Chandeliers, mountain views and an 18 hole golf course… but would you stay at a luxury holiday resort inside North Korea?
- Officials in Seoul said 100 people from each side would meet in September at the North’s Mount Kumgang resort
- Between 2000 and 2010 more than 22,000 met with their families there before North Korea stopped the reunions
- Negotiations began between the two nations on Friday in the border village of Panmunjom
Its once perfectly manicured golfing greens have grown unkempt and dust gathers on the chandeliers hanging in the opulent – but empty – dining rooms of its many hotels.
The luxury Mount Kumgang resort, which lies just within North Korean territory, was once a thriving destination for families from the South and was seen as a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.
But it has been rendered a ghost town since tourism from the South shut down in 2008, following the shooting of a South Korean tourist by North Korean guards.
Now it is hoped the resort will flourish once again as North Korea has announced it will open up the extravagant mountain resort to visitors from the South, offering family members split up by the Korean war a chance to be reunited for the first time in three years.
North Korean hotel staff members walk through a hall under tall chandeliers at the exclusive Mount Kumgang hotel. Once, South Korean tourism to the resort was worth $20million a year
Between 2000 and 2010 more than 22,000 met with their families at the resort – before North Korea stopped the reunions
Members of a Chinese tourism delegation walks at a golf course at the resort. It has become a North Korean ghost-town over the past three years after the shooting of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier resulted in Seoul halting tours to the complex Officials in Seoul have said 100 people from each side would meet in September at the North’s Mount Kumgang resort.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Suk said the move would ‘set the stage’ for regular family reunions – which were stopped by the North in 2010.
The Mount Kumgang Tourist Region is a special administrative region of North Korea established in 2002 to handle South Korean tourist traffic to the so called Diamond Mountain.
Between 2000 and 2010 more than 22,000 met with their families there before North Korea stopped the reunions.
Once, South Korean tourism to the resort was worth $20million a year. But in July 2008, Park Wang-ja, a 53 year old South Korean tourist, was shot twice and killed when she entered a military area, according to the North Korean government.
Tourism from the South shut down as a result.
Now, in a bid to tempt South Korean tour companies back to the lucrative resort, Kim Jung Un has decided to allow the reunions once again.
Negotiations began between the two nations on Friday in the border village Panmunjom, Qz.com reports.
North and South Korea have agreed reunions of families separated by the Korean War will continue for the first time in three years at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang
Tourists by the coast of the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region. Since 1998, South Korean and other foreign tourists have been allowed to visit Mount Kumgang
In 2002, the area around the mountain was separated from Kangwon-do and organised as a separately-administered Tourist Region, covering 204.6 square miles
Bottles of Azalea Blossom line up along the shelves of a gift shop at the resort In August 2008 the North Koreans announced that they would expel ‘unnecessary’ South Korean workers from the resort..
Cho Bong-hyun, a fellow at Seoul?s IBK Economic Research Institute, told the Wall Street Journal: ‘The Kumgang tours, to the North?s eyes, are an easy tool to earn hard currency without exposing a number of North Koreans to the outside world.’
Kumgang is home to a range of hotels, golf courses, and beaches and the extravagant resort is set amid 520 square kilometers of mountains.
Since 1998, South Korean and other foreign tourists have been allowed to visit Mount Kumgang, traveling at first by cruise ship, but more recently by bus on a newly-built road through the Korean Demilitarised Zone.
Kumgang is home to a range of hotels, golf courses, and beaches and the extravagant resort is set amid 520 square kilometers of mountains
A picture taken in 2005 shows South Koreans on the bus, crying as they bid farewell to North Korean relatives after a family reunion at the resort In 2002, the area around the mountain was separated from Kangwon-do and organized as a separately-administered Tourist Region, covering 204.6 square miles. Since 1998 over one million South Koreans have visited the resort.
During the 1950 – 1954 conflict many families were separated by the dividing of the peninsula.
More than 70,000 South Koreans have registered for the reunions, which began in 2000 as a symbol of warming ties after the meeting of the rivals’ leaders that year that led to politically conciliatory moves.
Over past decades, more than 20,000 South Koreans have been briefly reunited with their relatives, but time is running out for many of the ageing 80,000 still waiting their chance to meet their long-lost family members.