February 25, 2024

The quiet mountain: Kumgang since 2008

Former site of inter-Korean cooperation sits idle as Pyongyang hunts for new investors

MOUNT KUMGANGSome nine miles north of Korea’s demilitarized zone, a menu hanging on a coffee shop’s wall offers regular coffee for $2, ice cream and a sandwich each for $3 and fresh fruit juice for $4. Although the coffee machine and counter are well-maintained, no one is here to serve these items. Instead the owner, who just rented the space not long ago, said she serves Peking duck. A few steps away, the sign of the convenience store Family Mart is painted over and its glass wall is covered with black plastic bags.

Stores closed, welcome center shut and parking lot empty, Mount Kumgang is a neglected luxury resort caught in the politics of North and South Korea. The North has been eager for its reopen but the South, which holds the rights, has refused to budge.