N. Korea Picks Hyundai as Partner for Kaesong Tour-Not

Well it seems that reports of the deal were premature–Hyundai Asan is not a shoe in.  the updated report is below.  The original story in the Korea Times is posted belw it.

N.K. denies report it will keep Hyundai Asan as partnerfor Kaesong tour
Yonhap
1/24/2007

North Korea on Wednesday denied reports that it withdrew plans to change its partner for tours of Kaesong, a border town, and collaborate with Hyundai Asan Corp., the operator of tours to the North’s Mount Geumgang, the North’s official media reported.

According to the Korean Central News Agency, a spokesman for the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) said it “has no formal agreement with the Hyundai side over the issue of tour of Kaesong and, moreover, there was no agreement with the latter in this regard in recent days.”

“The KAPPC’s stand (on the Kaesong tour project) is consistent and it feels no need to examine or consider any change,” it added.

Korea Times
1/21/2007
Lee Jin-woo

North Korea has hinted that it is willing to start the long-delayed Kaesong tourism project with Hyundai Asan instead of Lotte, a Unification Ministry official said on Sunday.

“When former Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok visited the Kaesong industrial complex on Dec. 8, North Korean officials said they have finalized their decision to carry out the project with Hyundai,” said the official on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The former minister stepped down from the post on Dec. 11. His successor, Lee Jae-joung, has not made any specific comment on the issue.

The official also said North Korea’s Asia Pacific Peace Committee has given a positive signal to Hyundai Asan Chairman Yoon Man-jun during Yoon’s visit to a joint inter-Korean tourist site at Mt. Kumgang in North Korea.

Pyongyang has not issued any official document to confirm the verbal promise of the committee, according to the ministry and Hyundai.

Pyongyang has asked Seoul several times to accept Lotte Tour, a subsidiary of Lotte Group, in place of Hyundai Asan, the North Korea-related business arm of Hyundai Group.

The South Korean government, however, has rejected the request, saying, “The contract signed between the North and Hyundai is still effective and legally binding unless the two sides agree to nullify the deal.”

On June 30, the former unification minister met with Lotte Tour Chairman Kim Ki-byung, asking the chairman not to get involved in the inter-Korean business.

Experts said the North and Hyundai are expected to have a tug-of-war over the Stalinist state’s request for a payment of $150 per tourist to Kaesong, the capital of the Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).

Pyongyang has set the higher admission fee, nearly 20 times more than the $20 Hyundai pays to North Korea for every South Korean traveler to Mt. Kumgang. Hyundai has claimed the demand is outrageous.

Since July 1, the North has banned South Korean visitors to the Kaesong inter-Korean industrial complex from visiting the city’s downtown area including historic sites.

Hundreds of South Koreans, mostly businesspeople and government officials, had been allowed to make an excursion to Kaesong during their visit to the industrial complex.

The Stalinist state also stirred much controversy by signing an overlapping contract with a small South Korean company, Unico, in 2005 despite its initial contract with Hyundai Asan to develop golf courses at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Hyundai signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Emerson Pacific Group, which has been constructing golf courses at the scenic resort area at Mt. Kumgang, for the project in Kaesong.

Hyundai plans to develop a total of 66 million square meters of land by 2012, including information-technology complexes and residential districts at the industrial complex. The project commenced at an historic inter-Korean summit in June 2000.

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