Hyundai Asan chief offers resignation over Kumgangsan

According to Yonhap:

The chief of Hyundai Asan Corp., a South Korean firm that runs tours to North Korea, expressed his intention to step down on Thursday to take responsibility for failing to resume the inter-Korean tour business.

“(I) couldn’t settle them even after running to revive tours (to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong) and normalize business,” Hyundai Asan President Cho Kun-shik said in an e-mail sent to company employees. “I thought taking clear responsibility for results as a president was critical for the firm and the business”.

He intends to resign after a shareholder meeting scheduled for next Wednesday.

Hyundai had been operating tourism projects to the scenic Mount Kumgang on North Korea’s east coast and Kaesong, the ancient capital of the Goryeo Dynasty (A.D. 918-1392).

Cho, a former vice minister with the Ministry of Unification, took the company’s helm in August 2008, a month after tours to the famed mountain resort were suspended following the shooting death of a South Korean woman in the area. Visits to Kaesong were stopped in December of the same year.

He took office vowing to reopen the tour programs, which remain on hold as the two Koreas have yet to reach an agreement over terms for their resumption.

The postponement in relaunching the tours has prompted almost 70 percent of the company’s employees to leave the firm. “I felt regretful for not having reinstated those who had left,” Cho said.

Last week, North Korea accused the Seoul government of effectively blocking South Koreans from visiting its tourist attractions and warned it could revoke all deals covering inter-Korean tours.

But Seoul has demanded an official apology for the shooting death and a pledge that such an incident will not occur in the future, while saying a formal investigation must be carried out to determine why the shooting occurred.

As of February, Hyundai Asan suffered a loss of 257.9 billion won (US$228.1 million) in sales stemming from the travel suspension, according to the company.

Amid growing losses, the firm sold off part of its assets, previously used for the tour program, including 51 tour buses and 41 heavy vehicles.

Mount Kumgang had been a popular tourist spot for South Koreans since it was opened to them in 1998 as a symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement spearheaded by the liberal government of Kim Dae-jung at that time.

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Hyundai Asan chief offers to resign over suspended inter-Korean tour program
Yonhap
3/18/2010

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