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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
Officials from Hyundai Asan, a subsidiary of the South Korean car company and former organizer of trips to the inter-Korean Mount Kumgang resort, are planning to visit North Korea next month, a company official told NK News on Monday.
The visit is intended to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the death of Chung Mong-hun, former chairman of the company and son of Chung Ju-yung, the founder of the Hyundai conglomerate.
“Except for last year, every year in the Mount Kumgang (resort) Hyundai Asan has been commemorating the former CEO Chung Mong-hun’s memorial ceremony,” Kim Ha-young, a press official from Hyundai Asan, told NK News.
“We couldn’t host one in 2016 as the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) was shut down earlier that year in February. So, if the situation permits, we are reviewing the plan to visit the North for the memorial ceremony on August 4.”
The number of South Korean guests and the logistics of the visit are yet to be confirmed, Kim said, and the company has not made contact with Pyongyang or the South Korean government.
“There are lots of time left (until August 4th), and many processes are required for us to make this happen – which we have not started just yet.”
Hyundai Asan, the main organizer of the now-closed inter-Korean Mount Kumgang tour, launched its first visit to the area on November 18, 1998. Over the course of ten years, some one million South Koreans visited the resort in tours arranged by the company.
Tours have been suspended since July 11, 2008, however, when a 53-year-old South Korean woman was shot by a North Korean soldier while entering what Pyongyang claimed was a restricted military area.
July 11 will mark nine years since the suspension of the Mount Kumgang tour, but Kim denied that the planned visit was part of efforts to re-launch the tour.
“We been preparing for the resumption of the tour since the day it was shut, but the resumption will follow only after the South and the North reach an agreement on this matter,” Kim said.
During his campaign for the Presidency, Moon Jae-in said the resumption of inter-Korean Mount Kumgang tours and KIC would be possible if “the North decides to at least freeze the ongoing nuclear development.”
Talks of a resumption of South Korean visits to the resort resurfaced about a month ago when Moon Chung-in, a special presidential adviser for unification, foreign and security affairs, said that the matter would be discussed by the Blue House soon.
As part of the efforts to resume inter-Korean contact, the South Korean government has, since May, approved multiple South Korean NGOs’ requests to make contact with their North Korean counterparts.
North Korea, however, has so far turned down every South Korean NGO that has requested a visit, while recently reportedly reaching a verbal agreement on a September visit to Pyongyang by South Korean Taekwondo officials.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: NK News