[EDITORIALS]Heavy Hand on Tourism Project

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[EDITORIALS]Heavy Hand on Tourism Project

The government is proceeding with its expedient plans to rescue the Mount Kumgang tourism project, which is on the verge of being discontinued. Out of the blue, the government-invested Korea National Tourism Organization said last week that it would participate in the Mount Kumgang project as a consortium partner. Hyundai Asan Corp., which initiated the project without a proper profitability study, has run out of capital due to reckless business practices. On Saturday, the government endorsed the tourist agency as an inter-Korean cooperation firm. As such, it can ask the government to extend loans out of a government fund raised to prop up inter-Korean economic cooperation. The government already pledges to expedite the process of loan extension, revealing that the tourism agency's participation in the project was indeed a back door for the government to support Hyundai Asan through taxpayers' money.

The attempt of Seoul to make up for the deficit of a private company that has drained money while overlooking profitability via tax money contradicts the principle of separation of politics and economy. We still believe it is necessary to continue the project because it is the symbol of rapprochement between North and South Koreas. The government should have been more frank and candid and taken steps to gain support from the general public, rather than take an expedient approach. This is what we think is wrong about Seoul's initiative. The government's support should be provided openly and based on profitability. Only then will the support endure, regardless of changes of administrations or inter-Korean relations. The government insists that it does not need to win consent from the National Assembly because the inter-Korean economic cooperation fund laws do not mandate it. Such an uncompromising attitude, while attempting to use hard-earned tax-payers' money, does not ensure the future of the project.

The government is campaigning as if the tourism project will be a goose that will lay golden eggs when the overland tour route opens. However, there are still many obstacles to overcome. From our side, ministers are busy painting a rosy picture, but Pyongyang shows no reaction. There is no need for us to fret about the project. Only when Pyongyang shows a proactive attitude will the project become a real symbol of profitable inter-Korean cooperation project.
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