Tours of Kaesong on the table as South goes North

Joong Ang Daily
Seo Ji-eun

Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, who has been spearheading inter-Korean commerce, will visit Pyongyang for business talks with high-ranking North Korean officials. The visit, scheduled for as early as late this month, comes two years after she met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang.

Yoon Man-joon, president and chief executive of Hyundai Asan, which owns exclusive rights to inter-Korean investment, said in a press conference yesterday, “Chairwoman Hyun will be talking about pending business deals, including launching tourism in the Kaesong Industrial Complex.”

Yoon said the company submitted a proposal to the North two months ago for further development of Mount Kumgang, as the relationship between the two is now in “pretty good shape, although there have been misunderstandings and difficulties.”

Hyundai Asan’s inter-Korean business was previously led by former Vice Chairman Kim Yoon-kyu, who had the trust of late Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung and his late son Mong-hun, the former president of Hyundai Asan. Chung Mong-hun, Hyun’s late husband, committed suicide in 2003 amid a prosecution investigation into the company’s secret transfer of money to the North. Hyun took the helm from her deceased husband. Kim was forced to step down in late 2005 over allegations of diverting corporate funds. North Korea, which had built strong ties with Kim, threatened to sever business with the firm in protest.

According to Yoon, Hyundai Asan plans to spend $3 billion to develop land between the Hageum River and the city of Weonsan, and North Korea is expected to respond to the proposal in late September. He added that the recent launch of tours of the inner part of the Mount Kumgang resort area has been positively received, and will help the company meet its annual goal of 400,000 visitors this year.

Hyundai Asan and North Korea are also in talks regarding opening up Birobong, the highest peak on the mountain, to South Korean tourists, Yoon said.


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