(eTN) – North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has given warm encouragement to local workers developing Mount Baekdu, the highest point on the peninsula that will be opened to South Korean tourists next year, the North’s broadcaster said Saturday.
South and North Korea agreed to open a direct flight route between Seoul and the North’s Mount Baekdu during their second summit in October. The inter-Korean tour, set to start in May, is organized by South Korea’s Hyundai Group.
Kim “expressed his gratitude to officials and workers who have wholeheartedly supported the development of the Mount Baekdu area,” the Korean Central Broadcasting Station, monitored in Seoul, said, naming technicians, researchers and factory workers involved in the project.
Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of the Hyundai Group, agreed with North Korea during her visit to Pyongyang in early November to start in May sightseeing tours of the North’s 2,744-meter mountain, located on its border with China. A group of South Korean government officials and researchers have conducted an on-site inspection.
Mount Baekdu will be the third inter-Korean tourism project organized by Hyundai Asan, a unit of the Hyundai Group in charge of North Korea business. North Korea opened its border city of Kaesong to South Korean tourists early this week, following the launch of a tourism program to the North’s east coast mountain of Geumgang nine years ago.
The Mount Baekdu and Kaesong tour projects are part of agreements South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reached during their summit that sought to boost economic cooperation and reduce tension.