N. Korean Leader Orders Removal of S. Korean-Built Facilities at Mt. Geumgang
Anchor: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the removal of South Korean-built tourist facilities at Mount Geumgang, criticizing dependence on the South. The move is believed to be a rebuke against Seoul for a perceived delay in resuming tourism by South Koreans to the scenic mountain.
Park Jong-hong has this report.
Report: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said it was a mistake to rely on South Korea to develop tourism at the North’s Mount Geumgang.
The remarks were carried in the North’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Wednesday, along with pictures of Kim inspecting South Korean-built tourist facilities on the mountain.
Kim criticized the facilities as a manifestation of the “very wrong, dependent policy of the predecessors who were going to rely on others when the country was not strong enough.”
Though not explicitly naming his father and former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, under whose reign the Mount Geumgang facilities were built, the reference to predecessors appears to be a rare denouncement of the former leader.
While inspecting the tourist resort, which lies on the east coast of North Korea, Kim reportedly said the unpleasant-looking South Korean facilities must be removed and rebuilt in a modern way using North Korean methods.
Kim also said that it was clearly a “misguided understanding” for Mount Geumgang to be viewed as a symbol of inter-Korean relations or common property of the two Koreas.
He underscored the message that the mountain lies on North Korean soil and tourism there should thus not be under South Korean control.
But Kim did add that North Korea will always welcome its compatriots from the South if they want to visit the mountain after it is built as a world-level tourist destination, and that he would seek South Korean agreement on the removal of current facilities.
Observers say Kim’s remarks reflect displeasure about a delay in the resumption of tours to the mountain, something that was agreed upon at a summit between the two Koreas in September last year.
South Korean tourists were first allowed to visit Mount Geumgang in 1998, but such tours have been suspended since 2008 when a South Korean woman was shot and killed near the mountain resort by a North Korean soldier.
In response to Kim’s remarks, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said there is still room for inter-Korean cooperation and that he expects a couple of breakthroughs before the year is over.
Meanwhile, Hyundai Asan, which invested heavily in the facilities and operated tours to Mount Geumgang, issued a press release saying it is perplexed by the news of Kim’s instructions to tear down the facilities as the firm had been preparing to resume its tour program.
The firm added that it will cope with the new developments in a calm manner.
Park Jong-hong, KBS World Radio News.
[Photo : YONHAP News]