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S. Korea mulling tour programs in N. Korea

2018/06/14 10:36

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SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- The culture ministry said Thursday that it is looking into potential opportunities for South Korean tourism to North Korea amid a thaw on the divided peninsula.

The move came following the historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore.

The summit raised the possibility of cooperative bilateral relations after decades of hostility, setting the stage for the resumption of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

"We are reviewing various ways to see if there is anything to do in addition to tour programs to Kaesong, Mount Kumgang and Mount Baekdu," said the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The ministry has created a task force to prepare for the possible resumption of inter-Korean exchanges in sports, culture and tourism.

Still the ministry said it's difficult to provide a specific time frame because South Korea needs to carry out onsite inspections of tour facilities in the North and work out details with the North as well as South Korean companies.

Hyundai Asan, the inter-Korean business arm of Hyundai Group, operated a joint tour program at Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain resort on North Korea's east coast.

This photo provided by Hyundai Group shows the majestic peaks of Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain resort area on the North's east coast. (Yonhap) This photo provided by Hyundai Group shows the majestic peaks of Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain resort area on the North's east coast. (Yonhap)

The tour program -- launched in 1998 -- attracted more than 1.95 million visitors before South Korea suspended it 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean female tourist near the resort.

South Korea also halted a separate tour program to North Korea's western border city of Kaesong in 2008, a year after Hyundai Asan began the tour to the former capital of Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Kaesong is also home to a stalled inter-Korean industrial complex. South Korea shuttered the sprawling factory park in Kaesong in February 2016 to punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch.

The Korea Tourism Organization said it has launched a task force to prepare for possible tour programs in the North by South Korean tourists.

Private South Korean tour companies have also expressed interest in offering tour programs in the North.

Lotte Tour said it is considering offering various tour programs in the North by envisioning a ferry that connects South Korea's eastern port of Sokcho to North Korea's eastern coastal city of Wonsan.

entropy@yna.co.kr

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