North threatens ‘extreme’ actions if tours stay shut

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North threatens ‘extreme’ actions if tours stay shut

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Some business representatives who could not travel to Mount Kumgang wait on a chartered bus yesterday at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Office in Goseong, Gangwon. Meanwhile, Hyundai Asan officials and some investors who own real estate in the North Korean resort area traveled there in response to the North’s call for investigations into South Korean owners of real estate holdings. The South’s Unification Ministry denied entry to 12 businessmen who do not own property in the Mount Kumgang area. [YONHAP]


North Korea said yesterday it would take “extreme measures” unless the stalled Mount Kumgang tour program resumes by April 1.

Choi Yo-sik, an official representing interests of South Korean companies at the resort, said Lee Kyong-jin, an official from the North’s Myong-seungji General Development Guidance Bureau, informed the companies of the threatened actions.

The bureau handles Mount Kumgang tourism in Pyongyang.

Choi and other officials of South Korean companies that own facilities at Mount Kumgang traveled north of the border yesterday in response to the North’s declaration last week that all assets would be confiscated if they missed the March 25 deadline to attend the examination of South Korean properties.

“Lee told me that the survey was taking place because Mount Kumgang tourism has been neglected for too long,” Choi told reporters as he returned south of the border. “Lee said he himself didn’t know what these extreme measures would be.”

The North has been pressing to restart the suspended tour programs to the resort and last week threatened it would seek a new tourism business partner unless the South agrees to resume the tour in April.

The program was suspended in July 2008 after a female South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier in a restricted zone.

Also yesterday, North Korea said it would investigate the visitors’ center for separated families, owned by the South Korean government, at the Mount Kumgang resort.

The South, however, has another point of view.

“The visitors’ center has nothing to do with Mount Kumgang tours,” said Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo. “We have no plans to cooperate with the North’s survey.”

The center opened in July 2008. It was designed to hold reunions for families separated during the Korean War.

But with deteriorating inter-Korean relations, only one such session has taken place.

The North also announced the schedule for surveying other facilities at the resort, such as hot springs, a duty-free shop, hotels, restaurants and a golf course.

The examination will begin today and wrap up next Wednesday.

The Unification Ministry has maintained that it would not resume tourism without an official apology and security assurances from North Korea.

A high-ranking official said yesterday the North’s recent threats were “regrettable” and were against protocol.

Apparently strapped for cash following a botched currency reform, the North has been anxious to restart the Mount Kumgang tour program.

The two Koreas held talks in February on resuming the tours, but failed to reach an agreement.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

기업협의회 수석부회장 `北 명승지지도국 간부 발언` ,안교식 회장 `강압적이거나 나쁜 분위기는 아니었다`


북한이 금강산지구 남측 부동산 조사에 응한 현대아산과 투자업체 관계자들에게 "4월1일까지 관광재개를 하지 않으면 관광총국이 특단의 조치를 취할 것"이라는 입장을 전달한 것으로 전해졌다.

그러나 방북했던 투자업체 관계자들이 전하는 바에 따르면 이번 조사는 관광재개를 이끌어 내기 위한 압박용일 가능성도 배제할 수 없는 것으로 보여 향후 조사결과에 따른 북측 조치에 귀추가 주목되고 있다.

25일 현대아산 관계자들과 함께 방북했다 돌아온 최요식 금강산지구기업협의회 수석부회장은 이번 조사와 관련, 북한의 명승지개발지도국의 이경진 과장이 "4월1일까지 관광이 재개되지 않으면 특단의 조치를 취할 것이라는 말을 했다"고 밝혔다.

최 부회장은 이경진 과장은 "이번 조사는 관광중단 장기화와 방치에 따른 조사다. 관광재개를 위한 목적이 있다. 4월1일까지 남측이 응하지 않으면 특단의 조치를 내리겠다. 특단의 조치는 관광총국에서 내린다. 특단조치가 어떤 것인지는 나도 모르겠다"는 말을 했다고 전했다.

그러나 다수의 참석자들은 설명회 분위기가 강압적이지는 않았다고 전해 북한이 강온 양면작전을 구사하고 있다는 분석이 나왔다.
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