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2008/05/29 11:23 KST


South Korean-built Golf Course Opens at North Korea's Mt. Kumgang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The first South Korean-built golf course in North Korea opened on May 28 in the scenic Mt. Kumgang area after nearly four years of construction.

   The "Kumgang Ananti Golf and Spa Resort," including an 18-hole golf course, opened to the public, Emerson Pacific Group, a Seoul-based leisure firm operating the golf facility, said.

   Built on about 1.7 million square meters of land, the resort also has a spa, a hotel and restaurants that provide nice sea and mountain views, according to Kim Min-jeong, a publicity official of the company.

   A tourist resort operated by Hyundai Asan, an arm of Hyundai Group dealing with North Korea, is already operating at the mountain.

   The golf course has already drawn media attention over its 929-meter number three hole, the world's longest.

   The facility, however, will be operated on a membership-only basis for the time being, Kim said, adding that the company plans to open the facility to individual tourists around next year.

   Emerson Pacific is waiting for Pyongyang to give the company permission to employ about 200 North Koreans, including 60 caddies, at the resort, the official said.

   The opening comes amid frosty relations between the Koreas since the conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in late February with a pledge to get tough on Pyongyang.

   North Korea reacted by expelling all South Korean officials from Mt. Kumgang and the joint industrial complex in Kaesong, a North Korean border town, and cutting off inter-Korean dialogue. Civilian exchanges, however, are continuing smoothly despite the tension, according to officials at the Unification Ministry.

   As many as 100,300 South Koreans visited Mt. Kumgang during the first five months this year, up from 58,000 a year earlier, according to Hyundai Asan, which operates the tour program.


S. Korea to Send Copper to N. Korea under Nuclear Disablement Deal

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea will send 1,000 tons of electrolytic copper to North Korea this week in return for the communist state's disabling of its nuclear facilities under a key international deal, the Unification Ministry said on May 26.

   A cargo ship carrying copper worth 8.9 billion won (US$8.5 million) will leave South Korea's western port of Incheon on May 29, the ministry said.

   The copper shipment is part of the third batch of energy aid promised under the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, it added.

   North Korea agreed to disable its key nuclear facilities and disclose its nuclear programs by the end of 2007 in exchange for energy aid and political concessions. In return, four participating countries of the six-party talks -- South Korea, the United States, China and Russia -- promised to provide 450,000 tons of heavy oil and energy facilities equivalent to 500,000 tons of heavy oil.

   North Korea has already received over 300,000 tons of heavy oil and equivalent energy facilities, including 93,000 tons from South Korea.

   But the six-party talks have been stalled over North Korea's failure to provide a list acceptable to Washington by the deadline.

   Hopes for the resumption of the talks have been growing, however, following the North's provision this month of more than 18,000 pages of operational records from its nuclear reactor and a reprocessing facility, the key installations believed to have been churning out weapons-grade plutonium.

   North Korea is expected to soon submit a declaration to China detailing its nuclear inventory.


Gyeonggi Province to Send Direct Food Aid to N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The Gyeonggi provincial government is to provide direct food aid worth several hundred thousand dollars to help lessen dire shortages in North Korea, the top official of South Korea's most populous province said on May 27.

   "We know that North Koreans are currently suffering great hardship due to food shortages," Governor Kim Moon-soo told reporters. "We're planning to send direct food aid to North Korea in the near future."
The local government has set aside 6 billion won (US$5.7 million) of this year's budget for various programs dealing with North Korea, Kim said. He did not reveal more details of the plan, saying it's too early to say when and how the food aid will be provided.

   Relations between the two Koreas worsened after conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took a firmer approach toward Pyongyang than his two predecessors, who had drawn public criticism for being too lenient toward the communist state.

   Lee's government has said it would provide humanitarian aid with no conditions attached but said North Korea made no request for it amid the recent standstill in ties. South Korea was a major donor country in recent years, providing about 400,000 tons of rice aid to the famine-stricken country. South Korea's incumbent administration maintains an "ask first" policy for food aid.

   Kim said his government devised the aid plan since its ongoing project to jointly grow rice had proved "very successful," but was considered not enough to help lessen the food shortages in the North.

   The rice project in Pyongyang produced 51.2 kilograms of rice per acre, almost twice the average North Korean production rate, last year, he said. South Korea has provided farming machinery, chemicals, fertilizers and technicians to some 400 hectares of North Korean rice paddies, according to other local government officials.

   "The program was so successful that the North Korean authorities were reluctant to continue it due to its possible influence on the public," Kim said. "So, we're now trying to wrap up the program in Pyongyang this year and divert our efforts to Kaesong and other North Korean border towns suffering more serious food shortages."
Pyongyang appears to feel greatly burdened by South Korea's assistance, but the Gyeonggi government hopes to render "as much help as possible," the governor said.