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S. Korean biz group to visit N. Korea for memorial service of late chairman

2015/08/03 11:47

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) -- A group of South Korean businesspeople will visit North Korea this week to hold a memorial service there for the late chairman of Hyundai Group, Chung Mong-hun, who spearheaded an inter-Korean tour program, the government said Monday.

The Unification Ministry said it has approved an application to visit Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast on Tuesday by 22 officials from Hyundai Asan, a South Korean operator of the now-suspended joint tour program, to commemorate the 12th anniversary of Chung's death.

Chung, who aggressively pursued a joint tour program and other business projects with the North, committed suicide in 2003 amid a probe into allegations that former President Kim Dae-jung secretly transferred large sums of money to the North ahead of a 2000 inter-Korean summit.

"The government has given the green light to their visit to the North on humanitarian grounds," Park Soo-jin, deputy spokeswoman for the ministry, told a regular press briefing.

The delegation, to be led by Cho Kun-shik, president of Hyundai Asan, will also check their facilities at its scenic mountain resort, where Chung's ashes were scattered in accordance with his wishes, according to company officials.

Hyundai chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, Chung's widow, will not visit the North this time, they added.

Hyundai Asan kicked off a joint tour program at Mount Kumgang in 1998, a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation, but Seoul suspended the tour program in 2008, after the shooting death of a South Korean female tourist by a North Korean solider at the resort.

Pyongyang has called for the resumption of the tour program, which once served as one of the few legitimate revenue sources for the cash-strapped country.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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