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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Hyundai Group chairwoman and CEO Hyun Jeong-eun on Friday said her company and North Korean authorities expect South Korean tourism to Mount Kumgang to restart within the year.
Hyun’s comments follow a visit to Mount Kumgang to attend a memorial event commemorating the 15th anniversary of the death of her late husband and former Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-hun.
“We expect that tourism at Mount Kumgang will be resumed in the course of this year,” Hyun said at a news conference held at the Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) office in Goseong County, Gangwon Province, in comments carried by multiple South Korean outlets.
“I believe North Korea has the [same] expectation,” she added, stressing that repairs would be required before tourism restarts.
Renovation at the site has is already underway in preparation for planned reunions of families separated by the Korean War, set to be held between August 20 and 26.
Around 30 officials from Hyundai Group and approximate 20 DPRK officials including vice-chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) Maeng Kyong Il attended Friday’s memorial ceremony – the first of its kind since 2015.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly asked the KAPPC to “hold the memorial event at Mount Kumgang successfully and actively cooperate” with the Hyundai representatives, Hyun said.
“The KAPPC also delivered the message of chairman of KAPPC Kim Yong Chol saying that ‘the KAPPC’s confidence in the Hyundai remains unchanged and we’ll always work together with the Hyundai if it takes the initiative in inter-Korean projects,'” she added.
Vice-chairman Maeng also reportedly conveyed remarks from Kim Yong Chol – who also serves as vice-chairman of the Central Committee of Workers’ Party of Korea – inviting Hyun to return to DPRK.
When asked if both sides discussed inter-Korean economic projects, Hyun said they “didn’t have a concrete discussion.”
Hyun’s visit follows an editorial in DPRK ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmun earlier in the week calling for the resumption of tourism at Mount Kumgang, describing its suspension as a “heartbreaking reality of North-South relations.”
“15 years have passed since chairman Chung Mong-hun passed away… but I don’t want to talk about despair any longer, and I’d like to talk about hope,” Hyun told media.
“Hyundai won’t fluctuate between hope and fear like we’ve done for the last 10 years, and we will do our best in our position calmly,” she added.
“Our Hyundai Group will strive to play the pivotal role when South and North Korea work together in one accord and pursue economic cooperation and co-prosperity.”
Chairwoman Hyun previously attended Mount Kumgang memorial ceremonies in 2009, 2013, and 2014.
DPRK state-run outlet Uriminzokkiri on Friday hailed Pyongyang’s past relations with the corporation.
“First love is important for persons,” the Uriminzokkiri said, citing remarks by late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il following Chung Mong-hun’s death.
“We started our first love with Hyundai, long before the authorities, in terms of North-South relations.”
Hyundai Asan previously invested, developed, and operated inter-Korean projects at the mountain, though tourism was suspended in 2008 following the killing of a South Korean visitor by a North Korean soldier.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: NK News