North Korea escalates Mountain Kumgang row

North Korea escalates Mountain Kumgang row

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has confirmed it will confiscate five South Korean owned properties at the Mountain Kumgang holiday resort.

Formerly one of the few symbols of cooperation between the two nations, the resort was reclaimed by the DPRK earlier this month as relations soured.

South Korea’s Hyundai Asan has operated the resort alongside DPKR representatives for 12-years, but officials were expelled on April 9th with little explanation.

North Korea has been demanding the South resume tours to the facility, which had been a key source of foreign currency earnings for the impoverished nation.

Tours were suspended following an incident in which a North Korean soldier shot a South Korean tourist to death in 2008.

The latest decision comes amid a period of worsening relations between the two, following the sinking of a South Korean navel vessel in the Yellow Sea earlier this year, with the DPRK blamed by some sources.

However, North Korean officials have denied all involvement.

Mountain Kumgang

In the latest twist, the DPRK has said it will confiscate South Korean-owned properties at a jointly-operated mountain resort.

In a mountainous region in the south of the isolated communist country, Mountain Kumgang is one of the highlights of the Kumgangsan tourist region – popular with both North and South Koreans.

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A statement carried by the DPRK’s official Korea Central News Agency read: “The confiscated real estate will be put into the possession of the North or handed over to new businessmen according to legal procedures.”

The five properties include a fire station, a duty-free shop, a reunion centre for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, a cultural center where North Korean troupes performed for tourists and a spa.

Approximately two million South Korean visitors have toured Mountain Kumgang over the last decade, with commentators now suggesting the government will put an official end to already moribund tours.

Tours to the border town of Keasong – home to a once-thriving joint industrial park - were also suspended in 2008.