The Mount Kumgang tourism project, which attracted nearly 2 million South Korean visitors, was a symbol of economic cooperation between the two Koreas. However, it was suspended in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was shot and killed by North Korean guards for entering a restricted zone. Hyundai Asan, which invested over 750 billion won ($564 million) in developing the project, declined to comment on the report.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, responsible for handling ties with Pyongyang, stated that the North’s actions were not surprising and would only further isolate the country. Seoul does not recognize this unilateral move, an official added. The KCNA report did not mention the North’s special law governing another major joint economic project, the Kaesong industrial zone, which housed the factories of 125 South Korean companies and employed 55,000 North Korean workers at its peak. The project was suspended by Seoul in 2016 following North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches.
North Korea has previously declared South Korea as an enemy at war and last year scrapped a military pact aimed at de-escalating tensions near the military border. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, in a pre-recorded interview with state TV KBS, called North Korea’s shift in inter-Korea policy “an extraordinary change” but expressed difficulty in understanding the reasoning behind it. President Yoon stated that the North Korean leadership is “not a rational group” and emphasized their long-standing attempts to turn South Korea into a communist state.
Despite this, President Yoon remains open to engaging with North Korea, including holding a summit meeting with Kim, and providing aid to help the North Korean economy. However, he acknowledged the challenges of dealing with a leadership that he perceives as irrational.
In a separate report, KCNA stated that Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, recently toured factories producing consumer goods and food. He provided guidance on modernizing the facilities as part of implementing a new regional development policy.