Two Koreas celebrate anniversary of suspended joint tour program

By Yonhap
  • Published : Nov 18, 2018 - 11:37
  • Updated : Nov 18, 2018 - 18:13

The two Koreas held an event Sunday to mark the 20th anniversary of the long-suspended joint tourism program at the North's scenic Mount Kumgang.

About 100 South Koreans and 80 North Koreans were in attendance at the first celebratory two-day event for four years at the east coast resort. It is being jointly organized by Hyundai Group, which operated the tour project, and the North's Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. 

Kumkang Mountain (Yonhap)

Among the South Korean participants are Hyundai Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun and about 30 other company officials, as well as six incumbent lawmakers, former government officials, private experts, business executives and journalists.

The tour includes a celebratory performance followed by an official banquet dinner Sunday and on-site tours Monday.

The tour program was a key symbol of reconciliation between the two Koreas, which technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty. It drew about 370,000 tourists in 2007.

The Seoul government suspended it in 2008 following the deadly shooting of a female South Korean tourist at the resort.

The two Koreas held the joint celebratory event almost every year from 1999 to 2014. But it has not taken place since then as inter-Korean tensions escalated.

With a recent thaw in relations between the two Koreas, expectations have been growing for a resumption of the tour program. Their leaders agreed in September to normalize the tour program when conditions are met.

Hyun's visit to the North is her third this year. She accompanied President Moon Jae-in on his trip to Pyongyang last month for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. She also visited Mount Kumgang in August for a memorial service for her husband, former Hyundai Group Chairman Chung Mong-hun.

Hyun is reportedly planning to announce the outcome of her recent visits to the North on Monday.

Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung -- Hyun's late father-in-law -- started the tourism program at Mount Kumgang on Nov. 18, 1998. (Yonhap)