[EDITORIALS]The Fine Print of the Kumgang Deal

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[EDITORIALS]The Fine Print of the Kumgang Deal

The agreement between Hyundai Asan Corporation and North Korea on the method for calculating the fees for the Mount Kumgang tourism project, the implementation of the overland tourism program and the designation of the mountain as a special tourist zone are all to be welcomed. By agreeing to streamline, albeit be-latedly, the tour project whose unprofitability caused Hyundai to go belly up, the two sides have opened a way for the Koreas to resume dialogue.

However, the agreement this time is unclear in many respects and did not root out all the problems that burden the Mount Kumgang tourism project. It will shine as a symbol of reconciliation and cooperation only when Hyundai, North Korea and South Korea jointly draft follow-up measures to clarify unclear aspects of the agreement and eliminate some difficulties that are still saddled on South Korean tourists. Above all, Hyundai should make public the agreement that it has signed with the North. Transparency will contribute to inviting the government and private sector companies to invest in the project. Hyundai said, "It is not the time for us to disclose the document." It simply announced that of the $46 million in overdue tourism fees, it will soon pay $22 million to Pyongyang. Without specifying the terms or methods of agreement, Hyundai said that the two sides agreed that it would pay "in a rational manner that befits Hyundai" from now till overland tourism starts. Such ambiguous statements may cause disputes in the future.

The ambiguity invites the suspicion that the negotiations were conducted in a roundabout way as the needs of the North, our government and Hyundai fell together: The North needs dollars, our government wants a breakthrough in the inter-Korean stalemate and Hyundai wants to avoid the possible closure of the tourism project. It is doubtful that overland tourism will be easily opened when the North has not abided by its agreements on the Kyongui railway.

When the government clarifies those points before supporting the project with inter-Korean cooperation funds and finance from banks, it will encourage third party participation in the consortium. The North should understand that this national project can succeed only when it is mutually beneficial to both sides. It should come to inter-Korean governmental talks with the intention to provide the conditions and ambience for tourists to travel freely and comfortably.
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