In July 2008, a 53 year old South Korean woman, on one of Hyundai Asan’s tours in the Mt. Kumgang resort jointly run by North and South Korea, was shot dead by North Korean soldiers for allegedly wandering too close to a military installation. South Korea demanded a full investigation which was vehemently denied by the North, and since then the resort has been left in a state of limbo. Three years to the date, discussions between the rival nations continue to break down as the North refuses to concede to the South’s demands for an investigation, apology, and guarantee of safety for tourists. Minor and temporary agreements have been made during this time, such as utilizing the resort’s facilities for Red Cross reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. More recently, the North has resumed tours without the South, and has seized many of the facilities and assets that received heavy investment from Hyundai Asan. From Reuters:
North Korea refused on Thursday to back down on its threat to strip a South Korean company of its assets to run tours to a joint resort as talks broke down over a three-year row amid security tensions between the rivals.
The dispute over the Mount Kumgang resort on the isolated North’s east coast is the latest of a list of issues underscoring the depth of soured relations on the peninsula that involved the sinking of a South Korean navy ship last year and bombing of a populated island by the North.
A team headed by South Korean Unification Ministry officials crossed the military border into the mountain resort to try to stop Pyongyang from seizing the assets of a South Korean tour operator at the resort.
North Korea gave a new deadline of July 29 for the South Korean tour operator Hyundai Asan to pull out or have their assets seized and disposed of, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said after the meeting ended in a deadlock.
Last month the North said it had revised a law overseeing the joint tourism project, effectively ending Hyundai Asan’s contract to exclusively run all cross-border tours to the resort.
Earlier this month, the North gave investors from the South until July 13 to come to the resort to sort out their assets or risk Pyongyang taking steps to seize and dispose of them.
An expert on the North, Stephan Haggard of the University of California, said the North has pushed its threat on Kumgang too far and the South is unlikely to separate it from the rest of the rivals’ bitter ties. "I think it will be very difficult for the government to sanction or reopen it," he said.
According to The Chosun Ilbo, Hyundai Asan has taken heavy losses amounting to nearly $400 million USD over the past 3 years.