Gaeseong (eTN) – A convoy of 10 South Korean buses drove into North Korea Wednesday across the heavily armed border to visit Gaeseong as part of a second tourism project between the two Koreas.
The one-day overland tour of Gaeseong, a 90-minute drive from Seoul, offers South Koreans an unusual glimpse of the reclusive North, said an official at Hyundai Asan that operates the tourism project.
This is the second inter-Korean tourism project by Hyundai Asan, a unit of Hyundai Group. The group began tours to North Korea’s Mount Geumgang nine years ago.
The mountain resort has attracted about 1.5 million tourists so far, mostly South Koreans. North Korea receives $50 for every $300 trip to the scenic mountains.
The one-day tour of Gaeseong costs 180,000 won ($195) per person with North Korea getting $100 for each person, Hyundai Asan said.
The tourists looked around historical Buddhist temples, scenic waterfalls and other parts of the city, which was the capital of the Goryeo Dynasty that ruled the peninsula between A.D. 918 and 1392.
Gaeseong is also the location of inter-Korean industrial complex where 26 South Korean companies are manufacturing clothes, kitchenware and other light industrial goods.
South Korea has been seeking economic cooperation with North Korea in recent years as part of its effort to narrow the economic gap with its impoverished neighbor and prepare for reunification. South Korea’s economy is 35 times the size of the North’s.
The effort is gaining momentum with North Korea starting to disable its nuclear weapons program and improving relations with the U.S.
Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator in international talks aimed at persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program, is on a three-day visit to the North’s nuclear complex in Yongbyon, which produces weapons-grade plutonium, to check the progress of the disablement of the North’s nuclear facilities.