North Korea: Kim Jong Un orders destruction of joint tourist site | News | DW | 23.10.2019
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North Korea: Kim Jong Un orders destruction of joint tourist site

South Korean tours to Mount Kumgang in the North were long seen as a symbol of cooperation. But with Seoul unwilling to defy US sanctions on Pyongyang, the tourist project has been on hold for over a decade.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the demolition of South Korean-made tourist facilities and buildings on Mount Kumgang, the country's official news agency reported Wednesday.

Kim had visited the resort and described its facilities as "shabby" and "lacking national character," according to Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency.

Read more: Defectors call for tourists to steer clear of North Korea

He said that the "unpleasant-looking facilities" needed to be rebuilt in a modern way which "go well with the natural scenery of Mount Kumgang."

The leader described the facilities as "built like makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area or isolation wards," the North Korean news agency added.

Kim Jong Un visits the South Korean facilities on Mount Kumgang

Kim Jong Un described the buildings as "makeshift"

Uncertain intentions

Seoul had stopped tours to the site in 2008 after a tourist was shot dead. However Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to restart trips to the site following talks last year.

Since then, the US has increased sanctions against North Korea after nuclear tests. Currently Seoul is unable to start up tours to North Korea without defying US sanctions.

South Korean officials responded to the North Korean leader's comments, saying they need to take a closer look at North Korea's intentions.

Read more: North Korea 'abduction victims' turn up in Japan

Tourists visit Mount Kumgang

There were plans for tourists to begin visiting the mountain again but sanctions are making this difficult

Lee Sang-min, spokesman of Seoul's Unification Ministry, said the South will "actively defend the property rights of our people."

He said he planned to accept any proposed talks by North Korea over the facilities.

Kim Jong Un, however, said it was a "mistaken idea" to view the tourist attraction as a symbol of relations between the North and South.

"We will always welcome our compatriots from the South if they want to come to Mount Kumgang after it is wonderfully built as the world-level tourist destination," Kim added.

The tourist project on Mount Kumgang was built after decades of hostilities during the Korean War.

South Koreans began visiting the mountain in 1998 by sea, and from 2003 by land, until tours were stopped in 2008.

kmm/rt (AP, Reuters)

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