North Launches Pilot Geumgang Tour

North Korea has revealed the blueprint for the first phase of its envisioned development of the 60㎢ Mt.Geumgang tourist area, turning the inter-Korean cooperative project into an international tourist attraction and business zone.

The plan was revealed in the run up to an invitational pilot tour of the area which began in Rasun yesterday and ends on September 2nd.

By pushing forward with the plan, the inter-Korean conflict ignited by the seizure of property in Mt.Geumgang is sure to intensify. The blueprint seems designed to pressure South Korea, but North Korea is also clearly running the risk of enhancing its image as a ‘rogue state’ where international norms are broken at will.

Talking about the issue with The Daily NK, Park Young Ho, a senior research fellow with the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) pointed out, “North Korea is showing its willingness to carry out the Mt.Geumgang tourism project on its own, regardless of the position of the South Korean government or Hyundai Asan; but there won’t be any practical investment incentives.”

According to Yonhap, Park Chol Su, who heads up North Korea’s Taepung International Investment Group, a body which is charged with attracting foreign capital to the country, announced the Mt.Geumgang development plan in accordance with the Geumgang Special Zone Law on August 28th, prior to the departure of the trial tourist group.

The plan envisions that North Korea will lead investment in basic facilities such as infrastructure, energy, and electricity before allowing foreign partners to attract investment. Taxes will be levied on businesses in the zone.

Also, it seems that plans are in the works for a military airfield nearby to become a civilian airport. This will enhance accessibility to the special zone, but also help to isolate it from other regions of North Korea. Golf courses and casinos form another plank in the tentative plan.

First, North Korea plans to invite tourists from the U.S., Japan, Europe, China and Hong Kong to experience Rasun and Mt.Geumgang together via a connecting cruise, after which they plan to attract people to Mt.Geumgang by way of a railway connecting it with Pyongyang and Beijing.

The Geumgang special zone pilot tour, which is being hosted by Geumgang International Tourism Special Zone Committee, Rasun City People’s Committee and the Korea Taepung International Investment Group, will visit Rasun and head to Mt.Geumgang by ship on August 28th before returning to Rasun on September 2nd.

Numerous investment firms from the US, Russia, Europe, China and Japan, Chinese regional delegations and media outlets AP, ITAR-TASS, Reuters and Asahi are all participating.

However, Park said, “Some Chinese, US and Japanese tourist agencies are participating in the pilot tour out of curiosity, but this won’t lead to investment. Who will invest in a North Korea that breaks international customs and promises with other countries all the time?”

“North Korea is carrying out the pilot tour to press the South Korean government and Hyundai Asan by saying ‘relent and join’, but they will find it hard to obtain the desired results,” Park went on.