Outline for development of Wonsan-Kumgangsan Tourist Region revealed

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea has recently revealed an outline of its plans for the Wonsan-Kumgangsan Tourist Region. In May an information session regarding the development of this project will be held on-site in Kumgangsan.

The Chinese newspaper Liaoning Daily reported on March 21, 2015: “North Korea recently held a briefing session regarding its development plans for the Wonsan-Kumgangsan Region at the Grand Metropark Hotel in Shenyang. The meeting was attended by professionals, scholars and businesspeople from several neighboring Northeast Asian countries.”

According to the newspaper, at the event North Korea revealed development plans for a tourist region of approximately 430 square km in area. It also revealed that there will be six major scenic spots throughout the Wonsan-Kumgangsan Tourist Region, namely, Wonsan, Tongchon, Mount Kumgang, Sogwangsa, Masikryong Ski Resort and Ullim Falls.

North Korean authorities explained, “This year the Wonsan-Kumgangsan Tourist Region development project is considered the most important element of our country’s international economic development efforts. The region is being designed at the government level as a world scenic spot that combines the beauty of the ocean, lake, and city.”

The authorities went on to explain that “Geographically, the Wonsan-Kumgangsan Tourist Region is situated on the eastern part of the Asian continent and the central part of the Choson [Korean] Peninsula. Within a 3-hour flight of that region there are a total of 40 cities with populations exceeding 1 million people […] The region contains a total of approximately 670 tourist sites, 140 historical sites, 10 sand beaches, 4 mineral springs, 10 natural lakes, and 3 million tons of muds that are highly effective in the treatment of neuralgia and enteritis of the small and large intestines.”

While North Korea repairs and expands the existing road network connecting each tourist site (focusing first on Wonsan), North Korean authorities have decided to construct a transportation network by establishing a high-speed railroad between Pyongyang and Wonsan, as well as opening passenger routes between Wonsan Harbor and Rason and Wonsan Harbor and Vladivostok. They will also introduce a series of measures for attracting tourists, including a no-visa system, which is currently being studied.

The authorities also explained that North Korea “guarantees the free economic activity of investors and will offer fixed, regular benefits in areas such as land use, labor employment, and taxes.”

“Tourism, manufacturing, and service businesses will be exempt from corporate income taxes for four years, three years, and one year respectively. Meanwhile, real estate businesses that invest in infrastructure will be exempted from land use taxes for ten years, and those that invest in other areas will be exempt for five years.”

The Liaoning Daily reported that at the information session, O Ung Gil, president of North Korea’s Wonsan District Development General Corporation, said, “I hope that by participating this May at Mount Kumgang in the international seminar regarding the development of the Wonsan-Kumgangsan Tourist Region, everyone will have the opportunity to witness and experience Mount Kumgang first-hand. […] North Korea’s door is always open and investors are welcome any time.”

Various Chinese companies and private organizations hosted the information session. Approximately 50 Chinese professionals and business people, who were invited beforehand, attended the program. Only a few Chinese and Japanese media outlets that were chosen by the organizers were permitted to cover the event.

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