Dec. 21 (UPI) -- North Korea could be moving ahead with unilateral plans for the Mount Kumgang resort more than a year after Kim Jong Un ordered the demolition of "unpleasant-looking" facilities at the site.
South Korea's unification ministry said Monday Seoul hopes to "resolve the issue" through a meeting with the North.
Pyongyang's Workers Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Sunday the statement on Mount Kumgang came from North Korean Premier Kim Tok Hun, after he conducted field guidance at the resort.
Kim ordered workers to "build the Mount Kumgang district in our [North Korean] style, that blends our people's characteristics with modern motifs," according to state media.
"Make [Mount Kumgang] a cultural retreat that would be the envy of the world," the North Korean politician said, according to the paper.
The senior official also said he discussed with his subordinates plans to build "a world-class hotel, golf course and ski resort." State media did not mention the South's facilities at the site.
The statement from Pyongyang may have taken Seoul by surprise.
An official with South Korea's unification ministry said in a written statement to local reporters the government looks forward to discussing Mount Kumgang with Pyongyang, despite past rejection of talks.
"We hope we can meet and discuss the matter at an appropriate time, after taking into account the COVID-19 situation, in light of the need to resolve the current issues in the Mount Kumgang region and to develop the area as an international tourist destination," the South Korean ministry said, according to Tongil News Monday.
South Korean analysts told local paper Donga Ilbo the Mount Kumgang resort may be included in leader Kim Jong Un's five-year plant for economic development. The leadership could be under pressure to show results, they said.
Cheong Seong-chang, a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, said it is likely North Korea is developing the resort to attract Chinese tourists after the pandemic and bring in foreign currency.
South Korea's Hyundai Asan developed Mount Kumgang during a period of engagement that began under President Kim Dae-jung. The Mount Kumgang project was a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation before it was closed after a fatal shooting in 2008.