Newly released document contradicts Seoul’s claim on Mt. Kumkang tourism

Posted on : 2012-11-27 13:42 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
DUP lawmaker: North Korea provided written guarantee of tourists' safety at Mt. Kumkang

By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter

North Korea provided a written guarantee for the safety of tourists at Mt. Kumkang during 2010 working level talks with the South Korean government. The draft of the inter-Korean working level agreement to resume tourism at Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong, disclosed on Nov. 26 by Democratic United Party lawmaker Hong Ik-pyo. This contradicts Seoul’s claims that it could not reopen the tourism venture because no such guarantee had been received.

The draft was provided by Pyongyang during its February 2010 working level talks with the South Korean government in Kaesong. In it, it pledged to “fully guarantee all necessary amenities for tourism and the physical safety of tourists.”

The draft was made by North Korea and delivered to the South Korean delegation.

To date, the South Korean government has maintained that it cannot restart tourist trips to Mt. Kumgang because North Korea did not provide any written guarantee of visitors‘ safety during the talks.

But of Seoul’s three demands for resuming tourism there - an investigation into the shooting death of a South Korean tourist, measures to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring, and guarantees of tourist safety - the evidence suggest Pyongyang did at least meet the last of them, and with a written rather than oral pledge.

Then-leader Kim Jong-il also made a spoken promise during an August 2009 meeting with Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun, telling her he would fully guarantee all necessary tourism amenities and the personal safety of tourists. The group subsequently attempted to resume the Mt. Kumkang tourism effort based on the promise. The working level talks in February 2010 were held after Seoul decided there needed to be a promise from the North Korean government for the safety and lives of South Korean visitors.

North Korea also appears to have honored its contract with the Hyundai Group up to that point. The document stated that it would “actively cooperate for the amicable execution of the agreements reached between [North Korea’s] Asia-Pacific Peace Committee and the Hyundai Group.”

But after the talks broke down in April 2010, North Korea began seizing and freezing South Korean assets within the Mt. Kumgang tourism zone, including property of the Hyundai Group and Korea Tourism Organization, and canceled the Hyundai Group’s monopoly rights for the tourism venture. It also enacted the Mt. Kumkang Special International Tourism District Act and went to work on a tourism effort with other foreigners.

The draft also showed North Korea proposing to resume tourism at Mt. Kumgang as of April 1, 2010 and at Kaesong as of March 1. It further demanded that South Korean workers in these two zones abide by their laws and regulations.

Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyeong-seok acknowledged that North Korea proposed the Mt. Kumgang tourism resumption based on the pledge made during the 2009 meeting between Kim Jong-il and Hyun Jung-eun.

“But the South Korean government‘s position was that the matter needed further discussions between governments, so the draft was never agreed upon,” Kim explained.


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