Hyundai’s Hyun to travel to Mt. Kumgang resort

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Hyundai’s Hyun to travel to Mt. Kumgang resort

Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun will visit Mount Kumgang in North Korea Saturday to attend a memorial ceremony for former Hyundai Group Chairman Chung Mong-hun, while negotiations between the two Koreas are at standstill over a jointly-run factory complex.

The Ministry of Unification, which is in charge of all inter-Korean interactions, yesterday approved Hyun’s one-day visit to attend the annual ceremony in commemoration of her husband, who pioneered the cross-border Mount Kumgang resort project and the Kaesong Industrial Park, which are both now suspended.

“Hyundai Asan applied for a visit of its 38 officials, including the Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, to hold a memorial of the 10th anniversary of the death of Chung Mong-hun in Mount Kumgang on Aug. 3,” a Unification Ministry official told reporters yesterday. “The government has approved the visit in the context that they have held such events annually.”

According to the official, the delegation led by Hyun will depart from the South at 9:30 a.m. and return at 4 p.m.

When asked if the South Korean government would send a message to the North with the delegation, the official said, “The government has no plan to deliver such a message. This visit is purely for the commemoration.”

For this year’s event, North Korea sent an invitation, which is a requirement for the visit.

It’s been four years since Hyundai Chairwoman Hyun visited Mount Kumgang for the commemoration ceremony.

In 2012, the Hyundai delegation was led by Chang Kyung-chak, CEO of Hyundai Asan. After the visit, Hyun told reporters that the delegation didn’t deliver any political message to North Korea.

But Hyun added she “expects Mount Kumgang to reopen next year [2013], marking the 10th anniversary [of Chung’s death].”

The Kumgang resort has been shuttered since a visiting South Korean woman was shot dead by a North Korean soldier in July 2008 for reasons not fully explained.

At a second round of low-level talks over reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex, North Korea abruptly proposed the South restart tours to the resort as well as holding reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The South turned down the proposal for Kumgang. It said its top priority in inter-Korean business was reopening the Kaesong park.

After that refusal, North Korea withdrew both of its proposals, including the family reunions.

Negotiations to restart business in the eight-year-old Kaesong Industrial Complex are frozen.

The last remaining symbol of the Sunshine Policy days of engagement and doing business with North Korea has been shuttered since April when Pyongyang unilaterally pulled out its 53,000 workers amid strained inter-Korean relations.

The two Koreas reached agreement on some issues for the resumption of business at the park, but still disagree on the South’s insistence of some guarantee that the park won’t be held hostage in the future when relations are strained.

South Korea has proposed a final round of talks to the North to resolve the Kaesong issue, but North Korea had not responded through the Panmunjom communication channel or its state media as of yesterday.

Still, North Korea has not cut off regular communications with the South through the liaison officials at the truce village of Panmunjom. The Northern officials have answered phone calls from the South twice every day, at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to the Unification Ministry.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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