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N. Korea permits foreign company to run business at its scenic resort

All Headlines 10:48 December 13, 2011

BEIJING, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has allowed a Chinese company to do business at its scenic mountain resort, a source said Tuesday, in an apparent attempt to revitalize the resort at the center of a dispute with South Korea.

The company plans to organize a cruise tour to Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast for Chinese tourists from Hong Kong and other eastern Chinese ports, said the source familiar with the issue.

The company, which won permission to run the business until the end of 2026, also plans to run a casino, a duty free shop and a hotel in the resort, the source said.

The move comes just months after North Korea made a trial cruise from its northeastern port city of Rajin to the mountain resort to try to attract Chinese tourists.

North Korea has launched a series of tourism programs for the Chinese in an apparent bid to earn much-needed hard currency.

For a decade, South and North Korea jointly ran the tour program at the resort, a key symbol of reconciliation on the divided Korean Peninsula.

Still, Seoul halted the cross-border tour program following the 2008 shooting death of a tourist by a North Korean soldier near the resort.

Seoul has demanded a formal apology from Pyongyang for the incident, in addition to improved security measures for tourists, before resuming the tour program, a key cash cow for the North.

However, the North has expelled South Korean workers from the resort and disposed of all South Korean assets there after it unsuccessfully tried to pressure Seoul to resume the tour program.

South Korea has asked foreign countries not to invest or engage in tourism activities at the mountain resort as part of its moves to protect its property rights there.
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