N. Korea warns against changes to inter-Korean tourism program

From Yonhap

North Korea on Wednesday said it would take “stern measures” against South Korea following any changes to a tourism program to the North’s Mount Geumgang, a South Korean project recently accused of funneling hard currency to the communist state.

“Foul attempts are underway in the South by (South Korea’s) Grand National Party to destroy the Mount Geumgang tourism project, which is a symbol of North-South economic cooperation,” said a spokesman for the North’s Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee in a statement carried by the country’s Korean Central News Agency.

“We will always treasure the hope and wish of South Korean peoples toward Mount Geumgang, but we make it clear that we would have no choice but to sternly take corresponding measures if an irreversible situation is created by the Grand National Party,” it said.

The statement follows claims by the South Korean opposition party that cash paid to the communist nation in return for the North’s opening of the inter-Korean border to allow South Korean tourists to the mountain could be helping the North’s nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction programs.

The opposition’s claims and demands to halt the inter-Korean project intensified after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test on Oct. 9, defying all international warnings and appeals.

The U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution on North Korea that prohibits the transfer of any financial resources or other materials that could benefit the North’s weapons program.

Seoul refuses to shut down cross-border roads to the North Korean mountain and a North Korean border town, Kaesong, where the two Koreas are jointly developing a large-scale industrial complex for South Korean firms.

Hyundai Asan, the South Korean developer of the Mount Geumgang resort, pays an average US$1 million a month to the North Korean committee in admission fees for South Koreans traveling there, while the country’s firms operating at the Kaesong complex are paying about US$600,000 each month in wages to some 8,700 North Koreans working there.

One of the ways, partly proposed by the opposition GNP, to cut currency inflows to the communist nation was to pay the fees and wages in goods, instead of cash.

The North, however, said the idea is not even worth mentioning, saying it is as outdated as it is absurd.

“The Grand National Party, which puts the interests of foreign forces before those of the nation and tries to realize its scheme to take power by violating the nation’s interests, would pay high prices,” the North Korean statement said, adding the country will closely watch South Korea’s move.


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