News / Asia

S. Korea Assures Companies About Tourism to North

FILE - People point to a map on a wall in Mount Kumgang resort in Kumgang, Sept. 1, 2011.
FILE - People point to a map on a wall in Mount Kumgang resort in Kumgang, Sept. 1, 2011.
Daniel Schearf
South Korea's Unification Minister met with local investors in the tourism industry Wednesday to discuss compensation for years of suspended travel to North Korea's Mount Kumgang. Cash-strapped Pyongyang pushed for reopening the tours but Seoul says it first wants safety guarantees. 

FILE - South Korea's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae releases a government statement during a news conference at the Unification Ministry in Seoul.FILE - South Korea's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae releases a government statement during a news conference at the Unification Ministry in Seoul.
x
FILE - South Korea's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae releases a government statement during a news conference at the Unification Ministry in Seoul.
FILE - South Korea's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae releases a government statement during a news conference at the Unification Ministry in Seoul.
​Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae met Wednesday with some of the 40 South Korean companies invested in North Korea's Mount Kumgang tourist region.

In 2008, tours to the area were suspended after a middle-aged South Korean woman wandered into a military controlled beach area and was shot dead. Pyongyang claims the tourist ignored instructions from soldiers and ran. It refused to allow a South Korean investigation.

South Korea's Association of Kumgang Tour Investors said the shutdown has cost companies an estimated $750 million in lost sales.

According to Chung Kwan-soo, the president of Noblesse Tour company, the ban forced the company to lay off workers.

​He said it is not just their company but about 120 tourism and bus companies that closed down and reduced their labor force.  In South Korea, he says, at least 30,000 people including employees and their families maintained a living from Mount Kumgang tourism.  He says they are having a difficult time since they lost their jobs.

Unification Minister Ryoo would not say what the government is prepared to offer the investors.  But, speaking Tuesday at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club, he expressed his sympathy and support and said North Korea is to blame for the loss of tourism.

He said tourism has stopped for five years and there is a cause of the stoppage and North Korea has the responsibility to take.  He said the project can be resumed when the cause and responsibility of North Korea is clearly found and when a measure is provided for taking responsibility.

The mountain resort area is a special administrative region opened in 1998 with support by South Korea's Hyundai Asan corporation. The company invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing the region, and says the closure has cost it more than $600 million. For now it is not seeking any compensation from the government.

Mount Kumgang's natural beauty made it a popular destination for South Koreans. Some two million tourists visited while it was open.

Pyongyang has been urging a speedy resumption of the tours, a source of much needed foreign currency. But South Korea wants a safety guarantee for visitors. North Korea also took over hundreds of millions of dollars worth of South Korean assets in the resort area that Seoul wants returned.

Tourism company president Chung said both sides are to blame.

He said the calculation of each side is different so it perpetuates the situation of slow progress. He said the problem occurs as neither side concedes and says there is no end in sight when both sides quibble over the problems of the past.

In an effort to address the stalemate, South Korea agreed in February to allow new investment in Mount Kumgang.

The two Koreas were also to hold talks on resuming tourism in early October.

The progress came after an agreement to reopen their joint factory zone in Kaesong and resume reunions of families separated since the 1950s Korean War.

But while the Kaesong Industrial Zone has slowly restarted operations, North Korea abruptly postponed the family reunions and Mount Kumgang talks.

Pyongyang claimed Seoul was being hostile and taking all the credit for improved relations.

VOA Seoul Bureau producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid