The Hyundai Group has agreed with North Korea to start package tours to Mt. Baekdu in May on direct flights from Seoul. It will be the first opportunity to go directly from South Korea to Mt. Baekdu without a detour via China in the 59 years of national division.
Trips to Kaesong, the border town in North Korea, will likely begin in early December. Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun told reporters on return from a five-day visit to North Korea on Saturday, “We signed an agreement with North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee to start Mt. Baekdu tourism in May next year in accordance with agreements reached in the inter-Korean summit” last month. The deal gives Hyundai the exclusive concession for Mt. Baekdu tours for 50 years.
Hyun said she also agreed with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to start tours to Kaesong in December. The two sides have been wrangling over the entrance fees for the historic town for two years. That gives the Hyundai Group exclusive concessions for all three tourism projects in the North — the third is Mt. Kumgang — despite Pyongyang’s earlier flirtation with other firms after relations with Hyundai soured.
The president of tour operator Hyundai Asan, Yoon Man-joon said, “After I visited Samjiyeon Airport and accommodation facilities near Mt. Baekdu, I concluded that it would be possible to start tours there in May next year if we repair some of the facilities. We’ll also seek opportunities for infrastructure projects in North Korea in addition to the tourism business.”