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Two Koreas to celebrate anniversary of suspended joint tour program

North Korea 10:56 November 18, 2018

SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- The two Koreas are set to hold an event Sunday to mark the 20th anniversary of the long-suspended joint tourism program at the North's scenic Mount Kumgang.

About 100 South Koreans and 80 North Koreans will attend the first celebratory event for four years on the eastern coast resort for two days. It is co-organized by Hyundai Group, which operated the tour project, and the North's Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

Among South Korean participants are about 30 Hyundai officials, including Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, six incumbent lawmakers, former government officials, private experts, business executives and journalists.

The tour program was a key symbol of reconciliation between the two Koreas, which technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty. It drew about 370,000 tourists in 2007.

The Seoul government suspended it in 2008 following the deadly shooting of a South Korean female tourist in the resort.

The two Koreas held the joint celebratory events almost every year from 1999 to 2014. But the event has not taken place since then, as inter-Korean tensions escalated.

With a recent thaw in relations between the two Koreas, expectations have been growing for a resumption of the tour program. Their leaders agreed in September to normalize the tour program when conditions are met.

Hyun's visit to the North will mark the third of its kind this year. She accompanied President Moon Jae-in on his trip last month to Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. She also visited Mount Kumgang in August for a memorial service for her husband and former Hyundai Group Chairman Chung Mong-hun.

Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung -- Hyun's late father-in-law -- started the tourism program at Mount Kumgang on Nov. 18, 1998.

Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun arrives at an expressway service area in Goseong, Gangwon Province, on Nov. 18, 2018, before crossing the border to attend a ceremony celebrating the 20th anniversary of the start of the suspended inter-Korean tour program to Mount Kumgang in North Korea. (Yonhap)


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