Archive for the ‘Mt. Kumgang Tourist Special Zone’ Category

North Korea enacts new tax regulations in Mt. Kumgang tourist zone

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-3-21

North Korea announced that it has instituted a new law to begin levying tax in the Mount Kumgang Tourist Zone which has been — until now — a tax-free zone. In addition, a personal protection regulation for tourists was also added to its tourism regulations. North Korea has been modifying laws pertaining to the Mt. Kumgang area in order to develop it as a special tourism zone.

Last week, Yonhap News reported that it had obtained from North Korea a book that was released last November on North Korea’s laws and regulations on international economic policy. According to the book, North Korea adopted in June 2012 a new tax regulation for the Special Zone for International Tour of Mount Kumgang. The law was passed by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

The new tax regulation stipulated that any companies or individuals (foreigners and oversees Koreans) who conduct business transactions or make profit from the Special Zone for International Tour of Mount Kumgang are subjected to tax.

The business income tax applied in the Mount Kumgang zone are on average about 14 percent of one’s yearly profit (infrastructure projects including airport, railways, roads, and port construction only pay 10 percent) and individual income tax ranges from 5 to 30 percent when monthly income is 300 euros (approximately 430,000 KRW).

The tax regulation also covers property, inheritance, transaction, business, and local tax. This comes as a subordinate law under the Special Law for International Tourism in Mount Kumgang, which was enacted in May 2011 and subsequently revoked the monopoly rights of Hyundai Asan.

As such, this law likely will impact South Korean investment in the Mount Kumgang tourism industry.

In the past, working closely with Hyundai Asan, North Korea designated the tourist area as a tax-free zone. There were also no separate laws regarding the levying of taxes on foreigners except for South Korean tourists, who were required to pay 50 USD per person.

In the ‘Tourism Regulations of Mount Kumgang International Tourism Zone,’ a clause was added that specified the special travel bureau for international tourism was responsible for the protection of personal safety and property of tourists in Mount Kumgang. The special travel bureau for international tourism is under the jurisdiction of the Guidance Bureau of the Special Zone of Mount Kumgang International Tourism.

North Korea’s decision to insert a clause ensuring the safety of tourists is likely due to the fact that this issue has continually been raised as a main concern since the death of a South Korean tourist in the zone in July 2008 and subsequent halt of inter-Korean cooperation in the Mount Kumgang project.

In addition to the new tax and tourism regulations, North Korea also made new regulations pertaining to the foundation and management of enterprises; customs; access, visitation, and housing; insurance, and environmental protection, among others.

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North Korea trying to attract foreign tourists

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-2-27

North Korea is recently expanding its tourism industry, one of its major foreign currency earners.

North Korea is improving its tourism infrastructure to attract more foreign tourists, and recently introduced a new cruise ship to bring in tourists from China and other countries.

Workers’ Party of Korea’s mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun reported on February 21 that an opening ceremony for a Singapore cruise ship called the Royale Star was held at Rajin Port. The Rajin Port staff and government officials in the tourism sector from North Korea and China were in attendance. The new cruise ship is expected to revitalize the tourism in Rason and Mount Kumgang and the Rason Economic and Trade Zone.

Royale Star is expected to attract a large number of Chinese tourists.Although further details were not specified, Royale Star is also likely to travel between Rajin Port and Mount Kumgang in the Gangwon [Kangwon] Province, given the emphasis placed on Rajin-Mount Kumgang tours.

After a South Korean tourist was shot by a North Korean soldier at Mount Kumgang in July 2008, South Korean tours to the mountain resort came to a halt. Since then, North Korea has turned its attention to attracting Chinese and other foreign tourists. In August 2011, North Korea resumed operation of the Mangyongbong cruise ship (which was used to repatriate ethnic Koreans in Japan to North Korea in the late 1950s) as a pilot test for the operation of marine tourism to Rajin and Kumgang.

However, the pilot tour was rated poor due to the cruise ship’s old and substandard facilities. Passengers on the Mangyongbongfor the tour included foreign journalists from China, Russia, and the United States, and Chinese businessman. The ship set sail four times in 2011 from August to October. Four hundred Chinese tourists were said to have taken the tour. However, the cruise failed to attract tourists to operate on a regular basis.

North Korea explored the use of other luxury cruise ships from Hong Kong, as reported by Chinese media last year. North Korean authorities and Chinese travel agents seemingly came to the conclusion that cruise facilities and services must be drastically improved in order to attract more customers,and this has likely led to the recent introduction of the Singaporean cruise ship, Royale Star.

Royale Star is 138m in length and 28m in width, comprising a total of eight floors, and is supposedly equipped with a variety of facilities and services, including luxury rooms and bars, duty-free shops, a hair salon, lounge, and dining halls with live performances.A crew of more than 150 people was hired, including nationals from Singapore, Malaysia, India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Russia, Ukraine, and North Korea.

At the opening ceremony, the captain of the Royale Star announced, “We will accommodate our guests from many countries as a marine hotel. We will operate three days a week to allow our guests to enjoy the beautiful and unique scenery that North Korea has to offer and also sail to Mount Kumgang the last week of every month.”

Authorities also plan to open a hotel in Rajin Port to address the current lodging shortages in the Rason Special Economic Zone, which is under joint North Korea-China development. Last year about 600 to 700 Chinese visited the area during the peak season for tourism and business purposes,but reported to have experienced great difficulty finding accommodations.

As tourism to North Korea is gaining popularity in China, additional tours to Pyongyang, Kaesong, Panmunjeom, and Mount Kumgang are being considered, and new tourism infrastructure is being constructed in the border cities of Dongrim [Tongrim] (North Phyongan Province)and Kyongsong (North Hamgyong Province).

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South Korean firms losing money in the DPRK

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

According to the Hankyoreh:

South Korean businesses have suffered losses of up to ten trillion won (US$8.3 billion) from the cutbacks in inter-Korean economic cooperation under the Lee Myung-bak administration, figures show.

The losses taken by South Korean firms are fives times the 1.8 trillion won (US$1.7 billion) North Korea’s estimated losses. The results show an unintended effect of Seoul’s May 24 sanctions, which were meant to punish North Korea economically for the shooting death of a tourist at the Mt. Kumkang resort, the sinking of the Cheonan warship, and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. North Korea has offset these losses with increased cooperation with China.

Read more below…

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North Korea planning special economic zone in Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang regions

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Thongchon County, Kangwon Province

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2012.02.24

North Korea announced plans to develop a special tourism zone in the Mount Kumgang region and recently established detailed plans to connect five countries in the Northeast Asian region by land, sea and air routes. In particular, it specified construction plans for the Tongchon Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Tongchon County of Kangwon (Gangwon) Province.

Currently, there are four SEZs in North Korea: Rajin-Sonbong (Rason) SEZ, Hwanggumpyong SEZ, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and Mt. Kumgang Tourism Zone. Tongchon will be a special case where a free economic trade zone will be located within the Mt. Kumgang Tourism Zone linking the areas of Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang.

Growing attention is being paid to the “Tongchon Special Economic Zone in the Mt. Kumgang Tourism Zone.” Industrial service facilities will be built in the Tongchon SEZ along the coastline including, “comprehensive industrial, merchandise, and communication service center zone,” “international multipurpose building zone,” “international finance, trade, and business center,” and a golf course.

Construction inland is currently underway for regular and high-tech industrial complexes in the following areas: IT, LCD, and electronics; home electronics; automobile; new energy and environmental protection; and biomedical and breeding.

Tongchon Port is equipped to accommodate 100,000-ton vessels and there are plans of constructing beaches, a marine park, hot springs, and luxury hotels, and vacation homes in the vicinity.

According to a five-page blueprint for the “Choson Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang Development Plan” (in Chinese), North Korea has set 10 million tourists per year as its goal and is preparing to attract large investment of over 10 billion USD over the next ten years.

Although it is unclear who has prepared the blueprint, it is most likely that North Korea has prepared the plan in Chinese to promote the SEZ internationally. North Korea recently distributed briefing materials in Chinese at the 7th China Jilin-Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo (JNIT), which was held last September.

The report included plans of constructing Wonsan International Airport at an estimated cost of 150 million USD.

The ten-year development plan is further divided into three periods: October 2011 to December 2013 (short-term); 2014 to 2016 (mid-term); and 2017 to 2020 (long-term).

In addition, the report included the detailed plans of road and facility renovations. The Pyongyang-Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang highway that stretches 310 km will be renovated with investments worth around 150 million USD. A four-lane highway will also be added. The seaside areas of Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang and the tourism zone will be reconstructed with major facilities and electricity worth 10 billion USD and a new town is also being designed to accommodate a population between 800,000 and 1 million people.

The report “Establishment of International Travel between Mt. Kumgang and Five Countries in Northeast Asia” included details of 18 air routes from Beijing, Changchun, and Shenyang to Wonsan International Airport; 8 sea routes to Nampo Port and the routes from South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the Northern Pacific rim using the port in Mt. Kumgang. In addition, a land route connecting Dandong of China to Mt. Kumgang is also included in the plan, via Shinuiju.

It is designed to develop Mt. Kumgang into an international tourism zone making it accessible by land, sea, and air transportation to South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.

Specifically, Niigata Port of Japan, Vladivostok Port of Russia, and Jeju, Busan, and Sokcho Ports of South Korea were mentioned as the major ports for the sea travel to North Korea.

Travelers from China will be connected to Mt. Kumgang by rail (from Wonsan to Mt. Kumgang) and by sea (from Rajin-Sonbong Port to Mt. Kumgang Port).

Interestingly, no land route was designated for travel from South Korea. The previously used Donghae Line to travel from Kosung to Mt. Kumgang by road and railroad was omitted from the plan.

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ROK spending on inter-Korean projects lowest since 2000

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

According to the Korea Herald:

South Korea’s government last year executed the smallest amount of its inter-Korean cooperation fund in a decade, officials said Sunday, in another reflection of frayed relations with the communist North Korea.

The Unification Ministry, in charge of North Korean affairs, spent 42.6 billion won ($36.6 million), or 4.2 percent of the 1.1 trillion won fund designated as “South-North Cooperation Fund,” the ministry officials said.

The fund was used to support a Korean dictionary project, a humanitarian program by the United Nations Children‘s Fund as well as operating a facility for family reunions and an association for the inter-Korean industrial complex, they said.

Last year’s spending was the lowest level since 2000 when the two sides held their landmark summit talks and agreed on a wide range of cooperation projects as part of their reconciliation efforts.

Inter-Korean relations went to the lowest ebb in a decade after the North‘s two deadly provocations in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

In 2008, when President Lee Myung-bak took office with a hard-line stance on North Korea’s nuclear program, the cooperation fund‘s execution rate plunged to 18.1 percent from 82.2 percent in 2007 under the liberal predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, the report noted.

The rate had remained at the 7 percent level between 2009 and 2010, it said.

The fund was created in 1991 to support humanitarian and economic exchanges between the divided Koreas, which remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce. (Yonhap News)

Read the full story here:
Gov’t spending on inter-Korean projects lowest since 2000: ministry
Korea Herald
2012-1-8

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“Chinese company” given access to Kumgang facilities

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

According to Yonhap :

North Korea has allowed a Chinese company to do business at its scenic mountain resort, a source said Tuesday, in an apparent attempt to revitalize the resort at the center of a dispute with South Korea.

The company plans to organize a cruise tour to Mount Kumgang on the North’s east coast for Chinese tourists from Hong Kong and other eastern Chinese ports, said the source familiar with the issue.

The company, which won permission to run the business until the end of 2026, also plans to run a casino, a duty free shop and a hotel in the resort, the source said.

The move comes just months after North Korea made a trial cruise from its northeastern port city of Rajin to the mountain resort to try to attract Chinese tourists.

North Korea has launched a series of tourism programs for the Chinese in an apparent bid to earn much-needed hard currency.

For a decade, South and North Korea jointly ran the tour program at the resort, a key symbol of reconciliation on the divided Korean Peninsula.

Still, Seoul halted the cross-border tour program following the 2008 shooting death of a tourist by a North Korean soldier near the resort.

Seoul has demanded a formal apology from Pyongyang for the incident, in addition to improved security measures for tourists, before resuming the tour program, a key cash cow for the North.

However, the North has expelled South Korean workers from the resort and disposed of all South Korean assets there after it unsuccessfully tried to pressure Seoul to resume the tour program.

South Korea has asked foreign countries not to invest or engage in tourism activities at the mountain resort as part of its moves to protect its property rights there.

Dear Yonhap: Would it have been too much trouble to give us the name of the Chinese company or tell us anything about it?

Read the full story here:
N. Korea permits foreign company to run business at its scenic resort
Yonhap
2011-12-3

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DPRK expanding Chinese tourism to Kumgang

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

According to Yonhap:

North Korea is expanding travel routes between China and its scenic resort in Mount Kumgang, a source familiar with the North said Monday, indicating Pyongyang’s continued efforts to earn much-needed cash from Chinese tourists.

The new routes will include extra flights from Chinese cities to Mount Kumgang on North Korea’s east coast, in addition to trains and expressways linking Beijing to the mountain resort via Pyongyang, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The move comes after North Korea recently ran a trial cruise from its northeastern port city of Rajin to Mount Kumgang.

The source also said more than 100 Chinese tourists traveled to the resort on a five-day itinerary at the end of last month.

By the end of this month, North Korea is planning to launch a tour program to Mount Kumgang from China’s northeastern city of Harbin, although it is not clear whether the flight will land in Pyongyang or at a military airport on the mountain, the source said.

North Korea is reported to be considering converting a military airfield near the resort to a civilian airport to facilitate travel to the area.

“Starting with Harbin, (North Korea) plans to operate flights for Mount Kumgang from 16 cities across China, including Beijing, Shenyang and Guangzhou,” the source said.

“They also plan to attract Chinese visitors by opening a railway and expressway linking Beijing, Pyongyang and Mount Kumgang,” the source added, saying the first train tour on the route will likely be in April.

The move comes amid a dispute over the handling of South Korean assets at the resort. Seoul halted an inter-Korean joint tour program to the resort in 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist in the area.

In protest, North Korea recently expelled South Korean workers from the resort and vowed to legally dispose of all South Korean assets there. The tour program had served as a cash cow for the impoverished North.

South Korea has asked foreign countries not to invest or engage in tourism activities at the resort in a bid to protect its property rights there.

Previous posts on Kumgang here.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea expands travel routes for Chinese tourists: source
Yonhap
2011-10-3

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Chinese tourists arrive in Kumgang on Mangyongbong 92

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Pictured above (Source here): Tourists aboard the Mangyongbong were treated to American Budweiser Beer and dried fish.

UPDATE 1: The Telegraph and ITN (UK) put together a humorous take on the cruise here.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-8-31): According to the Associated Press:

The maiden voyage — a trial run — arrived Wednesday, carrying dozens of Chinese travel agents, international media and North Korean officials.

About 500 North Koreans lined up with military precision at the Rason port for a red carpet send-off Tuesday, waving small flags and plastic flowers while revolutionary marches such as “Marshal Rides a White Horse” blared over the loudspeakers. Streamers swirled and balloons spiraled skyward.

The Mangyongbong, a refurbished Japanese-built cargo ship with rusty portholes and musty cabins, was used for the 21-hour overnight cruise tracing the length of North Korea’s east coast. Some passengers slept on wooden bunkbeds while others were assigned mattresses on the floor. Simple meals were served cafeteria-style on metal trays.

A plaque on board commemorated a 1972 tour of the boat by North Korea’s founder, late President Kim Il Sung, and bright red posters emblazoned with his sayings decorated the walls.

Park promised a “more luxurious” ship capable of carrying up to 900 passengers, perhaps next year. He said the goal is to bring as many as 4,000 visitors a day from Rason to Mount Kumgang during the peak summer season, up from some 500 per week now.

“People from any country — Jamaica, Japan, Singapore, people from various countries — can come to Rason and don’t require a visa,” said Rason’s vice mayor, Hwang Chol Nam. “That’s the reality.”

But other restrictions remain. Hwang said visitors must book with approved travel agents and remain in their guides’ company throughout. Mobile phones must be left behind in China.

It remains to be seen how many Chinese tourists will be interested in the new tours. With incomes rising, Chinese are traveling abroad in rising numbers, thronging tour groups to Europe, Thailand, Japan and South Korea, with a small but growing number making the short trip to neighboring North Korea.

A rush of American visitors is unlikely. A long-standing U.S. State Department travel warning says North Korea strictly monitors visitors and harshly punishes law-breakers and reminds Americans that the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

A senior South Korean official said North Korea would have trouble drawing investors and tourists after the way the North dealt with South Korean businesses.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry plans to send a letter to foreign embassies asking them not to cooperate with any new Diamond Mountain tours offered by North Korea, said the official, who spoke on condition that his name was not used.

North Korea’s latest moves are likely to upset Hyundai — but that might be the strategy of Pyongyang officials riding out conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s leadership, which ends next year, said Yoon Deok-ryong, an economist at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy in Seoul.

“If they bring potential investors into the Mount Kumgang area, Hyundai would be upset and try to mobilize possible supporters in Parliament so the next government in South Korea will improve inter-Korean relations,” he said. “That is I think the design of the North Korean government.”

Wang Zhijun, a Chinese hotel manager from Jilin province who joined the trip free of charge, said it won’t be hard to sell the cruise to tourists in his region, which has a large ethnic Korean population and lacks coastline of its own.

But, he said, the price would have to stay low, suggesting around 2000 yuan (US$310) per passenger for an all-inclusive, five-day trip.

“It ought to be very popular. There are a lot of tourists already coming across to Rason,” Wang said. “People from China’s northeast would really like this kind of trip because it’s a cruise. You can enjoy the sea.”

The AFP also reported from the bosom of the Mangyongbong:

It has karaoke and fresh coffee, but the bathrooms on the lower decks are out of water and some guests sleep on the floor. Welcome aboard North Korea’s first cruise ship.

Keen to boost tourism and earn much-needed cash, authorities in the impoverished nation have decided to launch a cruise tour from the rundown northeastern port city of Rajin to the scenic resort of Mount Kumgang.

In a highly unusual move, the reclusive regime invited more than 120 journalists and Chinese tour operators on board the newly-renovated, 39-year-old Man Gyong Bong ship for a trial run of the 21-hour journey.

The vessel left one of Rajin’s ageing piers on Tuesday to the sound of rousing music, as hundreds of students and workers holding colourful flowers stood in line and clapped in unison.

“The boat was only renovated one week ago,” said Hwang Chol Nam, vice mayor of the Rason special economic zone, as he sat on the top deck at a table filled with bottles of North Korean beer, a large plate of fruit, and egg and seafood dishes.

“But it has already made the trip to Mount Kumgang and back. I told people to test the ship to make sure it was safe,” said the 48-year-old, dressed in a crisp suit adorned with a red pin sporting late leader Kim Il-Sung’s portrait.

The project is the brainchild of North Korea’s Taepung International Investment Group and the government of Rason, a triangular coastal area in the northeast that encompasses Rajin and Sonbong cities, and borders China and Russia.

Set up as a special economic zone in 1991 to attract investment to North Korea, it never took off due to poor infrastructure, chronic power shortages and a lack of confidence in the reclusive regime.

Now though, authorities are trying to revive the area as the North’s economy falters under the weight of international sanctions imposed over the regime’s pursuit of ballistic missiles and atomic weapons.

The country is desperately poor after decades of isolation and bungled economic policies, and is grappling with persistent food shortages.

In Rason, Hwang said authorities had decided to focus on three areas of growth — cargo trade, seafood processing and tourism.

North Korea has only been open to Western tourists since 1987 and remains tightly controlled, but more destinations are gradually opening up to tour groups keen to see the country for themselves.

Mount Kumgang, though, is at the heart of a political dispute between North and South Korea after a tourist from the South was shot dead by a North Korean soldier in 2008.

And Rason, where the cruise begins, is a poor area. The tours are tightly monitored, and the only brief contact with locals is with guides, tourist shop owners and hotel employees.

Visitors can expect only brief glimpses of everyday life through the windows of tour buses, as locals — many dressed in monochrome clothing — cycle past or drive the occasional car in otherwise quiet streets.

Small apartment blocks, many of them run down, are interspersed with monuments to the glory of the country’s leaders.

A portrait of current leader Kim Jong-Il and his late father Kim Il-Sung greets visitors as they walk through the vast lobby of the large, white hotel in Rajin.

“The book is a silent teacher and a companion to life,” reads a quotation from the late Kim, hung over glass cases full of books about North Korea, with titles like “The Great Man Kim Jong-Il” and “Korea — a trailblazer.”

The rooms are spartan but clean. But there is no Internet connection anywhere in the area, and the phone lines are unreliable and expensive. Foreign mobile phones are confiscated by tour guides as travellers enter the country.

Hwang said the government in Rason was trying to address communication problems and had signed a 26-year exclusive agreement with a Thai firm to set up Internet in the area, which he hoped would be running in September.

He acknowledged, however, that non-business related websites would likely be blocked, with the media tightly controlled in North Korea.

Many of Rason’s tourists come from neighbouring China. The area sees an average of 150 travellers from China every day during the summer peak season.

One Chinese national from the southeastern province of Fujian who gave only his surname, Li, said he had come to North Korea after a business meeting on the Chinese side of the border.

“We’ve come here mainly to see what changes there have been compared to our country… I like to go to places I’ve never been to before,” he said, standing in front of a huge portrait of Kim Il-Sung.

Simon Cockerell, managing director of Koryo Group, a Beijing-based firm that specialises in tours to North Korea, conceded that Rason may not be everyone’s idea of a holiday, but said its attraction lay in the unknown.

“A lot of people like going to obscure places. And this is the most obscure part of a very obscure country in tourism terms — the least visited part of the least visited country,” he said.

Back on the boat, Chinese tour operators sang karaoke in a dining hall decked out with North Korean flags as a waitress made fresh coffee, while guests drank beer and ate dried fish at plastic tables up on deck.

Inside, some cabins were decked out with bunk beds, while others just had mattresses laid out on the floor. The better rooms had tables, chairs and private washrooms.

Water in bathrooms on the vessel — used as a ferry between North Korea and Japan until 1992 when it started shipping cargo — was unreliable and when available, was brown.

But Park Chol Su, vice president of Taepung, said he had big plans for the tour if it attracted enough visitors.

He wants to invite more than 100 tourist agencies from Europe in October to sample the same trip, in a bid to attract travellers from further afield.

Authorities have promised no visas will be needed to go on the cruise and, if all goes to plan, the ship will be upgraded to a more comfortable one.

“Next year, we aim to get a bigger, nicer boat that can accommodate 1,000 people. We’d rent that from another country in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Some great photos of the trip are here.

A timeline of Kumgang stories from the shooting until today can be found here.

Read the full story here:
North Korea starts group tours from China to mountain resort formerly operated with South
Associated Press
2011-8-31

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DPRK bringing domestic and Chinese tourists to Kumgang

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Pictured above: North Korean visitors to Kumgangsan wave to the camera in this video posted to Uriminzokkiri’s YouTube page.  The Video is dated 2011-8-20.

According to the Donga Ilbo:

North Korea has reportedly opened the Mount Kumgang resort to its nationals since April after having allowed only a select few to visit the scenic area before with permission.

Pyongyang apparently intends to pressure Seoul by opening the door to the mountain to the North Korean people after failing to attract foreign investment and tourists to the resort.

A Chinese source on North Korea said Tuesday, “North Korea effectively allowed all North Koreans from April to visit the entire Mount Kumgang area, including major rivers in the region.”

North Korea, however, allows only group tourists and not individual visits. North Korean authorities have ordered companies and businesses to visit the site for company picnics or events, and the mountain has 4,000 to 5,000 visitors per month.

A business unit that wants to visit files an application with the provincial government, which then reports to the international tourist authorities of Mount Kumgang. After screening candidates, authorities issue a tourist certificate that allows holders to pass checkpoints on the way to the mountain.

Two days are generally needed to travel the region, and visitors use the accommodation facility called Kumgangsan that can handle 500 people per day. The source said rooms are in short supply because of many visitors.

Each visitor should cover his or her own expenses. The estimated cost is around 1,700 North Korean won (1.43 U.S. dollars) for entry and 19 cents per night, so the combined expense amount is 2,500 to 3,000 North Korean won (2.10 to 2.53 dollars).

The source said, “The expenses almost equal a month`s salary but the popularity (of going to Mount Kumgang) has surprised everyone.”

Speculation is rising over whether the North will use South Korean real estate and equipment belonging to Hyundai Asan Corp., the South Korean operator of the tour, and others. Pyongyang announced Monday that it will dispose of South Korean assets and properties in the resort area.

“North Korea has not yet used any South Korean facilities but has apparently used them for local tourists,” the source said.

Also, according to KCNA, at least one Chinese tour group has visited the resort since July 30:

Pyongyang, July 30 (KCNA) — A Chinese tourist group led by Zhuang Jun, general manager of the Chinese Kanghui Xi’an International Tourist Agency, visited the Tower of the Juche Idea, Party Founding Memorial Tower, Pyongyang Students and Children’s Palace and Mangyongdae, President Kim Il Sung’s native place, in Pyongyang on Friday and Saturday.

The tourist group came to Pyongyang by the Pyongyang-Xi’an international air service.

Yang Rui, manager of the agency, told KCNA:

I was pleased to see an excellent performance of Korean schoolchildren. I hope they will perform in Xi’an. I have long looked forward to visiting Mt. Kumgang. In the afternoon we are leaving for the mountain. I will be happy to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the mountain.

Read about the continuing troubles at Kumgang from the shooting to the present day here.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea allowed its people to visit Mount Kumgang from April
Donga Ilbo
2011-8-24

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DPRK orders expulsion of South Koreans from Kumgang

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

According to the New York Times:

North Korea on Monday gave South Korean tourism officials 72 hours to leave a mountain resort, saying it would start auctioning off South Korean-owned hotels, restaurants and other remnants of what used to be a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

North Korea gave the ultimatum on Monday after talks failed to resolve a dispute over whether tourism in the resort should resume and under what conditions.

“We consider that the South has completely given up all rights on properties owned by South Korean companies and now start legal disposal of them,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted the North Korean tourism authorities as saying. “All assets owned by South Korean companies in the Geumgangsan resort are banned from being taken out as of Aug. 21.”

The South Korean assets in the resort amount to 480 billion won, or $443 million, according to government data. North Korea said last year that it had confiscated the assets, including a spa, a duty-free shop and other businesses built and owned by the South Korean government.

Fourteen South Koreans were staying in the area maintaining facilities owned by Hyundai and other private South Korean investors. The Unification Ministry, a South Korean government agency in charge of inter-Korean relations, said it would take “all possible diplomatic and legal measures to protect the property rights of our government and enterprises.”

Hyundai Asan, which developed and ran the resort, warned that anyone who bought facilities at the resort would be implicated in international lawsuits.

After attracting 2 million South Korean tourists by sea or by a road built across the nations’ heavily armed border, the project came to an abrupt halt in 2008, after the female South Korean tourist strayed outside the tourism zone one morning and was shot and killed by North Korean soldiers.

Xinhua, the Chinese state media outlet reports that the South Koreans have rejected this move by the North Koreans:

“The government cannot accept North Korea (DPRK)’s arbitrary measures, and we’d like to make it clear the North should be held responsible for all consequences,” Chun Hae-sung, spokesman for the unification ministry in Seoul, told reporters.

“The government will seek all necessary measures including legal and diplomatic ones, and will stay in close contact with business operators involved,” he added, calling Pyongyang’s announcement “regrettable.” The ministry oversees inter-Korean affairs.

The Choson Ilbo points out some additional points of economic interest:

The greatest concern for South Korean officials is the potential conflict over power generators Hyundai Asan installed at Kosong Port to supply electricity to the resort. Since 2008, Hyundai has been operating only one of them to supply power for the remaining staff. If Asan halts the power generators, North Korea cannot use the facilities in the resort. This may be why the North has threatened to take “stern measures” should South Korea “cause damage to assets” left in the resort.

While freezing the South Korean assets, North Korea has been trying to organize tours to Mt. Kumgang on its own. Some analysts say the North hopes to get another country to operate the tours to generate hard cash. Until the tours were suspended in 2008, North Korea made US$487 million from Hyundai Asan.

A separate Choson Ilbo article questions whether the operation will be as profitable if targeted at non-South Koreans:

But of the total 1.93 million visitors to the resort between 1998 and 2008, non-Koreans accounted for only 12,817, or less than 1 percent, which comes to just four a day. It was South Koreans who were willing to pay a large amount of money, including fees to cross the border, to briefly set foot on Korean soil on the other side of the demilitarized zone, But for foreigners, the resort is just a place in the middle of nowhere.

Foreign investors who were cautiously calculating the viability of investments in North Korea were probably shocked to see the seizure of South Korean assets. The North scrapped a 50-year contract with Asan as if it was not worth the paper it was written on and even invented a new law enabling it to sign a deal with somebody else. Which investor in his right mind would want to put his money in a country like that?

The Donga Ilbo breaks down the cost of the fixed capital investments Hyundai-Asan made in the Kumgang Resort:

South Korean assets seized by the North are worth 484.1 billion won (447.2 million dollars). Of the amount, Hyundai Asan invested 226.9 billion won (209.6 million dollars), including hotels in the resort, and the South Korean government spent 124.2 billion won (114.7 million dollars) to build a meeting venue for Korean families separated during the Korean War, duty-free shops and a cultural hall.

Hyundai Asan’s three power generators with a capacity of 1,700 kilometers at Goseong dock are one of the major assets in the tourist region.

North Korea, however, is unlikely to attract foreign tourists to Mount Kumgang on its own or sell the facility to foreign investors. It continues to search for a new partner in China, Japan and the U.S.

Rumor also has it that that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has ordered that the Mount Kumgang tour be made into a luxury business but low feasibility has prevented progress in the project.

A timeline of Kumgang stories from the shooting until the present can be found here.

Read the full stories here:
North Korea to Auction Resort Owned by South
New York Times
Choe Sang-hun
2011-8-22

S. Korea rejects DPRK’s threatened disposal of properties
Xinhua
2011-8-22

N.Korea Orders S.Koreans Out of Mt. Kumgang
Choson Ilbo
2011-8-23

N.Korea Shoots Itself in the Foot Again
Choson Ilbo
2011-8-23

NK declares disposal of S.Korean assets in Mount Kumgang
Donga Ilbo
2011-8-23

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