NKorea vows to redevelop mountain tour website in spite of pandemic

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A leading North Korea formal has visited a mountain vacation resort that experienced been jointly run with rival South Korea throughout earlier rapprochement and discussed efforts to unilaterally rebuild it into “a cultural resort envied by the complete planet,” state media described Sunday.

Some specialists say North Korea may possibly be placing strain on South Korea in buy to advantage from an economic engagement as the pandemic is aggravating North Korean economic woes.

During a excursion to the Diamond Mountain vacation resort, Leading Kim Tok Hun “stressed the need to have to construct the vacationer region our possess way in which nationwide character and modernity are mixed even though in fantastic harmony with the normal surroundings,” the Korean Central Information Company documented.

Kim said North Korea aims to transform the mountain place into “the 1 perfectly-acknowledged for serving the persons and a cultural vacation resort envied by the whole globe.” He and other officers discussed the design and style and building of “a environment-stage resort, golfing program, snowboarding ground,” according to KCNA.

North Korea experienced operated a joint tour method at the mountain with South Korea for about 10 many years in advance of it was suspended pursuing the capturing death of a South Korean tourist there in 2008. About 2 million South Korean tourists had frequented the resort, a exceptional supply of foreign forex for the impoverished North.

When relations improved in latest decades, the two Koreas pushed to restart stalled joint economic initiatives such as the Diamond Mountain excursions. But Seoul was ultimately unable to do so devoid of defying punishing U.N. sanctions imposed more than the North’s nuclear application.

Late past calendar year, an indignant North Korea pushed for the destruction of South Korean-made lodges and other amenities at the resort and demanded South Korea send out personnel to the web site to apparent out the buildings. North Korean chief Kim Jong Un called the South Korean amenities “shabby” and “unpleasant-hunting.”

But in January, North Korea postponed the demolition options out of considerations about the spread of the coronavirus.

North Korea has claimed it has not observed a one virus situation, a claim disputed by quite a few outside the house professionals. A key outbreak in North Korea could have devastating implications since its health program remains fragile. The pandemic has also prompted a enormous blow to the North’s economy, alongside with the U.N. sanctions and a spate of natural disasters this summer time.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, explained the timing of Sunday’s North Korean statement is considerably less about tourism and far more about political pressure. “By holding Seoul’s hopes for engagement at danger,” North Korea is pressuring South Korea “to obtain methods of resuming financial positive aspects for the North,” he stated.

Just before the pandemic, North Korea hosted Chinees travelers at the vacation resort. But industry experts doubt no matter if it could redevelop and convert the location into a significant tourism web site with no cooperation from South Korea.

The vacation resort sits just north of the inter-Korean border and hundreds of kilometers (miles) absent from the North’s border with China. North Korea’s inadequate transportation links make it complicated to deliver a large selection of Chinese tourists there.