‘We’ll nullify Kumgang deal’: North

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‘We’ll nullify Kumgang deal’: North

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Charter buses that once carried South Korean tourists to North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort are parked at the Asan Rest Area in Goseong, Gangwon, yesterday. The cross-border trips have been on hiatus for nearly three years since the North shot a South Korean tourist to death at the scenic mountain resort in July 2008. [YONHAP]


North Korea is losing patience with South Korea because of its refusal to send tourists to the Mount Kumgang resort and threatened to completely sever its business relationship with Hyundai Asan, the South Korean contractor for cross-border tours.

A statement from the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee informed Hyundai that North Korea would retract the company’s monopoly over the tours, which was supposed to be valid for 30 years, or until 2028. The Asia-Pacific Peace Committee is a state organ that oversees inter-Korean affairs.

A Seoul official said yesterday that the North should withdraw its threat “immediately.”

“We have sent the South countless requests for the resumption of cross-border tours and offered fair and constructive measures in regard to the South’s position,” the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said in the statement. “We waited as long as we could for the past three years. There is no hope that Mount Kumgang tourism will be restarted.”

The statement also accused Seoul of “kicking aside negotiations.”

The statement said the North Korean government would take over Mount Kumgang tourism and could award responsibility for tours to another foreign business partner. But tour groups from South Korea, it said, would still be handled by Hyundai Asan.

The South Korean government didn’t issue an official response, but an official from the Ministry of Unification said yesterday: “Unilaterally changing the content of the contract is a violation of agreements made between business partners in the South and North, as well as agreements between the two countries. This is also not in alignment with international practice. [North Korea] should immediately withdraw its action.”

Seoul is planning to work with Hyundai Asan officials to figure out a response, the official said, and if needed they will request assistance from the international community.

When North Korea offered Chinese tour groups visits to Mount Kumgang last year, Seoul asked Beijing not to accept, and China complied.

Hyundai Asan expressed regret for the North’s statement Saturday.

“Agreements made with North Korea regarding Mount Kumgang tourism cannot be canceled and cannot lose their power through unilateral notifications; they should be abided by,” Hyundai Asan said in an official statement. “North Korea has acknowledged that Hyundai should be responsible for cross-border tours from the South, and because they said they will keep their loyalty and cooperate with Hyundai, we will make efforts to resume Mount Kumgang tours.”

The Mount Kumgang tours began in November 1998, and by 2000, tens of thousands made the trip every month. A total of 199,966 tourists visited the mountain resort until tours stopped in 2008, according to Hyundai Asan. In 2008, a North Korean soldier shot a South Korean female tourist who accidentally wandered into an off-limits area during a morning stroll.

Hyundai Asan has so far recorded 357.3 billion won ($333.1 million) in losses since the tours were halted and a little more than a dozen staff are still at the resort for maintenance.


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

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
北 "현대 금강산 관광 독점권 효력 취소"
아태평화위 담화 발표…'北지역 통한 관광은 해외에 위임 가능'
'南측 통한 관광만 계속 현대가 맡아'

북한 대남기구인 조선아시아태평양평화위원회는 8일 현대그룹의 금강산 관광사업 독점권의 효력을 취소한다고 밝혔다고 조선중앙통신이 전했다.

아태평화위 대변인은 이날 발표한 담화에서 "이제 더는 금강산 관광이 재개될 가망도 없다"며 "우리는 현대 측과 맺은 금강산 관광에 관한 합의서에서 현대 측에 준 독점권에 관한 조항의 효력을 취소한다"고 밝혔다.

대변인은 "북측 지역을 통한 금강산 관광은 우리가 맡아 하되 해외사업자에게 위임할 수 있고, 남측 지역을 통한 관광은 현대가 계속 맡아 한다"며 "(이 같은) 입장을 현대 측에 통고하고 그에 대한 공식문건을 정식 넘겨줬다"고 말했다.

북한의 이 같은 조치는 중국인 관광객의 금강산 관광을 염두에 둔 조치로 보인다. 중국 여행사들은 작년 5월 북한 단체관광을 시작하면서 외금강 관광을 포함한 상품을 판매하기도 했다.

대변인은 "조선아시아태평양평화위원회와 명승지종합개발지도국은 공화국의 해당기관에 금강산 관광과 관련한 법률적 조치를 취해줄 것을 제기했다"며 "금강산 관광을 새롭게 하는 것과 관련한 해당한 국가적 조치는 곧 취해지게 될 것"이라고 말했으나 조치의 구체적 내용은 언급하지 않았다.

대변인은 "우리는 현대 측과의 신의를 지켜 현대를 비롯한 남측 기업들의 이해관계는 물론 금강산 관광을 희망하는 남녘 동포들의 염원까지 충분히 고려한 합리적인 안을 내놓으면서 합의를 보기 위해 마지막까지 인내성있게 노력했다"며 "그러나 현대 측과의 협상도 남조선 당국의 방해 책동으로 말미암아 끝내 결실을 볼 수 없게 됐다"고 주장했다.

금강산 관광은 2008년 8월 관광객 피격 사망사건으로 중단됐으며, 북한은 천안함 사건 후인 작년 4월 말 현대아산의 외금강 주요 시설에 대한 동결조치를 집행했다.

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