Hyundai Group seeks permission to go North

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Hyundai Group seeks permission to go North

Hyundai Group is seeking government approval to visit North Korea for the memorial service of its late Chairman Chung Mong-hun who spearheaded the now-suspended inter-Korean tour programs in the North.

The company has regularly held memorial services for Chung at Mount Kumgang in the North, a resort mountain developed by the former chairman, since his death on August 4, 2003. Hyundai did not seek approval for the visit in 2016 due to rising tensions and last year’s request was rejected by the North.

The group, separate from the more widely known auto making giant Hyundai Motor Group, submitted a request to contact North Korean authorities through its inter-Korean business specializing arm Hyundai Asan to the Ministry of Unification on Wednesday, according to the company.

If the ministry accepts the request, the company can contact the North indirectly via email or fax and ask for approval for a visit. If Pyongyang gives the green light, the company needs to get permission from the Unification Ministry to make a visit.

The Unification Ministry declined to comment on the progress of Hyundai Asan’s request on Thursday, but industry insiders expect things to go smoothly this time considering the positive mood toward peace between the South and the North.

Eyes are on whether the visit, if approved, could lead to the resumption of the inter-Korean tour program to the resort mountain, which was a symbol of the two Koreas’ reconciliation until it was cut off following the fatal shooting of a female tourist by a North Korean soldier in July 2008.

As inter-Korean tensions thawed after the April summit meeting, Hyundai Asan has been preparing to resume economic projects with North Korea by forming a task force in May. The task force is led directly by the late Chairman Chung’s wife, Hyun Jeong-eun, the current chairwoman of the group.

Whether Hyun will be visiting the North herself is yet unknown, but chances are high that the group hopes to start talks to resume the suspended tour program. Hyun participated in memorial services held at Mount Kumgang in 2009, 2013 and 2014.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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