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Hyundai chairwoman invited to visit North Korea

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea's Hyundai chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun (C) has received North Korean permission to travel to Mount Kumgang. File Photo by Cho Sung-bong/EPA
South Korea's Hyundai chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun (C) has received North Korean permission to travel to Mount Kumgang. File Photo by Cho Sung-bong/EPA

July 30 (UPI) -- The chairwoman of one of South Korea's largest conglomerates could soon visit North Korea, upon the North's invitation.

Hyun Jeong-eun, the chairwoman of Hyundai Group, could visit North Korea for the first time in four years, a move that raises the possibility of resuming South Korean travel to Mount Kumgang, South Korean newspaper Kukmin Ilbo reported Tuesday.

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Trips were suspended after a South Korean tourist was fatally shot in 2008. North Korea claimed the woman, Park Wang-ja, was in a military zone.

The official mission of the trip is to mark the 15th anniversary of the death of Chung Mong-hun, Hyun's spouse and Hyundai heir, who pushed for inter-Korea reconciliation through business initiatives.

Chung died on Aug. 4, 2003, when he fell from the 12th floor of Hyundai Asan headquarters. The death at the time was ruled a suicide and came after Chung was facing trial on charges of secretly sending at least $100 million in funds from Seoul to the North, ahead of a landmark inter-Korea summit in June 2000.

In a statement issued Monday, Hyundai Group said North Korea's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee agreed to the memorial for Chung, and the company applied for permission to visit with South Korea's Unification Ministry.

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If Seoul approves the trip, about 15 Hyundai employees are expected to accompany Hyun to the North.

The trip would not mark the first time Hyun was in Mount Kumgang to observe the death anniversary of Chung. Hyun held memorials at the North Korean tourist resort in 2009, 2013 and 2014 after the shooting incident.

EDaily reported Hyundai Asan's request to visit North Korea in 2017 was rejected by the North's committee.

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