Kim Jong-un Orders S.Korea's Tour Facilities at Mt. Kumgang Removed

Jay Yim, Oct. 24, 2019, 9:42 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has criticized his "predecessors" for depending on South Korea to develop its Mt. Kumgang resort and ordered the destruction of "all the unpleasant-looking facilities" built by the South.

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Wednesday that during an inspection trip to the scenic resort, Kim said that "due to the mistaken policy of the predecessors who tried to get benefits without efforts after just offering the tourist area, the mountain was neglected for more than 10 years." He instructed officials "to remove all the unpleasant-looking facilities of the south side with an agreement with the relevant unit of the south side and to build new modern service facilities our own way."

South Korean tours to the mountain once symbolized rapprochement between the two Koreas. Tour operator Hyundai Asan spent some W1 trillion building a hotel and other facilities at the site and running the tours, which were halted after a South Korean tourist was shot and killed by North Korean soldiers in 2008.

Kim was also quoted as saying, "Mt. Kumkang is our land won at the cost of blood and even a cliff and a tree on it are associated with our sovereignty and dignity," adding, "We will always welcome our compatriots from the south if they want to come to Mt. Kumgang... but what is important is for our people to have the shared view that it is not desirable to let the south undertake the tour of Mt. Kumgang, our famous mountain."

The order comes after the North Korean leader urged his people to "raise the banner of self-sufficiency even higher" during his visit last week to the construction site of a tourism complex in Samjiyon, Ryanggang Province, complaining about the "obstacles and ordeals" it faces due to the "stubborn sanctions and suffocating schemes of enemies."

It apparently shows the North's frustration over the lack of a response from South Korea to its demand to resume the resort tours, which is impossible under international sanctions, since they are a major source of hard currency for the stricken regime.

During his summit with President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang in September last year, Kim called for the resumption of the tours as soon as circumstances permit. He then said in his New Year's address this year he was willing to resume them without any conditions.

A Cheong Wa Dae official declined to comment on the North's move, saying, "We first need to clearly analyze North Korea's position and intention."

A Hyundai Asan staffer said they are "perplexed," as they are hoping and working to resume the tours.

Kim Tae-woo, a former head of the Korea Institute for National Unification, said, "Even if talks are held to discuss the matter, the North will simply inform our side of its decision." He added, "Due to our government's submissive North Korea policy, we are at risk of losing some W1 trillion spent to develop the Mt. Kumgang resort."

Meanwhile, Kim's wife, Ri Sol-ju, was seen accompanying the North Korean leader on his visit to Mt. Kumgang in a photo released by state-run media.

She had not been spotted in public for almost four months, raising speculation that she may have given birth to another child. 

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