Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, visited the Mount Kumgang tourist resort, which was initially operated by North Korea and South Korea. The resort was built in 1998 as a means to improve cross-border ties.
Approximately one million South Koreans have visited the 328-square-kilometer resort area, which was also an important source of hard currency for Pyongyang
After his visit, Kim Jong-un then ordered the destruction of “all the unpleasant-looking facilities,” referring to them as shabby. The North Korean leader stated that the tourist buildings will be replaced with “modern service facilities” in the North Korean style.
This order is seen as retaliation because Seoul, capital of South Korea, has refused to break ties with the United States. North Korea has stepped up its criticisms of the South in recent weeks, claiming Seoul has failed to meet its commitments to improve relations.
In July 2008, trips over the border suddenly ended, when a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist who had strayed into a restricted zone. However, with bilateral ties warming in the last 2 years, discussions had begun about South Korean tourists returning as a relatively straightforward confidence-building measure.
Mr. Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, met in September of this year and agreed that tours should resume as soon as conditions permit. Visits have not yet been approved by Mr. Moon due to international sanctions that remain in place, including sanctions on projects that enable the North to obtain hard currency.
On Tuesday, North Korean media condemned Seoul’s plans to carry out a series of missile tests and develop new weapons systems, including nuclear-powered submarines. South Korea has remained conciliatory in its responses. The Vice Unification Minister, Suh Ho, said yesterday that Seoul remains committed to a “peace economy” that will deepen cross-border cooperation.
The North Korean media described Seoul’s defense plans as “outright provocations” that would “have consequences.” It also accused the South of “enhancing its pre-emptive attack capability against the North.”