DPRK signals faith in joint projects amid tensions

From Joong Ang Daily:

North sends upbeat note on inter-Korean projects
8/7/2006

North Korea has reaffirmed its commitment toward inter-Korean economic cooperation projects, a South Korean operator of an inter-Korean business project said yesterday.

“We are confident that ongoing inter-Korean economic cooperation projects such as the Mount Kumgang tours will produce new meaningful results,” the North’s Asia Pacific Peace Committee said in a letter to Hyundai Asan Corporation, the operator of a tour program to Mount Kumgang.

The North sent the letter on Tuesday, marking the third anniversary on Friday of the death of Chung Mong-hun, the late chairman of Hyundai Asan, an arm of Hyundai Group in charge of various business projects in the communist country.

Mr. Chung committed suicide in 2003 after being interrogated by prosecutors about slush funds he allegedly provided to politicians to promote his company’s North Korea business projects, including an inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

It is the first time that Pyongyang expressed its stance toward inter-Korean economic cooperation projects currently underway since it launched missiles in early July.

There have been concerns that inter-Korean cooperation efforts may hit a snag after the test-launches. In response, the South suspended humanitarian aid, including fertilizer aid. The North reacted by halting reunion events for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, and also suspended the construction of a 12-story reunion center at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North’s east coast. More than 1 million South Koreans have visited since the resort was launched in 1998.

Far fewer South Koreans visited the scenic mountain resort last month, according to Hyundai Asan. The number of people taking the cross-border tour in July dropped 43 percent compared with the same period last year. A total of 19,605 people traveled there last month, according to the company. 

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