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N.K. to open mountain resort to foreigners

North Korea’s scenic mountain resort in Mount Geumgang will be open to foreigners later this month via a Beijing-based company’s cruise, amid an ongoing tug of war over South Korean assets in the area.

Young Pioneer Tours posted the five-day tour program on its website, explaining it will cost 8,500 yuan, or $1,300, per person to travel from North Korea’s northeastern area of Rason to Mount Geumgang on its east coast.

The tour will start next Monday, said the company offering western travelers group tours around Asia. Other details of the schedule remained unknown.

The two Koreas have been disputing for years over how to deal with Seoul’s remaining assets in Mount Geumgang after cross-border tours were suspended.

The two Koreas launched the joint tour project at the North’s Mount Geumgang in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation.

The tour, which had been one of impoverished Pyongyang’s main sources of income, halted on July 11, 2008 after a South Korean female tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier when she purportedly strayed into an off-limits military zone.

Some 300 billion won worth of facilities invested in by dozens of South Korean companies have been out of use for three years.

Seizing the assets in April last year, Pyongyang has threatened to take legal steps to dispose of them and unilaterally terminated the South Korean operator’s exclusive tourism rights by starting business with firms from other countries.

North Korea has launched a series of tourism programs for Chinese people in an apparent bid to earn much-needed hard currency.

South Korea has asked foreign countries not to invest in or engage in tourism at the mountain resort to protect its property rights there.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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