, growing hopes for the resumption
of the tour program come after the Panmunjom Declaration in April last year. Hyundai Group, which launched a task force
after the April inter-Korean summit, held a joint inter-Korean event in November last
year to mark the 20th anniversary of the cross-border tour program. In his New Year’s speech, Kim also said that
he is ready to resume the joint project without preconditions. South Korean President Moon Jae-in hailed
Kim’s remarks. But Inter-Korean relations have been in limbo
since the breakdown of the Hanoi summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim last February. It ended without a deal as they failed to
find common ground over how to match Pyongyang’s denuclearization steps with corresponding
measures by Washington. A prolonged stalemate in nuclear talks between
the North and the U.S. has also taken a toll on inter-Korean ties as sanctions are standing
in the way of Seoul’s push to expand and advance their relations. In contrast with last year when a whirlwind
of cross-border contacts and exchanges took place after their leaders’ three meetings,
North Korea has been less receptive to Seoul’s offers of cooperation and even talks in recent
months, leading to limited progress in their major cross-border projects like the Mount
Kumgang tour program. South Korea invested a huge amount of money
in launching the joint tour program at the scenic mountain. Hyundai Asan Corp., in particular, a South
Korean firm that owns a 50-year license for its operation, spent more than US$600 million
in constructing buildings and facilities necessary for the project. To make matters worse, however, prospects
for the resumption of the program have become all the more uncertain with Kim’s recent
order. What are your thoughts on this? Please let me know in the comments below and
thank you for watching North Korea Now.

3 thoughts on “How much do you know about the Mount Kumgang tour program, a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation?”

  1. Eagle Shadow says:


  2. steve boy says:


  3. Peter Law says:

    Awesome scenery. 👏 👏

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *