South Korean tourism officials to visit North Korea


SEOUL – Executives from South Korea’s state-run Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) and inter-Korean tour operator Hyundai Asan Corp., will visit North Korea this week to survey their properties at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North’s east coast, the companies said Monday.

The visit comes after North Korea demanded last week that South Korean companies that own properties at the resort join a survey, threatening to confiscate their assets if they fail to attend by the deadline of Thursday.

“The head of the KTO and two to three employees will visit North Korea Wednesday,” said an official at the KTO, adding they will apply for the visit via Hyundai Asan.

The state-run tourism company has assets worth 90 billion won (US$79.2 million) at the resort.

Hyundai Asan also plans to send a delegation to the resort, as well as representatives of its subcontractors, for talks with North Korean officials Thursday.

The South Korean company owns assets at the resort worth 226 billion won, including ports and buildings.

North Korea also urged the South Korean government to resume trips across the inter-Korean land border to the resort and Kaesong, a North Korean city near the inter-Korean border.

The inter-Korean tours have been halted since July 2008, when a South Korean tourist was shot dead after straying into a military zone near the resort.

Seoul has said the ban will remain in place until the North comes up with measures to prevent a recurrence of such an incident and allows a joint investigation into the death.

On March 4, North Korea threatened to scrap all inter-Korean tour deals signed with South Korea if it maintains the suspension.

The North also said it will guarantee personal security for South Koreans visiting the North.