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South Korea's unification chief seeks resumption of Mount Kumgang tourism

South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young (R),meets with with Hyundai Group chief Hyun Jeong-eun in Seoul on Tuesday. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young (R),meets with with Hyundai Group chief Hyun Jeong-eun in Seoul on Tuesday. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

June 1 (UPI) -- South Korea's chief of inter-Korean affairs said he is confident suspended projects, including South Korean tourism to Mount Kumgang, will resume after the U.S.-South Korea summit in May.

Unification Minister Lee In-young said Tuesday during a meeting with Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun that he intends to promote independent South Korean tourism to the North after the coronavirus pandemic begins to subside, Yonhap and Korea Economic Daily reported.

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"The normalization of Mount Kumgang tourism was agreed upon in the [September 2018] Pyongyang Joint Declaration," Lee said. "The government maintains the concept must be actively implemented without changes."

Lee said he seeks an expansion of inter-Korean cooperation "from a humanitarian standpoint," beginning with the resumption of inter-Korean family reunions, and North-South partnerships at Wonsan and Masikryong, two tourist developments in the North.

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Lee also said "conditions are right" for resuming cooperation after the summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and President Moon Jae-in at the White House last month.

"The role, space, and breadth of inter-Korean relations could be significantly expanded," Lee said, according to reports.

Hyun visited the North in August 2018, as the two Koreas began to ramp up diplomatic efforts. Her company was the primary operator of Mount Kumgang tours until a South Korean visitor was fatally shot in 2008.

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Hyun said Tuesday that her group harbors "high expectations" in the wake of the summit.

"I hope that inter-Korean relations will improve and Mount Kumgang tourism and operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex resume soon," the Hyundai executive told Lee.

Lee is to meet with other South Korean business executives and officials to discuss inter-Korean economic cooperation.

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The unification chief will meet with Lee Joong-myung, chairman of Ananti Group, on Friday. Ananti Group previously operated a golf course at Mount Kumgang, according to Seoul.

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