North Korea on Tuesday rejected Seoul’s request for talks to discuss the possible demolition of South Korean-made hotels and other facilities at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort that Kim Jong Un wants removed.
In letters addressed to Seoul’s unification ministry and South Korea’s Hyundai business group, North Korea said face-to-face meetings would be unnecessary and repeated its stance that details should be worked out through document exchanges, the ministry said.
The South on Monday proposed a working-level meeting with North Korea, days after the North formally demanded that South Koreans come to Diamond Mountain, known in Korean as Mt Kumgang, at an agreed-upon date to clear out their facilities.
North Korean leader Kim has lambasted the resort built by Hyundai on one of the peninsula’s most scenic mountains, describing the facilities as “a hotchpotch with no national character at all” and “like makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area or isolation wards”.
Tours to the prized location were a major symbol of cooperation between the Koreas and a valuable cash source for the North’s broken economy before the South suspended them in 2008 after a North Korean guard fatally shot a South Korean tourist who had wandered unknowingly into a military area.
When South Korean tourists were allowed to visit the mountain beginning in 1998, several South Korean firms including Hyundai and Ananti Inc invested in the project.
“The government will closely cooperate with business operators on the Mt Kumgang tourism issue and draw up counter-measures on the principle that all issues of inter-Korean relations should be resolved through dialogue and consultation,” the unification ministry said.
Seoul cannot restart mass tours to Diamond Mountain or any other major inter-Korean economic activity without defying US-led international sanctions against North Korea, which have been strengthened since 2016 when the North began accelerating its nuclear and missile tests.
While UN sanctions do not directly ban tourism, they prohibit bulk cash transfers that can result from business activities such as the Diamond Mountain tours.