South Korea censured North Korea on Monday for terminating an exclusive tourism deal with a South Korean company that has been unable to operate in the communist state for years amid strained inter-Korean relations.
North Korea said Friday it has terminated exclusive tourism rights for Hyundai Asan at Mount Geumgang, a resort on its east coast, voicing skepticism over the resumption of the joint venture.
South Koreans’ tours to the scenic mountain, a source of hard currency for the impoverished North, have been suspended since the summer of 2008, when a female South Korean tourist was shot dead after straying into an off-limits military zone.
Pyongyang says it has done everything to shed light on the shooting and guarantee the safety of future tourists, but Seoul says it has yet to receive a formal apology for the shooting, along with government-to-government promises to enhance safety.
In a briefing in Seoul on Monday, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said the latest North Korean move regarding the tour “is an illegal and unjust measure that violates international norms,” calling on Pyongyang to immediately withdraw it.
Another ministry official, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity, said Hyundai Asan has refused to accept the North Korean letter notifying the company of the termination.
“We cannot accept the validity of such action. The termination is unilateral and thus has no legal ground, because the contract says that such a matter must be dealt with through bilateral contact,” the official said.
In an attempt to pressure South Korea to resume tours to the mountain, North Korea froze Hyundai Asan’s assets at Mount Geumgang last year, another move that Seoul has refused to recognize.