[EDITORIALS]Kumgang Tour Needs Explaining

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[EDITORIALS]Kumgang Tour Needs Explaining

The credibility of the government was crushed by the statements that appear to prove that it had been lying about Korea National Tourism Organization's participation in Hyundai's Mount Kumkang tourism project. The government maintained that the decision was independently made by the tourism organization and that the assistance from the North-South Cooperation Fund to the agency was strictly on the grounds of the profitability of the project.

In an interview with the Weekly Dong-a, the president of the national tourism agency, Cho Hong-kyu, made remarks that contradict what Unification Minister Lim Dong-won had been saying. Mr. Cho said that his agency consulted with the Ministries of Culture and Tourism, Unification and the National Intelligence Service before they announced the decision on June 20.

The Ministry of Unification had said that there was no contact between the ministry and the tourism agency before the latter's decision to participate in the consortium. That should be circumstantial evidence enough that the government was deeply involved in the state-run agency's participation in the Kumkang business.

Mr. Cho went on to say that his agency did not review the profitability of the participation in the tours. "We announced the decision after we had indication from the Unification Ministry that it will likely approve the loan," he said. He added that the business plan reportedly drawn up with Hyundai is a "sham," discrediting the government's explanation that the North-South Cooperation Fund was given on the basis of the profit potential of the plan submitted.

It is clear enough, however, from Mr. Cho's statement made at a seminar on Tuesday that the feasibility of the tourism project has never been considered. He said, "Personally, I am of the opinion that there is nothing wrong in dedicating 90 billion won from the North-South Cooperation Fund to the altar of history and the nation."

It is uncertain whether it is a plan to revive Mount Kumgang project that is symbolic of President Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy," or a preparation for Kim Jong-il's Seoul visit or an attempt to keep the ailing Hyundai Group on life support. The government must explain.

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