Hyundai Executives Request Visit to North Korea

John Kim, July 4, 2017, 12:34 p.m.

The Hyundai Group will seek approval from the Unification Ministry for a visit by executives to North Korea for a memorial service for its late chairman Chung Mong-hun, who had close business ties to the regime.

"We have held a memorial service for Chung at Mt. Kumgang on Aug. 4 every year," said a spokesman for Hyundai Asan, the affiliate that operates long-suspended package tours to the scenic North Korean mountain resort. "But we did not go last year because inter-Korean relations worsened."

Chung committed suicide 14 years ago as a corruption investigation closed in, and the ailing conglomerate is now run by his widow. "We expect that the government will approve on the proposal given the new government's desire to improve relations with the North," a Hyundai Asan executive said. But he added the details are still being discussed.

Hyundai Asan has reportedly been working on a plan for the resumption of the package tours and reopening of a hotel and other facilities there. But that requires an agreement between the two Koreas that still looks a long way off. "We just hope that the two sides will reach an agreement and the tour programs resume as soon as possible," the executive said.

The tour programs began in November 1998, when a cruise ship first set sail for Mt. Kumgang, but were suspended when South Korean tourist Park Wang-ja was shot dead by a North Korean soldier at the resort on July 11, 2008.

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