Nov. 5 (UPI) -- North Korea will have a hard time developing and attracting visitors to Mount Kumgang without South Korean cooperation or tourists, a South Korean analyst said Tuesday.
Cho Han-bum, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said at a policy debate Mount Kumgang became an inter-Korea project because of its symbolism among Koreans across the peninsula, Seoul Pyongyang News reported.
"Mount Kumgang tourism emphasized the national identity [of Koreans] rather than internationalization," Cho said. "Chasing out Hyundai [corporation] and creating worsening sentiment [in South Korea] makes tourism to Mount Kumgang more difficult."
Cho also credited Hyundai Asan for the expedited development of Mount Kumgang, where South Korean tourists were allowed to visit in large numbers from 1998 to 2008, until a South Korean tourist was fatally shot by North Korean soldiers.
In October, Kim Jong Un ordered the demolition of "unpleasant-looking" South Korea-built facilities at the resort. The resort was built during the rule of his father, Kim Jong Il, who accepted various donations from the South.
Kim Jong Un has also stressed "self-reliant" development of tourist attractions in North Korea, but despite North Korea claims, sites like the Wonsan-Kalma tourism zone are being delayed due to sanctions, Cho said, according to Yonhap news agency.
Kim Han-kyu, a deputy official at Korea Tourism Organization in Seoul, said the number of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea has grown exponentially, from about 230,000 in 2012 to 1.2 million in 2018.
The annual growth of Chinese tourists to North Korea is about 30 percent on average, Kim said.
Other analysts at the forum on Tuesday said Kim's statement attacking inter-Korea cooperation at the resort is not the "final word."
A senior researcher with the SK Institute for Economics and Business, a private think tank, said future U.S.-North Korea meetings could change Kim's mind about inter-Korea cooperation, according to SP News.