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Rob York is a feature writer for NK News and Ph.D candidate in Korean history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification on Sunday approved Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun to visit North Korea for the anniversary of the Mount Kumgang resort.
The ceremony, to take place Tuesday, will commemorate the 16th anniversary of the foundation of the inter-Korean project that ended acrimoniously in 2008. That year South Korean tourist Park Wang-ja was fatally shot by a North Korean soldier after venturing into territory off-limits for resort visitors, and North Korea refused the South’s demands for an investigation and an apology.
Hyun previously went to the resort in 2009 to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the resort’s founding.
South Korea said that they have no plans for separate talks with the North on restarting the resort.
Chris Green, international affairs manager at The Daily NK, said that the tours could be restarted at “any time” but that the South Koreans weren’t waiting just for an apology.
“For my money, SK is prevaricating as it knows it has few points of leverage/carrots to hand: Kumgang, the May 24 Measures, and arguably Kaesong Tours too,” he said. “They will hold them and make excuses in order to (in theory) reward good behavior, if it ever comes.”
The resort was founded in 1998 through an agreement between the North Korean government and the Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung, who passed away in 2001.
Chung’s successor and Hyun’s husband, Chung Mong-hun, committed suicide in 2003 following revelations that Hyundai had funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the North, widely believed to be in exchange for the 2000 North-South summit involving North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.