According to an official joint statement by the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee and the Hyundai Group of South Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) has agreed to reopen its border with South
Korea to tourism – and Mount Kumgang in particular – and allow family visits to resume.
This follows the closure of the border in July 2008 after a South Korean woman was shot dead by North Korean border guards. This led to an escalation in tensions between the two countries and the immediate suspension of all tourism, including the closure of the duty free and resort facilities operated by Hyundai Asian at Mount Kumgang.
But the decision to reopen its border to tourists and relatives of North Korean nationals has not been welcomed by everyone with some commentators in Seoul suggesting that South Korea is still waiting for an explanation and an official apology for the death of the South Korean tourist last year.
The North Korean Government's stated intention to relax its border controls follows a meeting between the country's leader Kim Jong-il and Hyundai officials which followed the release of two US journalists following a diplomatic visit to Pyongyang by former US President Bill Clinton.
In the joint statement, the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee and the Hyundai Group of South Korea said: ‘It was decided to resume the suspended tourism of Mt. Kumgang as soon as possible and launch the tour of Pirobong, the highest peak in the mountain. All necessary facilities and security for tourism will be reliably provided according to the special measure taken by Kim Jong Il, Chairman of the National Defence Commission.
‘It was decided to restore land passage of the south side's personnel through the Military Demarcation Line and their stay in the north side's area as they were according to the spirit of the historic October 4 declaration. It was decided to resume the tourism of Kaesong soon and energize the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Zone as the land passage through MDL is put on a normal basis. The Hyundai Group decided to begin tourism of Mt. Paektu in accordance with the progress of its preparations. It was decided to provide reunion of separated families and relatives from the north and the south in Mt. Kumgang on the day of Chusok (harvest moon day), a folk holiday of the Korean nation, this year.
‘Both sides expressed will to improve the north-south relations and further develop the cooperation for the common prosperity of the nation under the historic June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration.’
Asia & Pacific,