1.5 Million Tourists Visit Mt. Geumgang

Korea Times
Ryu Jin

More than 1.5 million tourists have so far visited Mt. Geumgang in North Korea since the tour was launched about a decade ago, Hyundai Asan said Thursday.

Since the launch in November 1998, the accumulated number of tourists to Mt. Geumgang reached 500,000 in November 2002, 1 million in June 2005 and then 1.5 million in June this year, according to the South Korean operator of the inter-Korean tourism project.

Company officials hailed the latest achievement, which came just after the start of a new tour program to inner Mt. Geumgang, better known as “Naegeumgang’’ in Korean, early this month.

“We will hold a weekend concert this Saturday at the multi-purpose cultural center in the resort complex of Onjeong-ri,’’ a Hyndai Asan spokesman said. “Famous pop singers and bands, including Nam Jin, and rock band No Brain will be there.’’

As part of efforts to promote the Mt. Geumgang tour program, Hyundai Asan has held various cultural events in recent months including concerts and previews of films.

Mt. Geumgang, which has long held both aesthetic and spiritual allure for Koreans, can be divided into three parts: Naegeumgang (inner, western part), Oegeumgang (outer, eastern part) and Haegeumgang (seashore part).

Since the first tour to Oegeumgang in 1998, an increasing number of visitors have made the trip to the resort area. Most were South Koreans; fewer than 8,000 visitors came from 48 other countries.

But the inter-Korean tourism business has often been affected by the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. For example, it ran into difficulties when North Korea conducted a nuclear test in October last year.

Amid the heightened tension, the number of tourists plummeted to some 240,000 last year, putting a damper on Hyundai Asan’s target of securing more than 400,000 visitors annually.

On June 1, the company started a new tour program, which allows visitors to taste the elegance of the inner part of the 12,000-peak auspicious mountain. Hyundai Asan CEO Yoon Man-joon expressed his ambition during a pilot tour late last month where some 150 dignitaries and media took part.

“We set the target at 400,000 again this year. About 15 to 20 percent of the tourists are expected to visit Naegeumgang this year,’’ Yoon said. “I hope the launch of the Naegeumgang tour will give us an opportunity for a second leap toward successful Mt. Geumgang tour business.’’

Hyundai Asan officials said about 100,000 people have made the trip to the mountain by the end of May. They expect that the figure could reach the target as the high-demand season — from June to October — is approaching.

Each group for the two-night, three-day Naegeumgang tour will be made up of up to 150 visitors and the departure days are every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

On the first day, the visitors would check in at the hotel and enjoy the North Korean acrobatics show and dine on unique North Korean food for supper. On the second day, they would explore the beauty of Naegeumgang, followed by a brief trip to Oegeumgang on the last day.

Yoon said the company would also try to revamp tour programs to draw more younger visitors as part of its new marketing strategy for the existing tour to the outer side of the mountain, Oegeumgang.

“We will continue to host various cultural events, including concerts and cinema previews, to meet expectations of customers in various age groups,’’ said a company spokesman. “These efforts will also help the company advance to two million visitors.’’


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