Moon hints at new approach to restart Mount Kumgang tour program

October 25, 2019

 President Moon Jae-in signaled a new approach Friday to restart the Mount Kumgang inter-Korean tour project in compliance with the United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang.

Speaking at a meeting with the Cheong Wa Dae press corps, he said that the tour program to the North Korean mountain along the east coast itself is not in breach of the U.N. Security Council sanctions.

“But paying for it can be in violation of the sanctions,” he said in response to Pyongyang’s call for South Korea to remove all of its facilities in the zone, with the tour project suspended for more than a decade.

President Moon Jae-in speaks at a meeting with the Cheong Wa Dae press corps at the presidential compound on Oct. 25, 2019. (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in speaks at a meeting with the Cheong Wa Dae press corps at the presidential compound on Oct. 25, 2019. (Yonhap)

The president stressed that it’s hard to “follow the existing method” of tourism due to the current sanctions regime.

His remarks hinted at the possibility that Seoul may be open to a quid-pro-quo arrangement if the two Koreas agree to normalize the tour project.

Earlier in the day, the North formally demanded the South remove its facilities from the Mount Kumgang resort area, saying it would construct a new tourist hotspot.

In a notice delivered via the joint liaison office in Kaesong, the North said it wants to discuss related details with the South in writing, including a specific date for the removal of the hotels and several other buildings that are currently not in use.

Seoul’s unification ministry said it will explore “creative” measures to resolve the matter in consideration of “changed situations.”

The North’s move came after its leader Kim Jong-un reportedly ordered the removal of the facilities during his visit to the area.

Moon said it’s against “public sentiment” in South Korea and may damage inter-Korean relations.

On Kim’s denuclearization commitment, meanwhile, Moon said he regards it as reliable. Kim has been consistent in reaffirming his determination in meetings not just with Moon but also with other leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kim openly said he wants security assurance and a bright future for the country. The president took note of Kim’s comments that “Otherwise, why would we have these difficulties (from nuclear development)?”

At issue is whether the Washington will accept Kim’s offer of conditions for denuclearization, Moon said.

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