About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea has rejected the South Korean government’s Monday proposal for face-to-face talks to discuss pending issues over inter-Korean cooperation at Mount Kumgang, the Ministry of Unification (MOU) said in a statement on Tuesday.
The response came a day after the South Korean government formally suggested in-person working-level talks between the two sides, in a notice sent to the North’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) via the inter-Korean liaison office at Kaesong.
The Hyundai Asan company, which owns property at the resort, also separately on Monday proposed consultation on the “new development direction” of the Mount Kumgang tourist area, along with issues raised by the North Korean side.
In response, the North’s Kumgangsan International Tourist Bureau on Tuesday sent responses to the unification ministry and Hyundai Asan.
“With regards to the plan and schedule to demolish facilities, the North insisted that we should agree upon [the issues] by means of exchanging documents without having to hold separate working-level talks proposed by our side,” the MOU said.
Despite the North’s rejection, the unification ministry promised that Seoul will adhere to the principle that “all pending issues in inter-Korean relations should be resolved through dialogue and cooperation.”
“Under this principle, we will come up with countermeasures in close consultation with business operators over the issue of Mount Kumgang tourism,” it added.
The prospect of renewed inter-Korean engagement over the future of the Mount Kumgang resort, once a mainstay of North-South cooperation, has reemerged since DPRK leader Kim Jong Un’s visit to the site last week.
That visit saw Kim order that all the South Korean-built facilities in the area be destroyed pending discussions with the South, saying they had been “built like makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area.”
The North has, however, pointedly refused to sit down for working-level talks with the South.
Friday saw Pyongyang ask Seoul to send officials to enter the Mount Kumgang resort and remove its facilities “on an agreed date,” stressing that related issues could be discussed through the exchange of documents.
The North also notified the South of its plans to build a “new international cultural tourist area” at Mount Kumgang, in a notice sent by the Kumgangsan International Tourist Bureau.
According to data provided by the MOU, South Korean private companies have invested around $320 million in the Mount Kumgang tourism zone, with Hyundai Asan shelling out $196.6 million on the once-promising project.
Among the 55 South Korean companies which made investments in the Mount Kumgang tourist area, the government has provided KRW26.7billion ($23 million) to 41 companies since inter-Korean cooperation at the site ended in 2008.
North Korea in the wake of South Korea’s withdrawal from the site confiscated ROK-owned assets there, with Seoul having since estimated losses of KRW234.4billion ($199.4million) incurred by that move.
South Korean companies have requested their government compensate them around KRW367.9 billion ($315.7 million) in total.
In addition to the private investment, the South Korean government spent approximately KRW4.86 billion ($4.16 million) on constructing sightseeing routes and a fire station, and KRW55 billion ($47million) on building a reunion center for separated families.
The unification ministry on Tuesday also released photos of South Korean-built facilities at the Mount Kumgang resort provided by Hyundai Asan.
In the photos, the exterior of the previously Hyundai-run Haegeumgang Hotel is visibly rusty, with the images also revealing mold at the Onjonggak Rest House and the reunion center for separated families.
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News