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Firms call for resumption of tourism to North Korea

South Korean corporations had incurred losses after the suspension of tourism that came after the May 24 sanctions.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Tours of North Korea’s Mount Kumgang Tourist Region stopped when a South Korean tourist was fatally shot in July 2008, but South Korean companies are calling for an end to the suspension. Photo by Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock
Tours of North Korea’s Mount Kumgang Tourist Region stopped when a South Korean tourist was fatally shot in July 2008, but South Korean companies are calling for an end to the suspension. Photo by Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

SEOUL, July 9 (UPI) -- South Korean companies that have faced losses since the suspension of South Korea tourism to North Korea are urging programs to resume after a seven-year hiatus.

The tours of a panoramic mountain range in North Korea's Mount Kumgang Tourist Region stopped when a South Korean tourist was fatally shot in July 2008, but representatives from 49 South Korean firms called for a resolution on Tuesday, Voice of America reported.

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"North and South Korea should resolve political differences that benefit neither and engage in a dialogue quickly with genuine interest," Lee Jong-heung, head of an association of the companies said at a press conference in Seoul.

Lee said South Korean corporations had incurred losses after the suspension of tourism that came after the May 24 sanctions, a South Korea measure against the North after the sinking of a South Korean navy warship in 2010.

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The accident killed 46 South Korean seamen, and an international team of investigators concluded a North Korean torpedo was responsible for the attack.

South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported Hyundai Asan, the construction arm of conglomerate Hyundai Group, had incurred a cumulative loss of $892.6 million.

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In addition to its tour programs of the Kumgang Tourist Region, Hyundai Asan operates travel to and from Kaesong, near the Korean demilitarized zone

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Due to South Korea sanctions, the Kumgang program has incurred a loss of $770.2 million and the lower-profile Kaesong program has suffered $122.4 million in lost revenue.

A Hyundai Asan spokesman told Kyunghyang the revenue lost was calculated using past statistics. Before tourism was suspended, 300,000 South Koreans visited Mount Kumgang on an annual basis, and Kaesong drew 100,000 tourists every year.

The firm also has had to drastically cut staff, and has laid off 75 percent of its workforce due to the North-South standoff, leaving 262 workers in a business that once employed 1,000.

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