N. Korean airline to be used to ferry S. Korean tourists to Mt. Paektu


North Korea’s state-run airline is likely to be used to ferry South Korean tourists to the North’s Mount Paektu, a government official said Sunday.

The official, who declined to be identified, said Air Koryo planes may be used to carry tourists, owing to concerns about safety related to Samjiyeon Airport, about 30 kilometers southeast of the mountain.

He did not elaborate on the nature of safety concerns, but said it may be inappropriate for South Korean flag carriers like Korean Air and Asiana to use the airport.

Tours to the 2,744-meter-high mountain, held sacred by many Koreans, are the result of the summit meeting between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in early October.

He added that flights would probably use Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport, fly over Gangwon Province, head out into the East Sea before turning north toward Mount Paektu, on the North Korea-Chinese border.

The official said Gimpo has been selected as it can easily handle greater numbers of people than provincial air terminals, and the high level of airport security that can be maintained.

Hyundai Asan, which is responsible for organizing tours to North Korea, said direct flights linking Gimpo and Mount Paektu should begin in May, 2008.

The company currently organizes tours to Mount Geumgang on the east coast, and the historic city of Kaesong just north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas on the west coast.


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