An agreement last year by the leaders of the two Koreas to restart joint cooperation at the Mount Kumgang tourism resort remains valid, South Korea’s unification minister said Monday, urging the two countries to resolve ongoing tensions over the future of the area in a “wise fashion.”
Speaking at a briefing of senior local journalists in Seoul, minister Kim Yeon-chul said that despite the current disagreement between Seoul and Pyongyang over the future of the Kumgang resort, there remains room for the two to cooperate on the site.
“The South and the North agreed during a summit in September last year to normalize the Mount Kumgang tour business when conditions are prepared,” Kim said, in comments carried by the Yonhap News Agency and other outlets, urging the North to honor its commitments.
“The agreement still remains valid,” he continued, saying he “hope[s] that the South and the North will resolve this issue in a wise fashion and that it can pave the way for sustainable exchange and cooperation.”
“The situations surrounding the Korean peninsula have become too complicated to predict,” the minister said. “In order to secure predictability at all, it is important to manage inter-Korean relations in a stable manner.”
Despite an agreement between DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and ROK President Moon Jae-in last year to restart joint inter-Korean cooperation at the Mt. Kumgang resort and the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) “as soon as the conditions are established,” little progress was made towards that goal.
But October this year then saw Kim visit the resort and order the demolition of South Korean-owned assets at the site, pending discussions with counterparts in Seoul.
Efforts to facilitate those discussions have failed to get off the ground, however, with North Korea last month claiming that it had sent an “ultimatum” to the South regarding its plans for the resort and warning that it would unilaterally demolish ROK-owned facilities.
Pyongyang has also stressed its own plans for the resort, which it hopes to transform into a new international tourism zone.
Externally-focused outlet the Uriminzokkiri last week stressed the country’s “unwavering will” to push ahead with that goal, and to remove “all the South’s unpleasant-looking facilities that have been spoiling the landscape of this famous mountain.”
The Seoul-based outlet the Kyunghyang Shinmun on Monday then reported that South Korean officials had told the North that they were willing to demolish their facilities and that the South would also be willing to help develop the area as an international tourist zone.
The unification minister declined to comment on those reports on Monday, though he did say that some South Korean-owned property at the resort would need to be repaired.
“In the process of pushing for the tour program to Mount Kumgang, we once used containers as temporary lodging facilities,” he was quoted as having told journalists. “There are about 340 such containers at the mountain.”
“Since the suspension [of tours to the site], they have been left unattended… it is true that they have been left abandoned.”
Edited by Colin Zwirko
Featured image: DPRK Today