China halts group tours to Kumgang

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China halts group tours to Kumgang

BEIJING - Chinese tourist agencies have suspended tours to Mount Kumgang in North Korea just weeks after they began, according to various sources.

A source in Beijing stated yesterday that “Chinese tourist agencies have deleted all information on travel packages to Mount Kumgang from their Web sites this month.” The source said that “the China National Tourist Office, which controls the tourism policies of the country, sent a message to travel agencies to stop offering travel packages.”

Travel agencies in Beijing began offering Mount Kumgang packages last month and sent their first tourists on June 27. Agencies advertised a five-day tour in March that would start from Beijing then visit Pyongyang, Wenshan, and Mount Kumgang.

The South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism delivered a statement to the China National Tourist Office on May 18, calling for “cooperation from the Chinese government to bring justice for the illegal actions of North Korea, such as freezing and confiscating the Onjonggak Culture Center and other South Korean properties of the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region in April after the Cheonan incident.” The Ministry requested that three of the four regions of the resort - Nae-Kumgang, Whe-Kumgang, and Hae-Kumgang - to be off limits to Chinese tourists.

Analysts say Beijing may be responding to Seoul’s request by canceling the tours.

One tourism specialist in Beijing noted, however, that “consumer response to the Mount Kumgang tours was lower than expected.”

By Chang Se-jeong []
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