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Seoul struggles to deal with Pyongyang’s demolition plan in Kumgangsan

South Korea is struggling to find a way to deal with the North’s decision to tear down its facilities at Kumgangsan tourism complex, as the regime continues to be reticent.

Despite repeated requests to discuss the issue through a face-to-face meeting, a North Korean propaganda site Uriminzokkiri said Wednesday that the country’s decision to demolish the facilities -- built by the South Korean government and companies -- in the tourist zone on its east coast remains unchanged. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects Kumgangsan. (KCNA)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects Kumgangsan. (KCNA)

“It is our unwavering will to remove all the South’s unpleasant-looking facilities that spoil the landscape of this famous mountain and turn it into a ... modern international cultural, tourist zone,” Uriminzokkiri said.

On Oct. 23, Pyongyang notified Seoul of its plan, saying it was its leader Kim Jong-un’s order. The North officially offer to discuss the issue in writing, but Seoul has said that all pending issues in inter-Korean relations should be resolved through dialogue and consultations.

The Unification Ministry said there’s still a big difference between the two sides in their respective position on the Kumgangsan tourism issue.

“North Korea has not changed its position, demanding (South Korea) send documents containing a demolition schedule and plan,” said Unification Ministry spokesperson Lee Sang-min said in a regular press briefing.

Uriminzokkiri also said that workers’ heartfelt patriotism at the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area, North Korea’s landmark tourism construction project, coupled with the ruler’s willingness to turn the site into a paradise, are creating miracles. The North plans to complete the construction of the new tourist area by April 15, the birth anniversary of the regime’s founder Kim Il-sung.

“The fine scenery of Kumgangsan will be developed as a modern tourism attraction that citizens can enjoy amid the construction craze that is spreading across the country,” it said.

The tour program to Kumgangsan was a major inter-Korean cooperation project. Operations of the facilities, including hotels and a golf course, were suspended in 2008, when a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier, purportedly for entering a military zone. Tour programs have not resumed since.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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