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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora