N. Korea reopens resort hotel

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N. Korea reopens resort hotel

The North Korean government last month reopened a South Korean-built hotel and restaurant that caters to tourists, according to Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based newspaper run by the General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan.

The article, which appeared Saturday, said that the Mount Kumgang Hotel opened July 20 and that “the road to enjoy tourism has been opened ... to foreign as well as domestic tourists.”

The North also opened the Mokrangwan, a restaurant at the Mount Kumgang resort. The hotel is a North Korean facility leased on a long-term basis to Hyundai Asan. The South Korean company is currently the sole holder of the facilities’ usage rights. A source from Hyundai Asan said he had not heard any news of the resumption of tourism at Mount Kumgang and although “it is difficult to come up with a response [to North Korea], the situation is being monitored.”

The paper quoted an official from the North Korean National Tourism Administration that official tour packages to the mountain, which include stays at the hotel, could be provided as early as next year. The article also made note of pieces of property seized by the North in the resort owned by the South’s Korea Tourism Organization and the government, such as the culture center and reunion building, which has been used for South-North family reunions. “No South Korean personnel could be seen [on the resort]...and the yard where South Korean tourists used to [gather] is now empty,” the article said.

North Korea confiscated South Korean real estate at the Mount Kumgang resort and expelled all South Korean-hired employees in April after tourism was halted in October 2008 when a South Korean tourist was shot to death by a North Korean guard.

Mount Kumgang tourism began in late 1998 as a joint effort between the two Koreas.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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