Accommodation Woes for Separated Families

North Korea has announced that the South Koreans planning to attend separated family reunions scheduled to occur on September 25th to 30th will not be able to use the Mt. Geumgang or Waegeumgang hotels.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification reported that the suggestion was made via the Panmunjom line on September 4th. The North stated that the visiting South Koreans ought to stay in the Haegeumgang Hotel and Hyundai Asan Hall, as “The Mt. Geumgang and Waegeumgang hotels are all booked up by foreign tourists.”

In response, the Ministry replied that “It will be difficult for elderly attendees to stay in this proposed alternative accommodation due to limited space and security concerns.”

The Ministry also announced its plans to dispatch an official to North Korea today to discuss a solution.

Located on the waterfront facing the Jangjeon Port, the 159-room Haegeumgang Hotel was used by South Koreans attending family reunions until 2007. Tourism and family reunions were suspended following the 2008 fatal shooting of South Korean tourist Park Wang Ja.

The chairman of the Ten Thousand Divided Families Committee, Lee Sang Cheol criticized the move, claiming, “North Korea is demanding that elderly people displaced from their homes stay in facilities no better than a ghost ship.”

Some North Korea watchers are suggesting the move may be a reflection of North Korean discontent with a South Korean proposal to move negotiations on reopening the Mt. Geumgang tourist resort to October 2nd, after the family reunions are completed.