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 British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid