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North Korean Tourism: Does it violate UN Sanctions ?

Peace through tourism between the two Koreas

North Korean Tourism: Does it violate UN Sanctions ?
Mount Kumgang or the Kumgang Mountains are a mountain/mountain range, with a 1,638-metre-high Birobong peak, in Kangwon-do, North Korea. It is about 50 kilometers from the South Korean city of Sokcho in Gangwon-do.

Reopening Mount Geumgang for tourism doesn’t violate sanctions, President Moon Jae-in said Friday, adding his administration would pursue a new approach to make the joint inter-Korean project happen.

“Regarding the Mount Geumgang tourism project, tourism itself doesn’t violate the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions. But what matters is that the transfer of payment is something that would violate the economic sanctions,” President Moon said at the start of a dinner meeting with Cheong Wa Dae press corps held in Nokjiwon at the presidential office, according to press pool reports.

Moon said the South Korean government would pursue a “new way” for an early resumption of the inter-Korean tour program. “Because of the ongoing UNSC sanctions, it’s difficult to push forward with existing methods,” Moon said. Regarding the specifics of a “new way,” the President didn’t elaborate.

His remarks came a few hours after the South’s unification ministry accepted an offer from North Korea to discuss issues relating to the fate of South Korean-made buildings and structures at the resort in North Korea, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered their demolition.

Along with the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, the Mount Geumgang project is another symbolic inter-Korean business project. When Moon held his summit with Kim in September 2018 in Pyongyang, the two leaders agreed to resume cooperation on these two suspended economic projects, which are also core sources of income for the cash-strapped and impoverished North.

President Moon floated the idea of proposing a sanctions waiver to U.S. President Donald Trump and the leaders of China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom, the five countries having permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. But Moon’s efforts were in vain, as some sanctions are more complex than others and touch on an even wider set of sanctions.

This year, Kim has promoted he will shift his top priority in state affairs to boost his country’s economic vitality. According to political analysts, that requires easing the stiff sanctions, winning more foreign aid and attracting more foreign investment.

But Washington was worried that the reopening of the industrial complex and the Mount Geumgang resort will violate the UNSC sanctions offering political risk insurance, and lead to the transfer of “bulk cash” to North Korea.

In recent working-level denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang negotiators, the United States offered “limited sanctions relief” allowing the North to export some raw materials such as coal. But the North didn’t accept the offer as the streamlined sanctions provision wasn’t “good enough” as a benefit in return for presenting detailed and comprehensive denuclearization steps.