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Hyundai Group seeks to resume Geumgang tours after election

Publication Date : 26-10-2012


Hyundai Group is seeking to resume tours to North Korea’s Mount Geumgang, which have been suspended for more than four years, after the December 19 presidential election in South Korea.

Hyundai Asan, the sole operator of the inter-Korean business as tourism unit of Hyundai Group, expects that there will be mounting calls from various walks of life in the South to reopen the tour programme.

The Mount Geumgang tours have been suspended since July 2008 after a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean soldier at the resort on the North’s east coast.

Over the past four years, hopes on the resumption of the tour have faded as the South and the North continued to argue over which side should be held accountable for the tourist’s death.

While overall inter-Korean relations and businesses turned sour under the Lee Myung-bak administration, the coming December 19 presidential election could be a significant opportunity for Hyundai Asan.

“It is true that we scaled down our manpower since 2008. But the staff, which has been in charge of other tourism businesses, will shortly be dispatched to the inter-Korean business should the Mount Geumgang tours resume,” a Hyundai Asan spokesman said.

He stressed that the company has not closed down the inter-Korean business department despite the stalled situation.

Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun recently expressed her resolute to hold an event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Chung Mong-hun, Hyun’s late husband and the former Hyundai Group chairman, at Mount Gumgang in 2013.

Hyun said that “both the South and North should make concessions to resume inter-Korean business”.

The National Assembly has also been active in mapping out details to resume tours to the North Korean territory.

Though there are differences of opinion between the conservative ruling party and liberal opposition lawmakers, they share the view that “uncertainty over the stalled business will be lifted in some way” after the presidential election.

Last month, a group of leaders from the seven major religions launched an entity to promote the resumption of tours in coordination with Hyundai Asan.

The religious leaders are poised to hold a series of campaigns to draw public interest toward the inter-Korean businesses.

A research analyst said a key issue is whether the heated movement will continue under the scenario that ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye wins the election.

“Ultimately, the fate of Mount Geumgang tours and other relations with the North could be swayed by the coming political situation in the South,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hyundai Group has been striving to find new growth engines for the conglomerate amid the stalled inter-Korean business.

Following its takeover of the six-star luxury resort Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul early this year, the group is especially seeking to expand its financial business through its brokerage unit.


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