Soju importer in U.S. strikes deal on Mt. Kumgang

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Soju importer in U.S. strikes deal on Mt. Kumgang

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Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun and other executives leave the family cemetery in Hanam, Gyeonggi, after a ceremony to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the death of Chung Mong-hun, former chairman of the Hyundai Group and husband of Hyun. [NEWSIS]

North Korea has selected a U.S. company to do business with at its Mount Kumgang tourist resort to replace, at least partially, Hyundai Asan, which has a legal monopoly on the business.

The decision was made last month, according to Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A., a trading company based in New York State.

The company is run by Steve Park, or Park Il-woo, who said his company had signed a memorandum of understanding with North Korean officials on July 25.

“It’s a plan that has been long in the making,” said Park. “Last week an employee of mine at our Pyongyang office received my orders and signed the MOU with North Korean officials.”

The MOU gave the trading company rights to publicize Mount Kumgang tourism, attract investments from other companies and lure prospective tourists, said Park.

Park said North Korea was negotiating additional contracts with companies in China and Japan.

Park’s company previously sold North Korean beer and soju in the U.S. but the business suffered from a ban on North Korean imports and lackluster demand.

The businessman, who said he was planning to visit North Korea in the next few days, said he had no comment on the impasse between the two Koreas on the mountain resort.

North Korea seized South Korean assets at the mountain resort in April 2010 after the South suspended Mount Kumgang tours in July 2008 when a South Korean tourist there was shot and killed by a North Korean soldier. South Korean assets at the resort are estimated to be worth around 300 billion won ($283 million).

North Korea has insisted the South Korean government accept a change to its tourism law that strips Hyundai Asan of exclusive development rights for Mount Kumgang. Seoul says the law infringes on binding contracts.

Hyundai Asan said yesterday it remains hopeful the company will be involved in cross-border tourism in the near future.

The company’s president Chang Kyung-chak left for Mount Kumgang yesterday to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the death of former Hyundai Group chairman Chung Mong-hun, who was the guiding force behind the project in North Korea. Chang told reporters he would not be having talks with North Korean officials over the dispute.

Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, who attended a memorial ceremony in Hanam, Gyeonggi, yesterday, said the company was still interested in doing business at the resort. When asked by reporters what she thought of the U.S. company doing business with North Korea, she said she was unaware of the situation.

North Korea said on July 29 that South Korea had “three more weeks” to remove its assets from the resort.

Inter-Korean relations seemed to be thawing earlier this week. The South Korean Red Cross offered 5 billion won worth of aid, including medicine and daily necessities, to rain victims in North Korea Wednesday.

North Korea sent a reply yesterday, asking for food and cement from the South’s Red Cross. The Red Cross replied saying it would only send the items mentioned before. The South Korean Red Cross said in a statement it “hoped for negotiations to end soon.”


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

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

북, 금강산 사업자 한국계 미국 회사 선정

재미동포 박일우씨 운영
통일부 “말도 안 되는 얘기”

북한 당국이 최근 미국 뉴욕의 한 한국계 무역회사 미주조선평양무역회사를 새로운 금강산 관광 사업자로 선정하고 양해각서를 체결했다고 MBC가 보도했다. MBC는 단독 입수한 양해각서에 미주조선평양무역회사가 미주지역에서 금강산 관광 선전과 투자 유치, 관광객 모집을 진행한다는 내용이 적혀 있다고 전했다. 미주조선평양무역회사는 재미동포 박일우씨가 운영하는 뉴욕 소재 무역회사로, 북한의 평양소주를 미국 시장에 판매하려 한 적이 있다.

 이와 관련, 통일부 당국자는 “정부나 현대아산 모두 처음 듣는 이야기”라며 “금강산 관광 독점권은 현대아산에 있다는 것은 전 세계가 아는 사실인 만큼 말도 안 되는 이야기”라고 일축했다.

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